Questlove was on one of my favorite podcasts, Fresh Air, this week, talking about Prince and his childhood. He talked about being duped by his parents into thinking classic rock was current stuff, and when he started elementary school the other kids and his teachers snapped him out of that quick. I have a similar experience when something big happens in the music world; I was raised by parents and a grandparent who loved country, classical, and Tom Jones, so my experience with blues, hip hop, metal, and rock keep entertaining people.
So, confession: my exposure to Prince was pretty minimal. That’s the guy with the symbol for a name, right? I would mentally acknowledge, but I never listened to him much with the exception of “Purple Rain” (my favorite part of that song is the high notes at the end…some disappointingly shallow aspects of me admitted now).
Then Prince died and I decided to listen to all his stuff on my iTunes subscription.
(To be fair, the same thing happened when Amy Winehouse died.)
That playlist wasn’t enough, and I rented the movie “Purple Rain.”
Holy fuck redux.
So, yes, I’m a music moron, but imagine “discovering” this stuff later, with different references leading up to it, a discovery that lends a different flavor profile to this wine called Life than what everyone else has. I may be a music moron, but when these geniuses dawn on me, they dawn bright and warm me fast.
Rest in purple, Prince. Thanks for your cultural and creative permission slip. 💜
As to what I’m reading and writing these days, now…
I am crawling through H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald, because I can. I open the book in bed or in coffee shops and read until the unbelievable prose draws me up short, like reins on a driving team, and then I re-read paragraphs, or look up and stare into the walls or out the windows around me, processing. The writing is so good that I can’t even get to the stage of “wouldn’t it be great to write like this”; I just sit in a stupor, like I do with exquisite liquor or food. I don’t want to fly goshawks myself, but if I’m to learn any lesson from this book it’s that if the writing is good enough it doesn’t matter if your reader wants to do what you’re doing or not…they’ll just appreciate your voice.
Which takes me to my writing (I’m reading other stuff too, but we’ll expound on those some other bright day). For years I float in and out of these cycles of writing on what folks will read based on subject matter, and I’m painfully aware that my life is pretty quiet to be writing on. But over the last few weeks, particularly after visiting a local piano bar and hearing a song from my days of moving from Ohio to Missouri (“Walking In Memphis” by Marc Cohn–I was just starting to get my musical sea legs) I felt was though I got the point that all of the self-help writing books spit at me: write what you know. The writing what I know will lead to writing about what I don’t know with somewhat of a foundation, so there’s no chance of resting in a comfort zone. I need that support system of giving up my past in words, and I’m enjoying the process. It’s more interesting for me to re-read, anyway. So, H is for Hawk is another permission slip. Hawks and Prince. Who woulda thunk it.
Task time is freed up, too, because I don’t have to job search anymore. The next phase is to work on getting published in some other form than this long-winded blog that you so generously spend your time reading. That goal won’t stop the blog, but I’ll share where I’m headed here. Hopefully it involves a better understanding of music.