Rest in Purple

Everyone has their Prince story, this is mine.

It was Sunday, 21 September 2003 and I had just returned to Manchester for my third and final year of University. I remember the date because it was the day of the infamous ‘Battle of Old Trafford’ between Manchester United and Arsenal. The game was immortalized by Arsenal’s cage fighter of a defender Martin Keown performing a belly flop-slash-warrior ritual into the face of United striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy after missing a penalty that he had won by deceit.

I had met up with my buddies to watch the game at Robinskis — a bright sparrow coloured pub that reeked of cheap beer and sexual frustration in Fallowfield, the student heartland of Manchester — for what we Brits like to refer to as a “session”. After the pub closed we returned to our cesspit of a house to carry on, it was Summer (a rare phenomenon in Manchester), we hadn’t seen each other for two months and no ones team had lost. The mood was good.

Ken (real name changed for sake of anonymity) — my Neil-esc mate from the countryside wasn’t much of a football fan but he loved music, Sartre and getting fucked up — had passed on his usual vice of weed and acid for the clubbers drug of choice. Not before long I had popped my pill cherry, and soon after that moment came. And that brand new, rushing, electrifying feeling came with a soundtrack: Raspberry Beret by Prince.

Looking at Prince’s considerable repertoire it’s definitely among the more obvious songs but when you’re with the people you love, at a time in your life when it’s almost an obligation to have fun, it really didn’t matter. It was pure ecstasy in every sense of the word. I woke up the next morning, almost certainly with a hangover, but also with a new perspective, the world seemed different somehow and more lucid. And today, as I write this while traveling on a plane over the west coast just two days after Prince’s inexplicable death the world seems different again, but this time just that bit grayer, certainly less purple.

Everyone loved, or at least liked, Prince’s music, from your grandma through to the most esoteric Wire writer. And the fact that he is no longer with us is heart wrenching, barely believable. He was both a prolific musician and a maker of prolific music. Everyone knows that, as classic albums like Around the World in a Day, Controversy, 1999 and dozens of hit singles will testify.

Yet Prince was much more than just a talented musician but a preternaturally creative savant who challenged societies perceptions of art, sex, gender, religion and what it meant to Let(s) Go Crazy.

A badly pixelated video featuring Michael Jackson and then Prince performing unexpectedly at a James Brown concert appeared on my timeline yesterday. And the fact that timeline, that genealogy of funk that managed to be both outer worldly and hugely popular at the same time has ended is a truly sad thought indeed. Rest in Purple, Prince.

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