Earlier today I was running behind schedule. I had to visit three different parking garages to find a place to beach my car, navigate the Minneapolis skyway in order to avoid the rain falling outside, and find the location of my meeting in a non-descript office building. So when I heard that Prince Rogers Nelson had passed away suddenly in his studio at the age of 57, I had just finished cursing the city that he loved so well.
It would be disingenuous to say that I’m a fan of Prince’s music. Don’t get me wrong, I certainly appreciate his personality, style, artistry, and influence, and I wouldn’t be writing this if I didn’t. I was busy with such mundane tasks as learning how to walk, feed, and dress myself during the peak of his popularity in the 80’s, and I didn’t grow up in Minnesota. In fact, I have trouble recalling any of his songs from memory save the chorus from “1999.”
There are two ways to appreciate creativity. The first is to appreciate the art itself. It pains me to admit that really appreciating Prince’s music remains on my to-do list. Fortunately, there is a second way to appreciate art, and that’s by appreciating the footprint of the art – the impact that the art and the artist’s very existence make upon their peers, their community, and their chosen craft.
“They” might tell you a couple of things. The Twin Cities are a boring Midwestern way-station. The genres of American popular music can’t be fused together without sounding incoherent. You can’t fight city hall. You can’t transcend traditional definitions of masculine style without making people uncomfortable.
“They” are wrong. The Twin Cities are a vibrant and exciting community, home to the “Minneapolis Sound” and the most theaters per capita outside of New York City. The genres of American popular music can be deconstructed and reconstructed at will. One artist can stand up to the stuffed suits of his industry and win. Traditional gender roles are false barriers. Do you know why I know this? Because I lived in a time when a man in purple made us see this for the truth that it is.
It’s been raining all day, but the sun is starting to break through the clouds. And so, too soon, ends a story that parents should teach their children. That one man can make a difference.
(c) 2016 D.G. McCabe