The Prince Prophecy & The Let’s Go Crazy Code
There’s the Bible Code and the Da Vinci Code—but is there a “Let’s Go Crazy” Code?
Before anyone thinks I’ve stared at the Abbey Road & Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album covers Clockwork Orange style way too long, isn’t a bit of poetic coincidence that Prince died in an elevator?
I mean you know the narration before the full band enters in “Let’s Go Crazy”:
And if de-elevator tries 2 bring u down
Go crazy – punch a higher floor!!!
It seems Prince indeed punched a higher floor in that Paisley Park elevator and left the Earth plane.
The second verse of “Let’s Go Crazy” going into the chorus is even more prophetically elaborated:
We’re all excited
But we don’t know why
Maybe it’s ‘cuz
We’re all gonna die
And when we do (When we do)
What’s it all 4 (What’s it all 4)
U better live now
Before the Grim Reaper come knocking on your door
Tell me, are we gonna let de-elevator bring us down?
Oh, no let’s go!
(Note to Steven Tyler & Aerosmith: The Grim Reaper takes elevators)
I never met Prince nor saw him perform live but he was one of the people on my concert bucket list I wanted to see. Actually the only time I was in his home state of Minnesota was in Minneapolis to catch a connecting flight from the west coast. One of my relatives however did meet Prince at a club in Miami and talked with him.
An actor friend also met Prince when he worked for a network TV station in New York City. He didn’t get to ride in an elevator with Prince (most definitely a Scavenger Hunt Selfie), but did so with Neil Young. Interestingly, Neil Young had a backing band called Crazy Horse…hmmm…and further down the Purple Paisley rabbit hole we go. Later in his career, Prince also wrote a song called “Cinnamon Girl” which was one of the biggest hits of Neil Young And Crazy Horse.
When I was out in Hollywood visiting friends and wandering around (the occasional olfactory overture of concrete mingled with fermented urine while on The Walk Of Fame comes to mind), I came upon the fabled Sunset Sound recording studio where so many famous acts such as The Doors recorded their historic and iconic albums. Prince also recorded there in a cute story by Fleetwood Mac singer Stevie Nicks.
Nicks was working on her solo album The Wild Heart at the time. She was driving around and heard “Little Red Corvette” on the radio and came up with lyrics to “Stand Back.” Since a song written by Prince inspired her lyrics, she called him up and asked if he was in the area (Prince had another residence nearby) and if he would like to come down and play on the track.
Like calling a pizza delivery session player, Prince was there in under 30 minutes and laid the keyboard parts down for “Stand Back.” Prince influences Nicks and in turn it seems Nicks influences Prince. Being asked to play on “Stand Back” seemed to give Prince the foundational ideas for one of my favorite Prince tunes: “I Would Die 4 U.” There’s an apparent aural geneology to these two songs: “Stand Back” and “I Would Die 4 U” have similar tempos and utilize the same kind of pulsating staccato synth bass bed.
Prince wrote several pop rock anthems: “1999”, “Purple Rain”, “I Would Die 4 U”, “When Doves Cry”, and “Let’s Go Crazy” to name a few. I remember first becoming aware of Prince with the single “Little Red Corvette.” After Purple Rain, I went on to buy all his earlier work and then every now and them, I’d pick up his later post 80’s material.
The albums 1999 and Purple Rain are still my favorites because I really liked the musical chemistry of Prince and the Revolution as well as the mix of male/female vocal trading and harmonizing. The Revolution was for Prince his “original Kiss lineup” to my ears. Another irony here being Prince wrote a song called “Kiss.” With bands, there’s a certain unique chemistry every now and then that can’t be duplicated even if the band goes on without earlier members for any number of reasons in the Rock and Roll playbook.
In 1984, “Let’s Go Crazy” became a number 1 hit. If only George Orwell lived to see that. Big Brother in a Jheri curl*? Dressed in a purple trench coat wielding a white guitar? Prince’s Purple Rain soundtrack and the movie became joined at the hip with the 1980’s. The eulogy intro narration to “Let’s Go Crazy” is one of those 80’s pop culture moments along with the intro to Twisted Sister’s music video “We’re Not Gonna Take It” that nearly every child of the 80’s has grooved into their neurons. “1999” was a playful dig by Prince at Big Brother and his nuclear arsenal during the Cold War 80’s with the lyrical mention:
Yeah, everybody’s got a bomb,
We could all die any day
But before I’ll let that happen,
I’ll dance my life away
This was misheard by some at the time to be a reference to President Ronald Reagan (Yeah, Ronnie’s got a bomb, we could all die anyday…)
*Invented by a white guy from Illinois—go figure
For a guy who rode a motorcycle, Prince was never the “biker type rocker.” Then again those types of bands wouldn’t dare to write a song like “When Doves Cry”, “Purple Rain”, “Raspberry Beret”, or “Kiss.” I mean can you imagine Mötley Crüe pulling that off?
Prince was more multifaceted as an artist which gave him broad appeal over successive generations and crossed lines of gender and race with his fan base. This is hard do do especially now as the recording industry tries to segregate fan bases to maximize profit. Michael Jackson, Madonna, Sade, Gloria Estefan are other contemporaries of Prince that crossed these “Pop Picket Lines.” Prince’s music also escaped the vinyl witch hunt of rock radio station record burnings and steamroller rodeo rides over popular Disco hits. He was rock enough for the rockers—one of his fans being, oh some guy named Eric Clapton.
Enjoy The Talents Of Others And Let It Inspire Your Own
Prince was an incredibly creative and multi–talented musician. I know many critics and fans will use the word Genius when referring to him and his prolific body of work. It’s a deserved compliment and helps celebrate how his music touched millions of people around the world. However I take a different perspective on the nature of Genius as I believe the current way it’s used and how who’s labeled as such or not separates people from participating in art and their own creativity.
The Genius label encourages the “Why should I bother, when THOSE people are Geniuses and I can only play “Lean On Me” on piano or “Pretty Woman” on guitar mentality.” If we all felt that way as we did when we were young looking up to our heroes and inspirations, no one would try to write music on their own—even Prince.
We all should participate in art and creativity. It’s just fun and a form of play which becomes in shorter and shorter supply when many people become adults. Every child innately enjoys art and music and participates in these then they get to a certain age and internalize the cultural message that they are wasting their time because they aren’t Geniuses or they aren’t that talented.
By all means be inspired by artists like Prince and whoever came before you that inspired you down the road of creativity so you can take your own tuning forks to deeper self expression. But don’t get stuck behind the starting gate just because certain people are better or more successful than you. No one comes out of the womb a concert pianist. Every future “Genius” can’t even play “Three Blind Mice” during that early stage of life.
What often gets lost in praise, compliments and fan worship is the nature of art and creativity itself—which even Prince would have probably said the following of his body of work. That Genius, like gender identity and sexuality is along a spectrum, not a black or white, either or static state. Stated another way, a Genius will not always produce works of Genius every single time and an artist of average talent can produce works of Genius at times.
The more important thing as an artist or anyone producing works of creativity is to keep producing and don’t censor or judge. Your favorite pieces may very well differ from the works your audience loves and considers “your best stuff” or “your works of Genius” but it’s all part of you and you don’t want to play favorites—even your own.
In another example from baseball, for decades Babe Ruth held the record of 714 career home runs. His nickname was “The Sultan Of Swat” not to be confused with Dire Straits “Sultans Of Swing.” What people fail to often see with such talent and ability is that Babe Ruth struck out quite a large number of times in his career as well (1,330 times in fact as has EVERY other Hall of Famer). He could have just as easily earned the derogatory nickname “The Sultan Of Flyswat” or “The Sultan of Sloth” if he wasn’t getting his “hits” on the other side of the ledger.
The important thing was Babe Ruth kept stepping up to the plate, kept having another opportunity at bat. Similarly, Dire Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler has stated he is not the most skilled guitar player on the technical level yet he still wrote “Sultans Of Swing” which is an amazing guitar composition by any standard. And music schools crank out dozens of dazzling technicians every year yet how many have actually written a piece with the depth of “Sultans Of Swing” or “Purple Rain?”
The Prince Prophecy
Prince dying in an elevator is one of those coincidences we can embellish into pop culture lore and legend. Songwriter John Denver died in a glider accident and one of his well known songs was called “Leaving On A Jet Plane.” If Denver’s tune was titled “Leaving On A Glider”, I’d weigh that more in the neighborhood of authentic foreknowledge.
Another coincidence here is John Denver was one of the people who testified against the PMRC (Parent’s Music Resource Center) along with Frank Zappa and Dee Snyder of Twisted Sister after one of Prince’s songs on Purple Rain, “Darling Nikki” sent Tipper Gore into a tizzy over it’s masturbation reference.
Such ironies of life will happen on occasion as statistics and probability can demonstrate. Case in point, say I wrote a novel about a female pilot and named her Amelia Earhart. You’d think the characters name was made up for the fiction novel because it alludes literarily that Amelia has her heart in the air—hence the two words “air heart” combined in her last name and more poetically spelled as Earhart.
But such “novel names” and situations like our “Let’s Go Crazy Code” here actually do happen in real life some of the time. So have we negated the “Prince Prophecy theory” and de–romanticized the departure of a pop legend? We’re just chasing white doves formulating such theories—dig if you will that picture.
The body of work is what matters and the body of work is what’s still here. We have to look deeper and ask the internal question: What did the creative works of Prince mean to you? For starters, it didn’t make anyone’s life WORSE in the final analysis. It even had a happy ending for Darling Nikki.
The Aural Autopsy on the artist we knew as Prince is clear though. Prince is one of the best selling artists of all time with over 100 million records sold. Prince released 39 studio albums, racked up 7 Grammys, an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. He was a shoe–in to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the first year he was eligible in 2004. He walked down the Red Carpet but also made his own Purple Carpet as well—and luckily didn’t slip on any purple bananas while dancing on it.
Still, none of these awards, accolades and sales figures means as much as the fun and joy of making music. And Prince loved making music. It was about making music long before the money and about making music even after he had plenty of it. And that’s what I really admire about him.
There’s works of his I absolutely love, there’s works I think are cool and okay, there’s works I think aren’t his best. But Prince was never alive to write to specifically please me nor or any of his audience. He had the right to be an artist, to explore his creativity and he truly exercised that right—just look at his creative output.
It’s easy to slack off on the Fame Train after even one or two successful albums. As an artist, I experience and understand creativity this way because I write to enjoy doing so myself BECAUSE making art and being creative is it’s own reward. Whoever resonates with a creative work besides the originator is secondary and an added bonus to the joy of creation. And the more work you produce, those odds on connecting and resonating with an audience go up exponentially.
For myself, I have Prince tunes in iPod mixes for all moods and occasions. I’ve grooved out his classic tunes at friend’s dance parties into the early morning hours numerous times. Writing music is a celebration of life and listening and dancing to music is celebrating life as well. We can all always party like it’s 1999 on the dance floor and revisit our own sacred time outside the confines of the calendar. Why? Because the Messiah of the Minnesota Music scene said so. Stick that white dove feather in your Raspberry Beret.
Indeed, the Pale Blue Dot did turn a bit Purple with his time on the planet.
So goodbye Prince, and thank you for adding to the soundtrack of my life.
© Composer Yoga
Related Posts To Check Out:
Prince Joke (Little Red Corvette)
Sound Mines: Prince “Mountains”
Yoda’s iPod: “When Doves Cry” By Prince
First Recording Of Purple Rain In America
Talking To Your Bandmates During The Song Vol. 1