Deep and Lovely

It feels a bit silly sharing reflections on Prince when so many people have done it better. I’m particularly moved by the glimpses we have gotten over the last day of Prince, the person, a guy who loved to laugh and saw his mission in life as helping others. I’ve loved the meditations on both his visual style and his musical style, the thoughts on his approach to technology, the sharing his epic guitar solos, and the multiple re-watchings of what will forever be the greatest halftime show in the history of football.

What I’d like to add to all of this, as a bit of a music geek, is something about his lyrical style. Why it grabbed me so much as a teenager, and why it still pulls me in today. I’ll be quick about it.

This is the beginning of “Manic Monday” a song that like so many others he gave away:

Six o’clock already
I was just in the middle of a dream
I was kissin’ Valentino
By a crystal blue Italian stream
But I can’t be late
‘Cause then I guess I just won’t get paid
These are the days
When you wish your bed was already made

In some ways, it’s the quintessential Prince lyric: his obsession with dreamlife and movies (“I was dreaming when I wrote this, forgive me if it goes astray…”), the workaday world (“I was working part time in a five and dime, my boss was Mr. McGee”), and the perpetual feeling that we’re late for something, be it our day job or Judgment Day.

But it’s the intersection of these things that matters here, and it’s that last line that has always stood out to me:

These are the days
When you wish your bed was already made

In that line the experience — lateness, messiness, never having quite enough time — becomes universalized as something surprisingly deep & lovely. It’s not trivialized, it’s not a gimmicky Bruno Mars “Lazy Song”. It’s permission to take ourselves seriously, to see and embrace the romantic under the mundane, to bring just a smidgen of that dreamlife into our waking life.

You see this all over his lyrics. In “Raspberry Beret”, after setting up a cinematic scene, he invites us in:

The rain sounds so cool when it hits the barn roof
And the horses wonder who U are
Thunder drowns out what the lightning sees
U feel like a movie star

I could go on — “When Doves Cry” begins by asking us, as the addressed lover, to imagine a dreamlike scene (“Dig if you will, a picture / of you and I engaged in a kiss”). In “Let’s Go Crazy” we’re told if the elevator tries to bring us down, “Go crazy, punch a higher floor.”

I know that for Prince these lyrics and this distinction was (or became) ultimately religious. The higher floor is heaven, of course, and the basement is hell.

That piece of it never spoke to me, but it didn’t need to. Because in the Prince mythos the devil was always the one telling you to ignore the beauty in the mundane, to get lost in the overwhelming details of day-to-day life. And heaven was seeing that if you could transcend that, if you could take your experience seriously, if you could get out of your head and see the bigger picture and the larger arc, your life was as deep and lovely as any film or dream.

It’s a message that I needed as a teenager, and maybe one we all need even more as we approach the day-to-day of middle age. I thank Prince for delivering that message to me when I needed it as a kid, and I’ll try to keep reminding myself of it as I travel through this “thing called life.”.

Rest in peace, Prince.




2 thoughts on “Deep and Lovely

  1. Pingback: 2016-04-24 – Don Gorges Posts April 4 to April 24 | Don Gorges

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