“Electric word ‘life.’ It means forever and that’s a mighty long time. But I’m here 2 tell u, there’s something else.” — Prince Rogers Nelson, “Let’s Go Crazy”
The Strombo Show ran the gamut this Sunday night, keeping the spirit of radio alive by delivering the best records in the best order. It’s a show for music lovers by music lovers, ranging over three hours of commercial-free music to honour both old and new.
There are many kings, but there is only one Prince. He defied expectation and genres, as well as gender and racial stereotypes. On April 22, the world lost the purple one when he was found unresponsive at his Paisley Park residence in Minneapolis. Later that day, it began to rain and then a rainbow briefly appeared from the skies above that same Paisley Park. To pay our respects, Strombo dedicates this episode to Prince Rogers Nelson.
We rifled through Prince’s catalogue to spin some of the most essential tracks, B-sides and live versions from his catalogue. Remembrances and song requests were shared by friends of the show: Neko Case, Laura Jane Grace, the Darcys, Carole Pope, Stevie Van Zandt and Missy Elliott. Read their stories below.
“Calling you up, I’m sitting in my car feeling really sad and devastated about Prince passing away. I just wanted to take this second to do something positive and say: Thank you, Prince Rogers Nelson for every thing you did for music and for young people who might not have ever realized that you could be wild and be yourself and be a girl or be black or be Hispanic or be anyone and be allowed and welcome and invited to play music and make art and express yourself. You did so many things that were unheard of at the time, which seems crazy now, but you hired female musicians when no one would do it. People like Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman and of course, the incredible Sheila E and put them front and centre and showed the world how incredible they are. They showed the world how incredible they are. It means the world.
“And it means the world that you wrote songs to women, for women, for men and you talked to us, not just at us or about us like something that you wanted to conquer. You talked to us like we were your friends and your mom and your sister and powerful people and people you wanted to know and people who inspired you to make music and that was a rare thing. And it is still a rare thing. The world is really weird today, but I’m glad your music is still here. Strombo, would you please play me my favourite song, which is ‘I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man’? Thank you.”
Laura Jane Grace
“I’m here in Michigan right now with the rest of the band in the studio and we are working on finishing up a record today when we heard the news that Prince had passed away. We were all talking about it and reading about Prince and — Prince recorded 39 studio albums and that’s not including however many unreleased albums are locked in his vault archive and albums that he wrote for other artists. Every musical artist working today should let that sink in. Thirty-nine albums! Fan or not, be humbled by his worth ethic and immense talent. But how could you not be a fan? Have you not danced to a Prince song in a club, drunk with your friends, and was it not the perfect soundtrack to those kind of good times?
“For the most part, you know, I could care less about football, but I was sure to tune in for the 2007 Super Bowl to watch his halftime performance. Playing the Super Bowl has to be less than ideal conditions for a musician and on this particular Super Bowl Sunday, it was raining! Prince couldn’t have been bothered to care and with zero intimidation, danced out onto that slippery runway stage in the rain and absolutely murdered every single person in the audience with his performance. Just absolutely transcendent. Nothing faked or pre-recorded about it. No holding back. Pure awesomeness. Prince is dead, but Prince is immortal. So long live Prince! If I could request ‘Screwdriver,’ it’s my favourite Prince song.”
Wes Marskell of the Darcys
“All we did while recording our record was listen to Prince. Especially when we were driving a certain El Camino around the streets of Los Angeles and because I always wanted someone to describe making love to me in automobile metaphors, I’d like to hear ‘Little Red Corvette’ because I think we just all need to slow down and find a love that is going to last.”
“I’m really devastated by the death of Prince. I loved his music. I loved the way that he played with sexuality, all the gender-bending. The only time that I actually saw him live was at Maple Leaf Gardens. I cannot remember what year it was, but Sheila E was playing drums. Wendy and Lisa were in the band. Sheila Easton was a special guest and I just remember when they did “U Got the Look,” it was completely off the hook. Just his work, guitarist and the way he humped every part of the stage — it was unbelievable. One of my favourite songs of Prince’s is a collaboration that he did with Kate Bush, which is called ‘Why Should I Love You?'”
“Oh man. The first word that comes to mind is genius. I mean, anybody that is a Prince fan is in shock. It seems like it just happened out of nowhere and it is heartbreaking. We’ve lost Michael. We’ve lost Whitney. We’ve lost David Bowie. We’re losing so many greats and so it is heartbreaking, but I hope this generation will go and look up his stuff and see the genius that this man is and was and will be forever….
“[First time that I met him] was at a club, he had performed and he was in L.A. We went to an after-event and it was funny because I had to talk to him on the phone before because I had a thing in working, where I had a Prince look-alike and he had sent me some stuff, music of his and I moved and I could never find that music and yesterday I was sitting there saying, I have to go to my house, in my storage space and find this music. Someone who was short, but personality was so big. When he entered the room, he was like a giant.
“I mean, I think everybody just pulled up and started looking to records and records and records and when you go, you always knew this was a genius, but when you really go and listen — you appreciate. And we really have to start appreciating these artists while they are still here and not just wait until these moments to recognize the genius and the greatness of what they’ve done for music.”
Steven Van Zandt of E Street Band
“I met Prince early on, I’m not even sure if his first record was out yet — ’78, ’79. We were playing Minneapolis and I had been looking for something original to wear onstage and I’d just seen some cowboy movie, it might have been The Long Riders or I don’t know now. I had one of those long, duster coats made for that tour and I remember meeting him briefly. I think the promoter knew him or somebody, he might have even been hanging out afterwards. I can’t remember now. He was just another interesting looking kid, you know?
“Anyway, most of the ’80s I’d spent in Europe and I’d run into him now and then. The first time that I’d run into him, I said, ‘You stole my coat.’ He gave me that little smirk and once and a while, I’d go to one of his after-show shows and he asked me to come up onstage and jam with him, I forget where that was, it might have been Sweden.
“It’s fun. He’s just a fun, cool guy and I never had a lengthy conversation with him. I’m not sure that he ever had a lengthy conversation with anybody, but we just kind of dug each other and this is impossible that he is gone really. He was just always so full of energy and such great shape, you know? We were just in Minneapolis like just last week and I was trying to find him to invite him to the show and wish I’d obviously tried harder now. One of those life lessons, man. Don’t wait, you know? Don’t take it for granted. You just never know. Gonna miss him.”
Also, our friend and producer Darby Wheeler visited to break down his documentary, Hip-Hop Evolution. The Banger Films production studies the genre from its New York house party inception to becoming one of the most dominant voices in music. Hosted by Shad, they travel to the Bronx and Harlem to talk with the originators that include Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash. It opens this week at Bloor Hot Docs Festival in Toronto.
You know what to do: Lock it. Crank it! And join the collective 4 a funky time.
Prince, “Purple Rain”
Prince, “Let’s Go Crazy”
Prince, “I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man”
Prince, “Little Red Corvette”
The Family, “Nothing Compares 2 U”
Prince, “When Doves Cry”
Kate Bush, “Why Should I Love You? (Ft. Prince)”
Prince, “International Lover”
Prince, “The Beautiful Ones”
Bob Dylan, “Main Title Theme (Billy)”
Bob Dylan, “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”
Harry Belafonte, “Midnight Special”
Little Scream, “The Kissing”
Black Mountain, “Defector”
Pink Floyd, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Part One)”
Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington, “I’m Just A Lucky So And So”
Tom Waits, “Heartattack & Vine”
Shad, “Stylin’ (Ft. Saukrates)”
Babe Ruth, “The Mexican”
Cold Crush Brothers, “Live At The Dixie”
LL Cool J,” I Need A Beat”
Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five, “The Message”
Common, “The Light”
Prince, “Purple Rain / The Beautiful Ones / Diamonds & Pearls (Live from Fox Theatre in Atlanta)”
For further musical exploration with George Stroumboulopoulos, tune in to The Strombo Show every Sunday night on CBC Radio 2 or CBC Music from 8 to 11 p.m. for three hours of uninterrupted music for music lovers.