Enough already with these almost daily RIP’s! I’m getting concerned that I may run of out of living heroes here by year’s end. Seriously, in the span of a few months now we’ve lost my country hero, Merle Haggard, rock hero, David Bowie, hip hop hero, Phife Dawg, R&B hero, Maurice White, New Orleans hero Allen Toussaint, keyboard hero, Joe Sample, and now PRINCE? The contribution that these 7 men have made to my soul and well being is immeasurable. Take the songs that these 7 men and their wonderful musicians produced, throw them into a stew, mix, digest and life becomes a beautiful thing. It’s so much more than just temporary enjoyment or entertainment. It’s an active living part of the fiber that makes me who I am. I can take a bad day or a set back because I’m running with Joe Sample playing a Rhodes solo. I can see beauty looking at a dusty farm out of my window because Haggard and his Bakersfield gang are twanging away. I can feel joyful and free dancing with my wife to a deep Prince track at any given moment. Music is my religion, and I’ve been blessed to have been guided by these luminaries.
Just one day before the news of Prince passing, I was in deep reflection over the passing of Pearl Washington, the NYC ball handling wizard who put Syracuse on the map and poured kerosene on my raging hoop fire. Pearl came out of the playgrounds of Brooklyn almost simultaneously as break-dancing, Run DMC and hip hop were creeping into suburbia across the nation. He represented a new brand of cool that sold me on the spot. His game was beautiful, natural and free. He had the athletic ability and size of a mere mortal, but his ball handling and ability to slow the game down made him deadly. He would mesmerize the defense with his magical handle, and before they could react, he would thread a no look pass to a cutter or pull up for a quick bank shot. Basketball in most cases is won by fundamentals, defense, size and strength, but Pearl was the rare athlete who won by trickery and deception. He, along with the likes of Chris Mullin, Walter Berry and Mark Jackson at St John’s and Patrick Ewing at Georgetown made the Big East seem like a mythical conference and kept me spellbound in front of the tube every Saturday.
For the record, sometime in 1985, I named our new family cat Pearl in honor of Dwayne “Pearl” Washington. (note: Sadly, our dear feline Pearl only lasted about 5 months before being run over by a car)
Now, just for fun, I’m going to step into my time machine and dial up Friday, March 1, 1985. Okay, strapped in, ready for ignition, starting to spin, whoa this feels crazy, yikes I think I may puke and …….holy shit I’m in my living room and my mom is in a Jane Fonda leotard dancing to Delirious from the Prince 1999 album. This is weird. I’m wearing a Syracuse tee, shorts and Larry Bird Cons. My arms and legs are toothpicks and I’m giddy and petrified all at once seeing my mom getting down, but against all better juvenile judgement, I think it’s time for a quick dance party. Prince will do that to you. After working up a sweat and grooving through Lady Cab Driver, it’s time for a seat on the couch. The Sporting Green is on the coffee table and college basketball is dominating the headlines. March Madness is just days away. The Santa Clara Broncos are 16-8, including a win at Pauley and a narrow loss at Louisville. Looking at the TV guide, I’m reminded that Pearl Washington and The ‘Cuse are playing Georgetown on Sunday. I will be there front and center for that one. Life is good.
After passing an hour or two shooting the ball in my front yard, I look across the street and see Chip, Shanan and Ted, dressed head to toe in purple, piling into a car to go see Prince at the Cow Palace. For some reason that I can’t recall, I didn’t join those guys when they camped out overnight at the Warehouse to purchase tickets for the show. God damn I’m jealous. Prince at the Cow Palace in ‘85 (hit me!) The Purple Rain tour (hit me 2 times!!) Morris Day and the Time opening (hit me 3 times!!!) Aplolonia Kotero (ahhhhh bridge – take me to the bridge).
It’s night now and my parents are out to dinner and my sister is off at a friends for the night, and I’m feeling sorry for myself. How did I miss out on seeing Prince? This feels like the time I missed the Kiss show at the Cow Palace in ‘79 because my parents didn’t think (and rightly so) that I was ready to handle myself at 8 years of age at a sold out rock show. It hurts, but the best remedy is to put on the Purple Rain record and have my own party. Prince will make it right.
True Story – That night I danced my blues away through the entire 1999 and Purple Rain records and I’ll never forget the joy that I felt losing myself in the music. Good thing I hadn’t yet discovered the Dirty Mind (‘80) or Controversy (‘81) albums or I may have started breaking things.
Thank you Prince. Thank you Pearl.
Set List – Cow Palace – March 1, 1985
Check it out – It’s insane.