I remember the 2007 Super Bowl for two reasons: 1. It was the day of my great Aunt’s funeral. 2. Prince’s Halftime show.
By the time the game started, the funeral was long over. It was mostly close family and friends left gathered at my cousin’s house. A few of us went up to the living room to take in the spectacle, because it felt better than staring at each other and stuffing our faces with leftover bagels and lox.
I can’t tell you a single thing about the game. I don’t remember a second of it and frankly don’t care enough to Google it at this moment. I do remember the hell out of Prince, though.
It’s one of the only Prince performances you can find online (because the NFL owns it), so here it is. Take it in. It’s really unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
That performance of “Purple Rain” has always stuck with me. My 14-year-old musician brain became obsessed with that moment. The way the lights made it seem like purple rain was actually falling from the sky. The crowd singing their lungs out. The dancers waving fake doves around the stage. The way that slightly-out-of-tune guitar sounded. It was ineffable. It was all so spontaneous, so liberated, yet you couldn’t shake the feeling that Prince had planned all of it, like the Purple One had opened up the skies himself at that exact moment to create this one magical moment.
Of course, no artist was more in control than Prince. Every movement, every note, every word, every piece of clothing, felt precise. He knew what he wanted to do, what he wanted to achieve, and he went out and he did it. Nobody was cooler than him. Nobody wasn’t in awe of him. Everybody knew his greatness, you understood it in your bones, yet you couldn’t help but be floored every time you witness him. He always managed to overcome and surpass any image you had of how awesome he could be. He never fucking stopped.
His commercial height was in the ‘80s, but Prince never stopped being relevant. He was always there, waiting in the wings, primed to purify our bodies and amaze us once again. Whether it be at a tribute to George Harrison, at Coachella, on Saturday Night Live, he was a constant presence in our public consciousness, even if he wasn’t even the one playing his character. It always felt like he was visiting us, like he would grace us with his presence for a time, render us in complete awe, and then return to his own private corner of the universe, distant from our own.
This is so sad. It always felt like he had more to give, that we’d always have one more chance to see what he could do. He was always pushing, pushing for more, for greater heights, for that next sick groove. He always used to say that his favorite song to perform was the last one he wrote. He could’ve spent the rest of his life touring the country playing “Purple Rain” over and over again and nobody would’ve begrudge him for it. But he refused to be that person. He refused to be a nostalgia act. He chose to remain vital. So he kept working, kept exploring, and wanted his fans to come along with him. We were ready to go down that road because we knew that he could take us to a special, unique place, a place no other artist could take us.
Prince is irreplaceable. Nobody else exists in the cultural space he held. Now there is a void there.
All that’s left is to enjoy is the music, the performances, the songs, that voice, and that guitar.