The King, The Queen, and The Prince
by Larry Bisagni
It’s a less musical world than it was 24 hours ago.
Here in San Francisco, City Hall is purple, and the town is flooded in tears.
As we reflect this evening and mourn yet another artist that most of us have never met, it’s important to understand why.
No, we don’t cry because we knew them personally.
We cry because they helped us know ourselves. There isn’t a one of us who couldn’t apply a lyric from this genius to our lives. Joy. Pain. Loss. Happiness. Desire. Sorrow. Ecstasy. And yes, sex. He was the soundtrack of our lives for better than three decades, and yes, influenced the world of sports. After all, who do you think Cecil Fielder named his son after?
The world is in mourning over the loss of the greatest musician the United States has ever produced. Ever. Who else could write platinum records for a multitude of genres, move from instrument to instrument fluently, and had nearly a five-octave vocal range? For my money, the Mount Rushmore of rock n’ roll guitar players are, in no particular order: Jimi, Clapton, Eddie, and Prince. That’s it.
In 2009, it was Michael Jackson. Then Whitney. Today, Prince.
Now it goes without saying that Nuts and Bolts is not a website about entertainment or music. However, from a cultural perspective, this trio meant as much to the Super Bowl as anyone on the field.
As America geared up for Desert Storm in January of 1991, Whitney Houston gave viewers arguably the most spine tingling version of the National Anthem ever, and certainly the most powerful. Others have been beautiful (Marvin Gaye, NBA All Star game, Lady Gaga’s this past February), but none ever pulled more heartstrings of the American people. If you ask the average sports fan what is the one rendition of the Start Spangled Banner that resonated with them, I can almost guarantee that it would overwhelmingly be Whitney’s.
Two years later in 1993, Michael Jackson took the reins of the halftime show, and launched it out of the atmosphere. He single-handedly propelled the event into the most coveted for any performer. Before the original MJ, halftime featured college bands, card stunts, and lesser profile celebs, more of the Chubby Checker, has-been variety.
After? Virtually the Who’s Who (including The Who – get it?) of music. An abbreviated list of who came after the King of Pop: James Brown, Diana Ross, The Stones, Paul McCartney, Madonna, Boyz II Men, Tom Petty, Stevie Wonder, KISS, Phil Collins, Usher, Bruce Springsteen, Kid Rock, Diddy, Tony Bennett, Patti LaBelle, The Judds, Smokey Robinson, Clint Black, Toni Braxton, Gloria Estefan/Miami Sound Machine, The Black Eyed Peas, Missy Elliott, Christina Aguilera, Lenny Kravitz, Katy Perry, Nelly, ZZ Top, Tanya Tucker, Enrique Iglesias, The Temptations, Aerosmith, Nikki Minaj, Beyonce, Bruno Mars, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Britney, Mary J., U2, Sting, Shania Twain, No Doubt, Jessica Simpson, and of course, Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson.
One might recall a certain wardrobe malfunction, but make no mistake: there is a single performance that stood above all others.
Understand that Prince, all 5’2” of him, completely commanded his performances. A friend of mine did security for him in Washington, D.C., many years ago, and said that he had no problem telling a room full of bouncers and bodyguards how to act, perform, and control crowds. So on February 4, 2007, when the heavens opened in Miami before Prince took the stage, Bruce Rodgers, the production designer of the Super Bowl XLI Halftime Show, went into full panic.
“The rain was one of those Miami rainstorms that just would not relent,” remembered Rodgers. “We got on the phone with Prince…and he was like, ‘Can you make it rain harder?’”
Prophetic words. It was almost as though a higher power saw the opportunity to add a divine prop to the stage. Call it Prince’s personal cue from up above.
And Prince shredded it. Four guitars later, he gave the most iconic halftime performance in Super Bowl history.
But Prince was more than a halftime act in the sports world. A basketball player in his youth, his athletic competitive fire fueled his musical greatness, but as a fan, he was everywhere. He was ringside at boxing matches, and cheering on Serena Williams at the French Open. Yes, Prince was a die hard; but had an especially soft spot for his hometown Minnesota teams. Unlike a lot of celebrity sports fans that show up in New York or Los Angeles to take in a game, Prince remained a fixture in the Twin Cities. I don’t think this was by accident. Minneapolis/St. Paul was much more progressive then many cities during Prince’s formative years, and exposed him to a multitude of races, cultures, and sounds, which was evident in his music. He was in the house when Kirby Puckett sent the 1991 World Series to Game 7, and again the following night when the Twins snatched rings from the fingers of the Atlanta Braves. He wrote a fight song for the Vikings. But despite his diminutive size, Prince’s passion was basketball, spending many an evening seated courtside at the Target Center. It’s a shame that he won’t get to see the potential next dynasty come to fruition. With Karl Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins leading this pack of Timberwolves, I believe Prince’s beloved team are a season or two away from 55-60 wins, and a deep run into June.
Twenty-one years ago, Prince took a young high school baller named Kevin Garnett under his wing. In fact, Prince was so close with The Big Ticket that Garnett was often a personal guest to Paisley Park, Prince’s recording studio, where the two would talk about music, sports, and life in general. When Garnett was traded to the Boston Celtics in 2007, Prince went into a self-imposed exile, depressed over the loss of KG, but more importantly, the loss of a surrogate son that he had mentored about celebrity and life off the court.
The image of KG sitting at the parking space of Flip Saunders has become one of the most iconic images in Twitter history. I can’t even imagine how heartbroken he must be right now. All I can say is how sincerely my broken heart goes out to KG, every fan, and every Minnesotan this evening.
I’ll close with a quote from the man himself .
“Despite everything, no one can dictate who you are to other people.”
Rest in beats, Prince. There will never be another.