Hot Head

RE: Prince

Erica Leiren

It doesn’t happen often, that something superlatively good is also really, really popular, but Prince was. CiTR played the early albums, but after his leap to big mainstream success, he belonged to everybody. My friends and I may have been music snobs to a certain degree, but Prince, we could all agree, was undeniably a genius.

Everybody loved him, but especially the girls. Prince clearly was a man who liked women, and not just as objects, but also as people, friends and fellow musicians. He promoted them, played in his bands with them and wrote songs with and for them. Prince empowered women. Like his song says, Prince could imagine himself as our ‘girlfriend.” Those tiny stamping boots and his glam­-funky, slightly effeminate new romantic outfits were irresistible, like catnip. Plus, we all noted, even though he took up with a succession of beautiful, talented and high­-visibility women, none of Prince’s ex­-s ever complained; in fact, they all seemed to still adore him. No one had a bad word, which spoke eloquently of his character and talents.

I found out the shocking news of his death from my good friend Sally. She was with me both times I saw Prince perform. First time was from the floor of the Pacific Coliseum in 1988 on the LoveSexy tour. He funked it up so bad. The staging, dancing and playing by Prince and his troupe was so utterly fantastic that it is one of my all time favourite concerts.

The second time, at Rogers Arena just before Christmas 2011, was made memorable when a few songs into the set, with the audience showing typical Vancouver restraint, Prince shouted “Don’t be cool—Let’s have Fun!” The party rocket took off right then, and it didn’t touch down again until the audience finally insisted on a third encore, with Prince rushing out from back­-stage to play in what he informed us was his “do rag” (a cloth wrapped around his hair to keep the style in place.) It seemed like an informal set­-within-­a-­set, because he’d been getting ready to dial it down after the show, but couldn’t resist the call to return once more to play just a little bit longer for his enraptured audience.

Something interesting happened the day after he died. I was sitting on a make­-up stool at the Bay downtown’s Spring Gala. My friend Lily works at the Elizabeth Arden Cosmetic counter and she was showing me the new Spring colours. Over in the middle of the large main floor (well out of earshot of our conversation) a female DJ played tunes. No standout songs yet, but building a nice party atmosphere for a Friday afternoon.

Now here is where things get a little bit Twilight Zone…as Lily is applying the finishing touches to my Spring Look, she brings out a new lipstick to try… “It’s called “Raspberry Matte” she purrs, rolling up the tube to reveal a bright berry­-red shade.

Up to this point, our conversation hasn’t touched on Prince’s death the day before, but the new lipstick name tugs at my memory so I exclaim “That reminds me of the Prince song “Raspberry Beret”; it’s my favourite.” Then I add sotto voice “Did you hear the sad news?” We both commiserate briefly over the loss. Then I continue excitedly, “I love it! Let’s put it on.”

As she is applying the lipstick, the DJ’s beat mix from the previous song begins to fade into the next and my ears perk up…”Does that sound like Prince?” I ask. It is hard to tell because the two songs are so closely intertwined in those few seconds that we can’t discern what the next song will be. “No, it’s not,” we decide…”wait, what is it? Yes, it is! Whoa I can’t believe it; the DJ is playing Prince. It’s Raspberry Beret!”

My favourite Prince song fills the space, the party hits critical mass and kicks into high gear. The serendipity is so striking that a few songs later, as the DJ ramps up her set, I leave the make­up chair to rush excitedly over. I tell her what has just happened and thank her for playing my favourite Prince song. She too is amazed by the curious coincidence and shakes her head with a smile.