prince-gorgeous-1Deeply saddened by the news of Prince’s death today at age 57. Since it’s borderline impossible to find his music online, those looking for some immediate catharsis would do well to tune into Minnesota public radio The Current, which is streaming his records non-stop.

Like everyone else who was alive in the 80s, Purple Rain and its many singles were my entry point into the music of Prince Rogers Nelson: the bassless “When Doves Cry”, the euphoric “Let’s Go Crazy”, the Journey-cribbing title track (no joke). Yet while I treasured my “Batdance” cassette single, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that my loyalties fell on the more family-friendly side of the Jehovah’s Witness superstar divide. (The Lovesexy cover wasn’t exactly an overture to his pint-sized fans…). Fortunately, when hyped-up rivalries end, the work remains.

What hooked me as an adult was his timeless song “The Cross” off Sign O’ The Times. It didn’t fit with my image of the dude. This guy was into sex and he was into religion–and wasn’t shy about either. That never changed.

I remember going back to Purple Rain afterward and being floored by all the God language (literally: the b-side to “Purple Rain” was a tune called “God”). The following summer, I somehow convinced the powers-that-be at the youth ministry where I served to incorporate “The Cross” into the worship rotation at our sleepaway camp, and unlike some of my other suggestions (e.g., “Fight Test” by The Flaming Lips – sheesh), it actually caught on. I still consider it a personal triumph. Today I can’t hear the song without picturing a bunch of sunburned teenagers shout-singing “We all have our problems, some big, some are small / Soon all of our problems will be taken by the cross” with smiles on their faces. Catch it before it’s taken down:

Black day, stormy night
No love, no hope in sight
Don’t cry, he is coming
Don’t die without knowing the cross
Ghettos to the left of us
Flowers to the right
There’ll be bread for all of us
If we can just bear the cross

Sweet song of salvation
A pregnant mother sings
She lives in starvation
Her children need all that she brings
We all have our problems
Some big, some are small
Soon all of our problems
Will be taken by the cross

Praise God for “The Cross”. And praise God for the cover of “I Would Die 4 U” that Derek Webb serendipitously pulled out this past Friday evening in New York. Talk about timing:

I’m not a woman / I’m not a man
I am something that you’ll never understand
I’ll never beat you / I’ll never lie
And if you’re evil I’ll forgive you by and by

‘Cause you, I would die for you, yeah
Darling if you want me to
You, I would die for you

I’m not your lover / I’m not your friend
I am something that you’ll never comprehend
No need to worry / No need to cry
I’m your messiah and you’re the reason why

batdance-1‘Cause you, I would die for you, yeah
Darling if you want me to
You, I would die for you

You’re just a sinner I am told
Be your fire when you’re cold
Make you happy when you’re sad
Make you good when you are bad

I’m not a human / I am a dove
I’m your conscience / I am love
All I really need / is to know’s that you believe

That I would die for you, yeah
Darling if you want me to
You, I would die for you

Amen to that. Doubtless we’ll be mining this man’s (truly prodigious) work for years to come. But today, I don’t want a silver lining. I want to listen to a sad song, like the one below. He didn’t write it, but I once heard his guitar solo ranked among the very best of all time (P claimed not to have been familiar with the song beforehand…). I can’t disagree. Cut to the 3:30 mark if you’d rather skip the Wilburys:

P.S. In the days to come, when we think about Paisley Park heaven, let us not forget the day it came to Earth. I like to think this is what’s happening right now: