Tag Archives: Prince

April Recap

Art courtesy Marcel L. Walker. Click through for his website.

Art courtesy Marcel L. Walker. Click through for his website.

April saw another huge celebrity loss in Prince, which left all of us here at Eleventh Stack more than a little sad. On the happier side of thing, baseball season started, and Abbey highlighted some baseball-related resources. Sheila also helped us celebrate children author Beverly Cleary’s 100th birthday.

Kayla gave a big thumbs up to Kara Thomas’s The Darkest Corners and Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass. Kelly looked at the theme of displacement in Ranbir Singh Sidhu’s work, and Ross mused on cultural expectations in his review of Nookietown. Jess looked a few non-superhero comics, and Natalie enjoyed Jane Steele, a new adaptation of Jane Eyre.

In movie land, Ross explored the desolation of Sunset Edge and the iconic movie-related art of Drew Struzan. Tara reviewed Victoria, a film shot all in one take.

novelcureLeigh Anne plugged poet Martin Espada’s new collection Failed and Sharon Dolan’s Manual for Living. Suzy made us think about mistakes and how we handle them. Melissa considered a career change to bibliotherapist, and one of our volunteers wrote about her efforts advocating for the library. Brittany compared her childhood to those of refugee kids, and Adina highlighted some recent memoirs and autobiographies she’s enjoyed.

Of course we didn’t forget about food—Scott M. took us on a tour of local Greek food festivals and highlighted some of his favorite Greek cookbooks.

What’s your favorite book, movie, or album from April? Let us know in the comments.

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Punch a Higher Floor

Art courtesy Marcel L. Walker. Click through for his website.

Art courtesy Marcel L. Walker. Click through for his website.


Around 2011 I was dating a girl who loved Prince. She often talked about how she’d been to a few of his concerts when she was younger. When we got back from the bars, she’d often put his albums on. We spent many nights dancing around her kitchen until the early hours of the morning, frightening her cats and annoying her downstairs neighbors as we sang along loudly and badly with Prince, particularly the Purple Rain soundtrack. It was during these sleepless hours that I was introduced to “Let’s Go Crazy.” That song will always be an anthemic battle cry for me.

Later I was looking up clips on YouTube and found the video below. Watch as Prince reaches heretofore unmatched levels of face-melting as he shreds his way through the solo of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” proving unequivocally that Prince was a supremely talented performer. I know I’ll miss him.

-Ross


I would not be exaggerating if I said Prince was involved in two of the best nights of my life.

Picture this: New Year’s Eve, 1991. I’m at an under-21 dance club called Club Nitro. I’m 14 years old and no doubt I was wearing what I considered “dress up” clothes: black bodysuit, jeans that were far too big for me and Doc Martens. I didn’t have big hair, but it was most certainly curled by the Caruso Molecular Steam Hairsetter. The song at midnight was “Diamonds and Pearls“.

One by one, my friends were asked to dance, until it was just me leaning against a wall. And then a boy that I had crushed on for months asked me to dance. I had assumed he was unaware of my existence. I got to dance to Prince on New Year’s Eve with my crush. He even kissed me at the end of the song.*

Beer Barge, 2014. The Commonwealth Press Beer Barge is an excellent way to celebrate Pittsburgh’s Craft Beer Week. Two hundred of your closest friends set sail on the Gateway Clipper for three hours of bands, craft beer and dancing. The final song on the 2014 barge was Purple Rain. It was an epic night. Look!

*Never spoke to me again.

-suzy


iwoulddie4uIt’s really hard for me to remember a time that I wasn’t singing Prince songs. His music was everything I wanted to be a part of – dancing, freedom of expression, being yourself, sexuality, fast cars and motorcycles, and on and on. He was an icon of my generation. Not just a rock star or superstar, but a certifiable icon (I run on at the mouth about the book which will convince you of that fact in this post from a couple of years ago. I STILL recommend this book on a regular basis.). Prince’s death has made me put him into a category that I certainly never wanted him to be in – artists I wanted to see perform live, but never got the chance to. It pains me that he’s now in that “box”. I always thought there’d be more time. But don’t you always think that?  Going crazy is going to be a little harder for me now.

-Melissa M.


One of my greatest parental accomplishments is providing my kids with a well-rounded musical education. Her One Direction fanaticism notwithstanding, my 14-year-old daughter proudly shares that she is the only person among her friends who can name all four Beatles. She’s heartbroken that Janet Jackson postponed her tour because, “It’s the closest I’ll ever get to The King of Pop himself.”  She’s not a child of the ‘80s, but an offspring of two of them, her knowledge of these artists acquired from us having their music on heavy rotation.

But whether it was the suggestiveness of his lyrics or something else, somehow I’d failed to introduce my girl to the power of Prince.

Until Thursday.

“He’s a good singer and all, but I don’t quite get why everyone is so sad about him dying,” she tells me.

purplerainDig if you will, then, the picture of us watching Purple Rain, its R-rating be damned. She’s laughing at the outfits, the Aqua-Netted hair.  I start speaking in fragments about how the ‘80s were such a confusing and sad decade — not only for me, but for all of us who were finding love and ourselves in an era of being scared to death that falling in love could kill us.  And then came Prince, singing and celebrating these feelings that were so powerful, so intoxicating and so dangerous enough to be slapped with a Parental Advisory sticker from Tipper Gore.

My nostalgia isn’t quite enough for my girl — she’s been down similar Memory Lanes of mine before — so I go for backup.  Like me, my high school friend Leah also is watching Purple Rain while trying to explain her sadness to her own daughter.

“I told her Prince was my generation’s Justin Bieber and One Direction and Taylor Swift and Jay Z and Beyoncé all rolled into one,” Leah says, via Facebook. “I think she understood that but what I didn’t say was Prince was also our coming of age, our first dances and first dates and first loves. He was the end of our childhood and the soundtrack of our youth and our young adulthood. I’m mourning Prince but I’m also remembering the way I felt back then and realizing that I won’t ever feel that way again, but when I’m watching and listening and singing, I can almost get there.”

The purple-tinged audience is waving their hands (“we had lighters back then, not cell phones,” I explain).  I turn the volume up louder, as one does in homage to Prince. The guitar soars through the TV, through the house, through our souls. And watching my girl, enraptured now, I begin to connect with something I’d long forgotten.

-Melissa F.



When I found out this past Thursday that Prince died I was stunned. It’s still weird for me to talk about him in the past tense. This may be odd to say, but I’ve heard a lot of people these past couple of days say the same thing: I never imagined him dying. I thought that he would be 90 years old still doing concerts singing “Purple Rain.” It’s sad, crazy and strange to think of a world without him, but alas we have to.

His passing didn’t just affect me. It affected my family because my mom is a huge fan of his and she got me into him. She’s loved him since he first came out and she had a poster on her wall of him with a big Afro from Right On! magazine. When my aunt & uncle first met each other, they broke the ice by talking about their common love of Prince. This is a monumental loss. I’ll end this by naming my top three favorite songs of his: “When Doves Cry,” “The Beautiful Ones” and “Adore.”

-Kayla


The summer of 1984, I was home from my freshman year of college. In school, I had been a DJ heavily into prog rock, and worked at the music library where I was introduced to classical and world music. My boyfriend was a guitarist in a hardcore punk rock band that frequently played at CBGB’s and the like. I also happen to be very light-skinned, and my boyfriend, very dark-skinned. This was still fairly rare in the mid-80s, even in New York. We would turn heads walking down the street. Light- and dark-skinned people alike would give us the hairy eyeball.

Our whole group of friends were quite snobbish when it came to pop music. We collectively derided the MTV phenomenon, and all of pop culture as a rule. When Purple Rain came out, my boyfriend and I wanted to see it, but we didn’t want any of our friends to know. We snuck away, even coming up with a cover story of what we were doing instead. It was the first time either of us saw mixed-race couples depicted anywhere. The aspect of one’s race was a non-issue. We were also completely mesmerized by Prince himself. We laughed at ourselves for liking the movie so much. We went to see it again the next day.

-Joelle


In the Spring of 1986 Prince’s “Kiss” was released. At the time, my family didn’t have cable TV, and the whole music video generation was quickly passing me by. But, you know who DID have cable, and MTV? My Grandpap. We would go out to his place on the weekends, visit with him and help him with stuff around the house. Right after that song came out we were over there. I had heard it on the radio, but lacking MTV, had never seen the video. For whatever reason, I was the only one in the living room, as everyone else was in the kitchen, or out in the yard. I turned on MTV and watched some videos. That’s when I saw the video for “Kiss.”

As a 10-year-old boy, growing up in a white, working class, Catholic home, this video opened my eyes in some remarkable ways. I remember thinking “OK…so HE’s wearing high heels … and SHE’s playing the guitar … that’s not … what I expected.” I feel like seeing Wendy Melvoin playing the guitar did a number on me. It let me in on a whole new world of what was possible, and opened up doors of who could do what.

It wasn’t at all what I expected, and I loved it. Billy Bragg and Morrissey (two of my musical heroes) have talked eloquently about how seeing Bowie at an impressionable age really impacted them. I feel that this song and video did something similar for me. The stripped-down funk sounds, vocals still loud and screamy enough to anger a parent, and the gender bending clothes and sexualized dancing was pretty intense, and it hooked me.

The impact of Prince’s music was felt far and wide, not least by me in a fantastic way that I’m fairly certain I never could have expected.

Rest in Power.

-Eric


How did Prince affect your life? Share your memories and tributes in the comments, and put one of his albums or movies on reserve.

-Team Eleventh Stack

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The Artist Currently (and Formerly) Known as . . .

I’m an 80s girl. By that I mean that the ages typically known as the “formative years” for a person, middle and high school, happened for me between 1981 -1987. If you want to include college, that extends me out to 1991 (Now, you all know how old I am!). But the entirety of my teenage years happened in the 1980s.

The upshot to this is that much of the music permanently ensconced in my gray matter comes from that time period. I can’t remember what the “plan” is for this weekend, but I can remember all the lyrics to that Roxette song I heard while watching Pretty Woman the other day. Even though I haven’t heard that song since the last time I watched that movie. (Which, I promise you, has been more than a decade.)

Even as a white, middle class girl from the suburbs of a small city, two of the major influences on my musical development from that time period were Michael Jackson and Prince. But since they were two of the biggest names in the music business during that time, this really is no surprise. I’m not sure what attracted me to their largely androgynous appearances, but I was thoroughly enticed. I had Michael Jackson posters all over my bedroom walls and watched, and listened to, Purple Rain more times than I can count. (In my semi-defense, this was the era of HBO having 3-4 movies per month that they would show over and over and over again. So, I’ve pretty much seen ALL the movies of that time period a bajillion times). Because of my emerging adolescent self and all the hormones and whatnot that accompany this life event, I’m sure their songs’ pulse-pounding beats, titillating lyrics and gyrating dance moves (viewed via the MTV channel that actually showed music videos) had more than a little to do with my interest.

IWouldDie4UDiversions from your formative years die hard. So when I came across a review of I Would Die 4 U: Why Prince Became an Icon by Touré, I knew I had to read it. This book is a compilation of 3 lectures given by the author, a music journalist and television personality, for the Alan LeRoy Locke Lecture Series at the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University. Did you realize that there’s a difference between being a rock star and an icon? One entertains us, while the other embodies who we are as a people or generation, even if it’s just for that moment in time, expressing to us our deeply held feelings and beliefs that we might not have known were there in the first place. Touré makes the convincing argument that because of his childhood experiences (absent father and mother, latchkey kid, high school loner), spiritual beliefs and sexuality, Prince had all the foundations to become an icon for Generation X.

I had not read any other biographies or studies of Prince before this one, but having seen a bit in magazines and on television over the years, I felt I had some knowledge of his background and persona. What I discovered in the pages of this book reinforced what I already knew and provided me with more insight than the slim 150 pages would belie. I learned about childhood and adolescent traumas, relationships and marriages, his crazy work ethic and schedule, as well as the layers of meanings to many of Prince’s most popular song lyrics. When I finished, I felt like I knew as much about Prince as anyone on the outside could, given his propensity to project only the carefully crafted image he wants people to see.

To sum up, I highly recommend this book. I’ve been booktalking it to everyone I’ve run into for the past few weeks. People are getting tired of me. Seriously. So I figured I would recommend it to All of You and that might satisfy my need to jabber on and on about it. Plus, I’ll probably write a Staff Pick for it. Then I’ll REALLY be done talking about this book. Maybe.

Let’s Go Crazy,
Melissa M.

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God Save the Queen(s of the Stone Age)

I, apparently unlike many people, am not interested in Princess Kate’s pregnancy. I wish her all the best, but I have more important cultural events on my mind, like how Fringe has only five episodes left. How can they possibly wrap it up? How will I live without their faces? HOW? I’ve never been fascinated with real, in-my-lifetime royalty of any kind, but I do enjoy many a royal thing.

Here are some of my favorite “royals”:

“Royals” in Books

SummerKnight

Summer Knight by Jim Butcher is the 4th book in the Dresden Files series, an urban fantasy series that is in its 14th book and has never let me down.

Queenpin

Queenpin by Megan Abbott. Abbott has written six very good books, the first four of which are noir. Queenpin, her third, won the Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original.

GirlWhoLovedTomGordon

I can’t not mention Stephen King. I’ve only read two of his books: The Green Mile and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon and I enjoyed them both.

“Royals” in Films

PrincessBride

Buttercup, Princess of Florin in The Princess Bride. There’s a certain set of people who can quote “The Princess Bride”; those are my people.

Photo source: imdb.com

Photo source: imdb.com

Princess Caraboo. I know what you’re thinking, but I watched when I was a youngish and I remember it fondly. Plus, it’s based on an actual story and it has Phoebe Cates and Kevin Kline in it.

Photo source: fanpop.com

Photo source: fanpop.com

Cate Blanchett‘s Elizabeth. This was Blanchett’s breakout role and while my Lord of the Rings knowledge is sparse, I’m pretty sure her character in those films, Galadriel, is a royal, too.

Photo source: http://kingarthur.wikia.com

Photo source: http://kingarthur.
wikia.com

Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I was fairly old when I was introduced to this telling of King Arthur and his knights which is probably a good thing because who wants a seven-year-old running around saying, “watery tart”.

“Royals” in Music

Photo source: http://www.qotsa.com

Photo source: http://www.qotsa.com

Queens of the Stone Age. They will rock your face off with subtle lighting.

Photo source: http://www.sharonjonesandthedapkings.com/

Photo source: http://www.sharonjones
andthedapkings.com/

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. They will also rock your face off, but in a different way.

Prince

Prince. I don’t think this needs any explanation.

-aisha, who thinks her “royals in music” list would be a great lineup for the new royal baby’s christening

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