“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people …” (1 Peter 2:9)
“And if the elevator tries to break you down, go crazy!” Purple Rain soundtrack
This is one of the first images, my early recollections of the Artist who would be known as Prince. Little did I know then that he would become embedded, intertwined in the fabric of my life. I consider myself somewhat of a fan, though not a fanatic. I would find myself singing a Prince tune frequently, mostly when I was happy. For some reason, more often than not, it was Raspberry Beret … the kind you find in a second hand store, LOL! And nothing can get me stoked like the first bars of Glamorous Life (to this day, I am fascinated with female musicians, especially drummers), Nasty Girl (Don’t judge me!) and When Doves Cry. I was your typical young girl; if it had a great beat, catchy refrain and made me want to dance, count me in. And on a particularly morose first day of my work week, you could hear me singing Manic Monday. But the love for his songs continued past my youth. After my divorce, I found and fell in love with his rendition of, I can’t make you love me if you don’t. But even that was more because of his arrangement and vocal style than because of the depressing subject matter. So many great songs and wonderful memories. A childhood friend remarked, after meeting him, that he was tiny. Smaller than her and she was pretty petite. But his stage presence was larger than life.
Purple Rain was a huge hit, it even received a ringing endorsement from Roger Ebert (which was pretty cool at that time). I remember our excitement and fever at the prospect of going. And it was a movie for grown ups. Unlike a lot of musical talent today, he didn’t try to appeal to the tween generation of his time. He made his music, racy lyrics and all, unapologetically. I give him points for living his life on his terms. Even to changing his name when it suited him and refusing to be owned by the powers that be. It takes courage and a great sense of self to do that in a world that’s always pushing us to conform. His musical genius is, was undeniable.
One song which arose from that movie, I could count on to pick me up most times when I was feeling down: Let’s Go Crazy! For some reason the lyrics to this particular song resonated with me. “Not gonna let the elevator BREAK US DOWN!” That elevator was life. That elevator was The Man, people in authority, your boss or anyone that tried to oppress you, to put you down and keep you down. The circumstances and situations that arose to test your resolve to excel, to challenge your determination to succeed. That elevator, man, you couldn’t let it get to you. This appealed to the rebellious streak in me. My manager used to always ask this question after a training session to ensure that it had been helpful: What are your take aways? I took this message from the life of Prince: when faced with obstacles, get radical. Be so good at what you do, you can’t be ignored. Smile in the face of your haters, perpetrators and instigators, knowing that you can’t be stopped from reaching your goal. That way of thinking could require some arrogance on your part (or so it may seem to an onlooker) or, great faith in God who bestowed upon you unimaginable gifts that could propel you.
When I was a little girl, my family lived in an apartment building on the eighth floor. Frequently the elevator would break down. Which meant for us, a manual trip up and down those eight flights of stairs. No mean feat, I can assure you, after a visit to our local grocery store where my mother would shop for her family of, coincidentally, eight people. So of course, she could not let a malfunctioning elevator stop her, it could only slow her down. Did I also mention, she didn’t have a car? Nor did she drive. So a trek on foot to and from the store was followed by a long haul up and down the stairs until everything was safely ensconced in our little kitchen. Lack of car or elevator just forced her to choose another way to get things done. That other way often forces us to be more creative, to think outside to box or to construct another box altogether. Can’t find a job? Make one! Looking for your piece of the pie? Fuggedaboutit! Make your OWN pie. Throw all of those preconceived notions, those conventional barriers to success out the window.
Being creative can make you appear unusual to other folks. Peculiar, even. You’ll look downright crazy at times. What? You don’t want to work a regular job until you die? Something must be wrong with you! It goes against the norm. But I revel in being different. It’s so stifling to me to be otherwise. So when I hear that song it is actually empowering to me. It has become symbolic of my struggle. It says to me, it’s ok to be you. Be original. Be true to who you are. And whatever happens, don’t let life get you down. Persevere. Push through it, get back up – no matter how many times you have to do it or how many tries it takes. Don’t give up. GO CRAZY.