When I was contacted and asked to talk about Prince and the 25th Anniversary of, Diamonds and Pearls, the first thing I thought was “what could I possibly say about Prince and his music that hasn’t already been said?” Then I talked to a friend about it and they hit the nail on the head for me. They told me that I haven’t really expressed all my feelings about Prince’s music since his passing. And that made sense to me. So as you can see, I accepted the challenge. Which actually, isn’t really a challenge at all, because Prince’s music has been a staple in the fabric of my whole life.
First, Prince to me embodied what it looks like to be Black and Free. I admired his philanthropy and his activism. For me, that was the best thing about him. As a matter of fact, I like to think that his unashamed, unabashed realness, non-confined sexuality and candid truth affected me — if not inspired me as an artist. I say it all the time: this man, this king, danced to the beat of his own drum and recorded it all. Period. This cat was a bad, bad man! And, when I truly think about it, Prince’s music is attached to some of my earliest memories with my family.
Prince takes me back to the times that I spent with my favorite aunt growing up. She’d be getting ready to go out, standing in the mirror doing her makeup. My two-year-old self, sitting on her bed watching every move, every detail, learning, idolizing her. Right before she’d begin her beauty regimen, she would go turn on the boom box and pop this white cassette tape in. All of a sudden you’d hear:
We are gathered here today…
To get through this thing called ‘life.’
The beat would hit and she would turn around, look at me like, “you hear that!” and start moving to the rhythm. I would try to join in…my little non-coordinated self, happy as can be! Rocking from side to side, shaking the mess out the canopy. Because that’s what his music did for me — for us — create happiness, movement, freedom, release and expression.
Diamonds and Pearls
“D to the I to the A to the M…O to the N to the D to the Pearls of Love.”
It is just one of those albums that makes me feel nostalgic as soon as the music starts playing. Diamonds and Pearls was released on October 1 in 1991, the time in which I associate it with the, “good ol’ days” of my life. I was seven years old and very much into all things music. My mother definitely had all the Prince joints at the house. So of course she copped the new album immediately. I remember one song in specific that we both instantly LOVED: “Gett Off.”
Mama and I love bass-heavy music that bumps…what we call ‘bangers’. “Gett Off,” is a banger. Whenever that song came on, she stood up and instantly turned the volume high on her 8-speaker Pioneer Surround Sound System, strategically placed in the dining room. The kick, the bass and them JB’s-style horns cascaded throughout the entire house. Like, WHOA! We’d be cuttin’ a rug up in that piece! To this day, I still cannot hear that song and sit still. It’s like his “New Position” or “Delirious” or “Sexy MF” for me…when it comes on, naturally I’m GOING IN!! I mean really… it’s involuntary.
“Cream” and “Thunder.” These were the dance cuts that I’d usually hear playing at mom’s parties alongside cuts like MJ’s “Dangerous” and, Tony! Toni! Toné!’s “Feels Good.” Classic, timeless party starters. “Strollin’” was always dope to me. I always thought the chord progression and harmonies were really pretty. My mom was a jazz head to the Nth degree, so, this song definitely got play. She was up on Madhouse too. She made sure to expose me to all the multifaceted talents of the Purple One. However, I remember having to sneak to listen to “Insatiable.” This song was on a list that mom had called, “I bet not catch you listening to.” (Seven year-old Pavi wasn’t ready for all them lyrics.)
Last but not least, “Diamonds and Pearls.”
Ahhh…I always loved this song. It’s one of the Prince videos that I remember in detail without even having to see it. This song, in my personal opinion, is one of the sweetest, truest, most beautifully crafted love songs to this day. I always felt this was song wasn’t just about a love he had for a woman, but about Agape love…the love from the Universe…the Most High…the love Prince felt for humanity.
There is just something to be said about the way the song plays out sonically. It’s almost like the instruments…the voices were as delicate, rich and gorgeous — just as what we perceive physical diamonds and pearls to be. Clean, polished, cut, and reflecting the light. Everything was tight, in time and — ROSIE GAINES!!! The way that Prince placed her vocals in this cut is honestly the standout of this entire song for me. How simple yet a necessity to the song it was. Gaines’s moments in the song are etched in my mind indelibly. When I am singing along, it is definitely with Rosie. I loved her unique voice. What a song. What an album. Happy 25th Anniversary!
Right now, as I am finishing this piece… I am reminded of how blessed I was to be young and budding at a time where musicians and artists were still creating from scratch and carrying the torch of our artistic predecessors. And that I learned so much from these artists, these teachers, my parents. I am thankful. Thankful to be inspired by an artist like Prince that simply lived his life his way. I’m thankful for his music and overall, his artistry.
He was special. He was uncanny. He was hilarious, but he was no joke. He was a consummate musician. An exceptionally gifted writer. He knew what “on the one” meant in the same way George Clinton and James Brown knew what it meant. He was the last of the dying breed that brought that brand, that aesthetic, of funk and showmanship. He changed the face of music and the music business through his own evolving processes. His music was an extension of his life that he shared with us.
I am sure of all of this, and I never even knew the man.
PaviElle is a soul singer from St. Paul. She sang outside First Avenue the night Prince passed away, has performed in our studio and at The Current’s Birthday Party.