"No, I don't think about gone. I just think about in the future when I don't want to speak in real time."
Today is Prince's 59th birthday and it's impossible not to notice the massive void in the present tense since his passing. I was devastated at the news like millions around the world but a friend and fellow follower of His Purple Badness told me she was not going to be sad. Prince's music was filled with joy and had been a soundtrack to many a good time and great night and that wasn't how she was going to remember him. I wasn't able to immediately throw my emotional response in reverse but over time I found myself smiling again as I listened to the vast scope of his legendary works, revisiting old favorites and discovering songs I'd overlooked or, in some cases, never heard.
I'm remembering Prince on his birthday with what remains my favorite of his songs, a too easily overlooked single from Sign O' The Times, the album that may well be his defining artistic statement. That song? "I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man."
This song has so many trademarks of Prince's best work: a great chorus, strong vocal, screaming guitar solo, driving beat. What separates this song for me is the storytelling and the story told. Prince was an evocative writer and skilled lyricist but he didn't often follow the path of the troubadour. No one will mistake "I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man" for a folk song but this is a moving picture in sound.
A heartbroken woman has been left by the love of her life and encounters a man who can sense her pain and desire for connection and need for love. He clearly feels attraction and this is where Prince, one of the great writers of the erotic and profane, takes the story in a different direction from so many of his best known and loved work. The man sees this woman and knows he could have her for a night they'd never forget but that night would leave them both wanting more and he knows that's something he can't give so he walks away.
The best storytellers in songwriting know which details to include and which to omit and this is a masterwork in the craft as he makes it so easy to see these two people struggling with heartbreak and temptation and yet they play the tape to the end and avoid a path that inevitably leads to more pain.
He did this all in under four minutes if you only know the single version. The album version is even better with the way he slows the song to grind before unleashing it for a fierce finish.
Happy Birthday, Your Purple Highness. You not only speak in real time; you speak for all time and we are still listening.