It seems only fitting that Prince should grace the final DeepSoul of 2016. Fans around the world mourned his untimely loss earlier this year, and continue to celebrate his vast legacy. Few may recall that Prince released a Christmas song in 1984: "Another Lonely Christmas," the B-side to the "I Would Die 4 U" single. This being Prince, however, the song hardly conjures images of smiling carolers or chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Instead, the lyrics chronicle a man mourning his lover's Christmas Day death.
In an interview with NPR, Prince biographer Touré called "Another Lonely Christmas" an example of the artist's skills as "a storyteller. And those story-songs mean so much to me and, I think, to a lot of his fans. Those are where he really, really goes to another level as a songwriter, I think." The lyrics trace the story of a man spending another Christmas alone, then reminisces about the times he spent with his lover. Addressing his deceased girlfriend, he tells of seeing her sister skating on the lake. "Good heaven, how she's grown," he declares, then adding that "of all your father's children . . . U know u are the finest of them all." He tells stories of swimming naked and drinking banana daiquiris until they felt "horny." In the present day, Prince wails, he clutches his pillow in the bed they used to share.
How did his lover die? Prince sings "your father said it was pneumonia / Your mother aid it was stress." While he does not provide a definitive answer, he proclaims that her death was "senseless." As he virtually shouts the title phrase, he also adds the heartbreaking phrase that "I drink banana daiquiris till I'm blind" every Christmas night. It may not be a typical Christmas tune, but "Another Lonely Christmas" encapsulates the mixture of emotions the holiday can produce.
Despite its depressing subject matter, "Another Lonely Christmas" contains all the qualities that define Prince as a superior artist. Wailing guitars and pounding piano set the somber mood, the throbbing drums emphasizing the narrator's another at his loss. Prince's vocal performance, spanning from lower range to vibrato, communicates the agony and pain the main character feels. A closing guitar solo gradually fades into a lone keyboard-powered chord, further underscoring the deep sense of mourning.
Recorded in Hollywood on February 18, 1984, "Another Lonely Christmas" remained a relatively obscure B-side until the 1993 box set The Hits/The B-Sides. While credited to Prince and the Revolution, only the artist appears on the track. The only time he ever played the track live was in St. Paul, Minnesota on December 26, 1984--an unfortunate fact, since its intensity would have played extremely well in concert. "Another Lonely Christmas" may not rank as one of Prince's best-known songs, but it exemplifies his talent for subverting tradition and constantly surprising listeners with unique arrangements and thought-provoking lyrics.
This column marks the last DeepSoul of 2016, and I want to thank you for your continuing support and interest. I will be back in 2017 with more soul treasures spanning R&B and funk to dance and hip hop. Until then, I wish you the happiest of holiday seasons and all the best for the new year.