SHUFFLER 0071: 2 3 4 U
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Prince and the Revolution – “I Would Die 4 U” from Purple Rain (1984 Warner Bros.)
After Bob Dylan (and somewhere before Better Off Airport) Prince is probably the Twin Cities’ most well-known musical export. Lyrically, though, Prince is no Bob Dylan, and that’s probably why people don’t often sit around dissecting the Purple Man’s lyrics (although occasionally some poor sap will have to negotiate his way around raunchy masturbation lyrics for his blog). Here’s the thing, though, it’s worth noting that people also don’t sit around talking about how goddamn funky Dylan is.
I would offer that, upon hearing the first note of “I Would Die 4 U” (a song that, in 1984, curiously predicted the sort of obnoxious shortcuts texting language would take two decades later), a plunk of the bass (or is it a guitar?) followed by a volley of high-hat and splasy synths, nobody cares what Prince is talking about — the medium is the message. Probably that’s why the song has been covered nine times that Wikipedia knows about.
For me what’s so interesting about this song, and about this album, for that matter, is how fresh it sounds, even today. We touched last time about Prince’s connection to the Minneapolis sound, and really it’s too tedious to get into here (what, is your Wikipedia broken?) but suffice it to say that it had everything to do with a new take on R&B that, among other things, subbed in a lot of synthesizers where maybe horns would have gone in the past. Prince was such a progenitor of that sound, influencing so many others, what fascinates me is the way his music holds up while so many others who followed his lead made music that, while interesting, sounds so dated today (Morris Day, I’m talking to you).
And who of us can’t relate to that feeling of teenage love that declares, maybe prematurely, sure, and maybe with weird abbreviations scrawled in purple pen a note that is folded in an overly complicated fashion, undying love and devotion? It almost never works out, but that’s not the point. This isn’t a song about pragmatic long-term plans, but rather a song about right now, a song that wants to “make u happy when you’re sad / make u good when u are bad.”