It’s after 11pm, the train pulls in at 34th Street and two men get on. They were young, no more than 25. One has his iPhone connected to a Bluetooth speaker, loudly playing Prince’s Little Red Corvette. As the doors close behind him, the one with the iPhone turns the volume down. As the train pulls out of the station, it was clear he could barely hear the music anymore. Addressing everyone and no one he asks: “Ladies and gentleman, I don’t want to be rude, but my headphones are broken and I can’t replace them until tomorrow. But I really need to hear me some Prince right now. Is it okay if I turn this up and share it with you?”
This was Thursday night, hours after the news of the death of Prince has shocked the world. From the outpouring of positively to the young man’s question, one would have thought the pastor just asked the church for an “Amen!” after a good sermon. I am guessing most of us on the train were still reeling from the news, I know I still was. The reaction was about the same, so he turned it up just as the opening lines of Let’s Go Crazy was coming on.
We are gathered here today
To get through this thing called life“
He wasn’t just listening to the music, but part quoting/singing along with it. Once it reached the part of “Go crazy” a good portion of us on the train had joined in with him. It was an impromptu mini-concert/singalong for quite a few stops. It was continuously amusing as the unaware boarded the train and were thrust pell-mell into the ad hoc celebration. Luckily most joined the fun, or at the very least nodded agreeably with the contained madness. And contained madness was exactly what it was until Purple Rain came on.
It seemed, as one, we all became quiet as the opening chords played. It was penance. It was salvation. It was redemption. It was church. It was a reverent moment of silence, just listening to him…
“I never meant to cause you any sorrow
I never meant to cause you any pain
I only wanted to one time to see you laughing
I only wanted to see you
Laughing in the purple rain“
And again, as one, we came out of that reverent trance to sing the chorus together. Some with heads down, but hands waving slowly in the air, feeling it. Yes, there were some people crying and it was alright. I could not help, but think Prince himself would have liked that. He would have enjoyed that moment of oneness among strangers over his songs.
“Thinking about how we mourn artists we’ve never met. We don’t cry because we knew them, we cry because they helped us know ourselves.”