This is a favorite dinner party question: if you could invite anyone to dinner, who would it be and why? That question bugs me. Partly because the person I would invite depends on my mood and the day of the week and what I’m interested in at that particular moment – music, books, history or politics. And it bugs me partly because while I believe we can learn from the ‘greats’ in each field, I think that one has to get to a point in their life where they just have to do whatever they are passionate about. For some, that starts at age three and for some it is much later. Some people never get to that point at all.
This is probably just folklore (like Clapton being asked how it felt to be the greatest guitar player ever and answering “I don’t know. You’ll have to ask Prince.”), but it still resonates with me. Supposedly a young composer asked Mozart how to write a symphony. Mozart replied that it was very complex and perhaps the student should start with something simpler. The student protested that Mozart was writing symphonies when he was eight years old. Mozart (maybe, or maybe not) replied, “Yes, but I never asked anyone how to do it.”
Today’s challenge is similar to the dinner party question. Someone unexpected sits next to you on an airplane. Who is it and what do you talk about? For me, it’s always Prince. The man fascinated me. The musician enthralled me. I could add several others to the dinner party conversation, but if it’s only one person, it is always Prince.
I don’t think I’d even ask about his music. I have heard rumors that he supposedly left a vault of unpublished music. Maybe he just hadn’t gotten around to publishing any of it or maybe he didn’t like it for some reason. For me, Prince left it all on the stage (and in the recording studio). What he wanted us to know about his music is released on a disc somewhere. If it wasn’t published, I’m not going to clamor for it, because he probably had his own reason for keeping it private.
I’d ask about his philosophy and world view: What he thought about life, humanity, how we think, how others influence our opinions. I would skate carefully around the God issue because I think our views were very different. What others call God, I call the Universe. I’m interested in neither the particulars of religion nor with being proselytized, but I am fascinated with how Prince’s faith changed his music – or perhaps his music changed his faith.
His music is everywhere. He gave it to other artists willingly and he fought against the record industry for control of his own music. Yet, very little is known about Prince’s private life, just some basic facts. It’s why I believe everything he wanted us to know about him is already in his music.
So maybe no one sits next to me on that airplane after all.