About The Funk...

Observational Spittle from the mind of a man of color in his 40s, without the color added (most times). Come in, laugh, and you may learn something...

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Saturday, June 27, 2009


My younger brother and I have been engaged in a battle of opinions for the past 3 decades or so, on a myriad of different subjects, never, ever, I said, I said (go 'head Foghorn!) never agreeing to disagree or agree. We were both convinced that we were right, and in a lot of ways, it continues to this day. We weren't (and still aren't, even tho if things came down to it, we'd have each other's back in a heartbeat) aren't particularly close, probably speaking to each other about 3 times a year, and seeing each other even less. It's both of our faults, really, and it seems that neither one of us really care to change the status quo of things.

One of our most bitter arguments (perhaps "bitter" is too harsh of a word; I'd go with our rivalry was heated, in terms of our big ol' difference of opinion) is who we thought was better...

Prince Rogers Nelson or Michael Joseph Jackson.

Out of all of our arguments, this is the one that went on the longest, both of us doing battle, armed with Billboard Top 40 charts, record sales, musical prowess comparisons, and just something that we just had to argue about, as that it was the only form of communication between the two of us.

It was the 1980's, and both artists (and, in reflection, artists is a word that doesn't do either one of the men justice) were at the height of their powers....MJ being the biggest star in the world, and Prince redefining funk, rock, and crossing over into film (and winning an Oscar for best score for "Purple Rain", a fact that I was quick to rub into my brother's face back in 1985). Both ending up Rock N' Roll Hall of famers (with MJ being inducted twice, deservedly so, I must say), and making so many classics it just wasn't funny.

I remember when "We Are The World" was played on every station at exactly the same moment, the night of the Grammys, and Prince didn't bother to show up, wanting to celebrate his 3 Grammy night (even though Michael J ended up with a total of 13 over his career, compared to Prince's 7). It saddened me because Prince was rather arrogant back at his height (and despite his disappearance from Top 40 radio over the past 15 years, his arrogance hasn't diminished much), and it was the opportunity for both artists to cut a record for the USA for Africa Record (later on there was a chance that they were going to do a duet for MJ's "Bad", but couldn't agree on which direction the song would take).

Obviously, it would of been one of the great duets of the 20th century, in my humble opinion, and who knows...maybe for a moment it would of stopped the bickering between my brother and I...at least for the 4 minutes or so it took for the song to play on the radio.

Anyway, in those great 1980s, those 2 men (along with a certain "Material Girl", of which the 3 is the only one who still is somewhat relevant in Top 40 radio) just simply were the bomb, becoming legends, and as my brother and I aged, we didn't butt heads so much about them, as that we became men and had other things to think about (my brother, his career, and I my eventual marriage and family). But whenever a new Prince CD came out, or MJ popped into the studio for his every 5 years or so release, we'd at least mention our opinions on it....and continued to disagree on the quality of the work.

Sadly, both went off the "deep end", in their own ways, derailing in a lot of ways their greatness before age would of eventually of done that for them, as it tends to happens to all rock/pop stars. Prince did the "symbol" name change thing, and beyond "Cream", "Diamonds & Pearls", and "The Most Beautiful Girl in The World", his propensity for writing music that only he and his die hard fans (like myself) would dig would cost him dearly (even though he was a pioneer in breaking from the record companies and doing things himself, keeping most of the profit for himself; other artists, Like Radiohead, followed suit).

I am not even going to get into MJ's downfall, as that has been well documented, and I have to admit, broke my heart in a lot of ways.

But to reiterate, my younger brother was the big MJ Fan, and I (til this day) thought Prince was the purple meow (yeah, I am hetero, so shut up). MJ was the consummate entertainer; Prince was on par with Clapton, Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen when it came to handling the guitar. MJ had the moonwalk, Prince had the Purple Rain, the ultimate Y2k song (17 years before it became necessary). MJ has the biggest selling album of all time, with each new release (up until the wheels starting to come off in the 90's) being a media event; Prince had the hot women, the yearly releases, the 3 brilliant albums (1999, Purple Rain, and Sign O' The Times) and, well, sadly, "Under the Cherry Moon."

The argument was never won between my brother and I, and we both watched as both of these once mega-stars/now legends went, and forgive me for using this term, as I always hated it when MJ was referred to it, "wacko."

So here we are, 2009, and about a week or so ago, I saw a story about Prince making a surprise appearance at the Apollo for its 75th anniversary, looking cool as hell, not like a 51 year old man, but using a cane...

...as that both of his hips have been replaced.

Seeing this made me let out a deep sigh. No more James Brown splits and crazy dance moves as the funk would kick in small and big venues. He could still falsetto and scream like the old days, but that picture simply spoke volumes to me, especially as my 40th birthday is but a month or so away. Prince was still cool, but, well, he would never be "Prince" again. I still get each new release (including the recent "LotusFlow3r"), hoping for some semblance of greatness would show up, and being somewhat disappointed each time.

Then June 25th, 2009 showed up, and I am at a park doing a picnic with my wife's employer, and my homegirl calls me and tells me that MJ is being rushed to the hospital.

30 seconds later, my mom calls me and tells me Michael Joseph Jackson is dead.

I was playing Frisbee with my youngest, a 7 year old who hasn't really been touched or figured out how music helps define your life in a lot of ways, and he couldn't understand why I just stopped what we were doing, as I asked my mom to repeat what she just said.

All I could say was "wow."

I then immediately called my brother, to see if he knew what had just occurred. I couldn't reach him.

I guess it is sort of like our entire relationship, in a way. He is 36 years old, and is doing quite well for himself. In a lot of ways, he is Michael Jackson. Determined, he makes sure he is the best at what he does.

I am, I guess, a lot like Prince...a person, albeit talented (I feel that I am a good writer), but too stubborn in a lot of things, and not using my talent to the fullest.

So here I sit, 2 days later, still stunned that one of the subjects of my brother and I great argument is gone way, way too soon. A man who, for a long, long time, was the biggest entertainer in the world. 750 million albums. 100 million or so for Prince. 13 grammys, 7 for prince. More classics between the Jackson 5 and himself that I can count. Prince had 3 GREAT albums, but too many scattered ideas, sadly.

It makes sense though why I dig Prince, and why he dug Michael Jackson. It defined, well, us.

I said "dug", as in past tense.


Rest in Peace, King of Pop. The "Prince" should say thanks.

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