I’ve waited long enough to point out this obvious fact. Yes, Prince was a legend, had some epic tunes, gave us one of the defining albums of the 80’s and died WAY too young. But let’s be honest. Prince wasn’t there when America needed him most.
I could chronicle all manner of jackassery from Prince, like suing his fans or having his bodyguards beat people up, but my main gripe was that Prince was AWOL when this country needed him for the great charity music wars of the 80’s.
You kids out there may not even know about this great war. No shots were fired, and no lives were lost, but it was an epic battle nonetheless. Settle in and let’s all get educated on some 80’s history.
In the 80’s, African people were starving. Bob Geldof was concerned that if they didn’t have food, they also might not have a calendar, and so they might not know when Christmas rolled around each year. So, in 1984, Geldof assembled the greatest artists in England and Ireland to find out. Sting, Bono, Boy George, Bob Geldof, George Michael, Phil Collins, Simon Le Bon, David Bowie, Paul McCartney–all the greatest showed up to make a music video and ask the important question “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”
Not to be outdone, America had to respond, and show that we cared even more about starving Africans. We had to go all out. We had to have more artists, bigger artists and a better, sappier and over the top song. Our top artists had to be there and really nail it with epic solo parts, with their voices and personalities just taking everything to the next level. And goddamn if we didn’t do just that! Because it was the 80’s, we are America, and WE ARE THE WORLD!
“There’s a choice we’re making. We’re saving our own lives.” Goddamn right we are, because this is AMERICA!
Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Lionel Richie, Kenny Rogers, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Tina Turner, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Cyndi Lauper, Huey Lewis, Ray Charles, Steve Perry, Kenny Loggins, Hall and Oates, Bette Midler, the Jackson’s, Sheila E., Al Jarreau, Kim Carnes, Lindsey Buckingham, Dan Akroyd. Dan Akroyd??? How the hell did he get in there? Well whatever, CHRIST, what a lineup!
Unfortunately Elvis was dead by 1985, or I’m sure he would have been in there too. That would have been ridiculous.
But you know who else wasn’t there, and was still alive at that point? Ok, yea, John Mellencamp, Neil Young, Don Henley, Jon Bon Jovi and Johnny Cash weren’t there, but they made up for it with Farm Aid that same year.
That’s right, Prince wasn’t there.
Prince was the biggest artist in America in 1985, by far. Purple Rain was at the top of the charts and Prince was YUGE. Prince claimed he couldn’t be there because he had to bail his bodyguard out of jail for beating up a fan, or something. Was Prince a lawyer? I don’t think so. Clearly, Prince just thought he was too cool to be a part of USA for Africa, and maybe he was. But it was 1985, and it wasn’t cool to be cool.
Prince’s boycott of USA for Africa was a big deal, and everyone noticed. SNL noted his absence with the classic skit “I Am Also the World,” with Billy Chrystal playing Prince and Mr. T and Hulk Hogan as his bodyguards. Absolutely hilarious, and one of the all time greats on SNL.
Oh well, as Walter Sobchak said when he dumped Donnie’s ashes in the sea, “Good Night Sweet Prince.” When Prince died, I asked Jake if he remembered watching Prince sing Purple Rain during halftime of Super Bowl XLI, when the Colts beat the Bears. “I remember all the parents crying,” Jake answered. Yea, I guess we did.