As a child I wanted to be a pro athlete like Larry Bird. Or a rock star like Prince. Either would suffice.
My formative years were the early 80’s and I was focused on the Celtics, Sox and listening to music on records and cassettes, much of which was uniquely and passionately performed by Prince.
For me, sports and music will always be deeply intertwined and parallels can be easily drawn.
Purple Rain helped Prince claim the first-ever artist “Triple Crown” in this history; in 1984 he scored the number one album, number one song and number one film in the United States – all at the same time. That means Prince did something not even The King could do with his songs and movies in the 50’s and 60’s.
From early on, Prince owned the color purple. It can’t be a coincidence that he hailed from a state with a pro football team whose glory years were fronted by Purple People Eaters.He lived around Minneapolis much of his life, in an estate called Paisley Park – a name that would have worked nicely for any number of ball fields around this great land.
It is even said his childhood nickname was “Skipper”, which had he made it to the majors in that role, would have made him perhaps the shortest MLB manager of all time. That’s because he only grew to the size of a jockey, and at five foot two inches tall, gave up a full five inches to miniature dunk champion Spud Webb.
But his accomplishments were not small. Prince was a Jackie Robinson of sorts as he helped break the color line on MTV. He was one of the first two black artists to have songs in “heavy rotation” on MTV. Prince did it with Little Red Corvette, joining only Michael Jackson with Billie Jean.
I’m sure you recall when Prince famously changed his name to a symbol as a protest against Warner Brothers Records. Name changes are also common in sports including Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul Jabbar); Cassius Clay (Mohammed Ali) and Ron Artest (Meta World Peace).
In 2004, Prince was the highest earning artist in the world. He pocketed $56 million that year, or as much as curse – busting Sox stars Manny, Pedro, Schilling and Damon earned combined.
Prince owned Miami at halftime of Super Bowl XLI. As Peyton and the Colts beat the Bears, Prince literally performed Purple Rain in the rain. Billboard Magazine later called it the best halftime show ever.
Prince was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. Cleveland is lucky to have the Rock HOF since they have no professional sports titles since 1964 and I’ll bet my raspberry beret they don’t win any in the near future.
In recent years it is said Prince, like Bo Jackson, needed hip replacement surgery. This was not caused by football or baseball, but rather by performing on stage in boots with high heels for years. Even Bo knows that can’t be easy on the body.
On the day Prince passed, the Fenway Park organist featured songs from his highness all afternoon. And thanks to Cecil Fielder, we have his son Prince on the baseball diamond who was indeed named after the musician.
So dearly beloved, while we are gathered here today, I have enjoyed sharing with you how music and sports can be eternally connected in this thing called life.