“All media, photographers and guests must clear the arena for the Prince/Beyonce GRAMMY rehearsal.” It was 2004, and Prince had agreed to open the GRAMMY Awards with Beyonce. It was the first time in a decade that the artist known as, then formerly known as, and then again known as Prince was going to perform on the annual music kudofest.
I was the Vice President of Communications for The Recording Academy, producers of the GRAMMY Awards, at that time. I had to promise that no ‘media, photographers or guests’ would be sitting in Los Angeles’ Staples Center when Prince and Beyonce came to rehearse their performance. Or I had to sell my first born’s soul to the devil. But this was PRINCE.
I was like a lioness protecting her cub. I had everyone from security to stage hands on high alert that absolutely no “media, photographers or guests” were to be anywhere near the Staples Center!
Prince’s band showed up. Beyonce showed up. And I was in front of the stage like a nerdy hall monitor, ready to tell on anyone who wasn’t following the rules.
I then was informed over walkie-talkie that Prince was arriving. He soon would be entering the secret VIP artist’s entrance that only a handful of icons could use. I became Steve Austin and my bionic eye scoured the arena for unwelcome evil doers.
Suddenly, I locked eyes on a sketchy stranger. He was toting a camera with all the bells and whistles of the most aggressive paparazzi. I gotchu, you SOB! I grabbed my walkie and screamed into it like Justin Bieber before he released his latest album, “GET THAT (EXPLETIVE, EXPLETIVE…probably another EXPLETIVE) photographer OUT. OF. HERE. NOW!” As I pictured myself handing over my first-born’s soul to the Devil, I felt a light tapping on my left shoulder.
I turned around and didn’t see anything. I looked down and there was Prince. Holding a purple fedora that he just used to lightly tap me on my shoulder. “He’s with me,” said a soft voice. I looked at this person who was talking to me. Big, kind eyes, a beautiful, appreciative grin, and an AMAZING lime green suit. Always one to be super quick on my feet, I responded: “Oh, wow, you’re PRINCE!”
“Thanks for having my back.” Wait, what? Did “Purple Rain,” “When Doves Cry,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Darling Nikki” Prince just thank ME for having his back? As I shook his hand (and un-unleashed the hounds on Prince’s personal photographer), I said, “Of course, you’re Prince.”
It was one of the most amazing moments of my life. I had grown from a boy to a man listening to his music. “Purple Rain” is one of the greatest make-out songs ever written. “Let’s Go Crazy” and “1999” still are anthems today. “Darling Nikki” is the sexiest song ever written. “When Doves Cry” is one of the greatest songs of all time. I mean, listen to any of his countless hits and try to NOT sing along! More important, be aware of how the next Prince song you find yourself singing makes you FEEL.
As I watched this tiny, lovely soul grow instantly into a giant on stage, I looked on with great admiration. He, after all, was performing with Beyonce. He had to show he could still hold his own. But no worries. If anything, SHE had to try and keep up.
I remember watching the actual live performance the night of the GRAMMYs. It didn’t matter if you were a GRAMMY nominee, a record exec or the most famous tart at the time, everyone in that arena was a Prince fan.
Today, newcomers aren’t as talented as Prince. They certainly aren’t as brave or as adventurous. His talent and showmanship arguably are at the same level as Michael Jackson.
Prince, you and your music helped shape the man I am today. For that, I will always have your back.
Today, this is what it sounds like when doves cry …
Ron Kennedy Roecker is an award-winning writer, artist and photographer. He spent the past 18 years in Los Angeles as a senior brand marketing exec in music and entertainment and is the former VP of Communications for the Grammy Awards. Roecker has been tapped as a music and entertainment expert by Entertainment Tonight, CNN, Today, E!, the BBC, MTV, and Reelz, to name a few. He currently lives in Kansas City, MO, and will be publishing his first book this spring. You can keep up with him on Twitter, Instagram, or say “hi” on Facebook!