Prince: The Last Rockstar Popstar

Prince’s 1980s’ reign represented the last time that pop music and rock music were the same genre.

Until Prince, pop music stood for everything that wasn’t classical or jazz. After Prince, pop music basically took what Prince and Michael Jackson created and continued doing the same thing up through Taylor Swift’s 1989. Meanwhile, rock (including grunge and hard rock), hip-hop and country each spun off into its own sphere. They were kicked out from under the pop umbrella.

I’m not saying Prince broke pop music, but he may have ended its monopoly.

Prince is a deeply personal subject for me. I consider myself a rock music historian (or at least a snob) and he’s in a handful of artists that I listen to as if they were their own genre of music. Sometimes you don’t need jazz or rock—you just need Prince.

Recently, I joked that I was going to take a couple of months and keep going to Prince’s club in Minnesota until he showed up. The last time he came to Denver, I didn’t have $250 to spend on a ticket. Now I wish I had taken out a loan. From videos, live recordings and bootlegs, it’s clear there was nothing quite like a Prince show.

When I was in middle school, Prince was not cool. I remember listening to him frequently on my iPod. That was back when you had to buy tracks one at a time. I spent a lot of time listening to Raspberry Beret, 1999, Little Red Corvette and the dance version of Let’s Go Crazy, which features a longer guitar solo (more on this song in a minute).

When people asked what I was listening to they were taken aback when I answered “Prince” in a way they weren’t when my response was Marvin Gaye or the Clash. They would ask, “Is he still, ‘the artist formerly known as Prince’?” Or worse, “you really listen to him?”

To middle school students (even at an arts school), I think Prince was still too out there, too sexual and too complicated—which is why I think he made a comeback among my peers during the exploratory phase of high school. No one sits around and listens to Prince like they do with Zeppelin, he just becomes a part of your life.

There are very few moments in music that I place in as high esteem as the sermon at the beginning of Let’s Go Crazy, perhaps the interlude of Springsteen’s Jungleland, the piano fade down of Layla or the first notes of the Ronnette’s Be My Baby. Let’s Go Crazy feels like a life force, and it’s the only song that makes me understand why people like EDM so much.

I’ve never seen Purple Rain. I never followed much of the cultural stuff with Prince because I love his music so much, and that was fuel enough for me. If Prince wasn’t Prince, he’d be considered one of the greatest guitarists that ever lived. On Rolling Stone’s list he’s number 33, but he could definitely duel anyone out of contention, except for maybe Hendrix, if his live recordings are any evidence.

Prince was my David Bowie and Michael Jackson. His death hit me the way I would react to the murder of Bugs Bunny. My favorite graduation gift was a Prince Bootleg album. I once made my friend Rose listen to Prince for hours on a road trip from Austin to Denver because she said she’d never really heard him.

Thanks for keeping the world turning for me with all those revolutions, Prince.

Punch a higher floor.

Prince Tribute

A Kiss of New York

Bright, infectious and wonderful—
The rhythm of New York is the drumbeat of the nation;
If America was to pledge allegiance to a higher ideal,
It would be to New York City:
It’s Settlers, Staples and Sightseers.

The Settlers arrive with the weight of the world.
From stitched up countries
And dying heartland towns,
They’re drawn to New York’s fresh starts.
Settlers toil to fuel for the city’s torch of hope.

Staples are trapped in the city’s maze.
They’re converted settlers with rough skin and narrow visions.
Staples feed on addictions to light and movement.
In moments of triumph and defeat, they dig into to this life.
They are New Yorkers, after all.

Everyone else is a Sightseer
Everyone hates the Sightseers.

To sightseers, this city is a movie set—
Sightseers treat landmarks like trading cards,
Oblivious to others, they collect each selfie with glee,

Sightseer’s slows everyone down.
They are the gridlock of this city.

And gridlock becomes New York’s great equalizer.
In gridlock, a limousine goes no faster than a gypsy cab
And both want to run you over.

This gridlock forces New Yorkers underground.
Each passenger a coin, inserted to turn the gears
of antiquated slot machines;
hoping to find air again on the other end of the subway.

It has to get easier.
The carousel of life keeps spinning
so fast that it’s always four in the morning
and life is just a mix of street performers
and sirens and sidewalk traffic.

The city’s a buzzing frequency.
Tune into this radio ride,
The only beat you’ll ever need
Is on the streets
Of the chaos city that never sleeps.

It’s too big to fail you.
It’s a city of second chances
That asks only that you chase something.
It wears its scars with defiance,
Never forgotten. Carrying onward
Through a maze of abundant twists.
Where wealth is distributed in small bills.
Cash only.

And you look for a handhold in its worst moments;
A lifeline each day to pull you through to the next.
Like the laughter of Children running through the neighborhood
As if every block was still Sesame Street
Amid the jungle gym city of hoops and ladders.

No one has a plan,
Everyone’s missing out;
Something’s about to happen;
New shops open and new friends appear—
You find a new place that will be yours forever,
But then your feet can no longer find it
In this ever changing landscape.

And just when you think you can’t take it anymore
You hear a saxophone in the distance.
It plays an unfamiliar song,
But it sounds like a harbor,
Just not on a block you’ve found before.
It has a new rhythm
Of promise and speed.
So you walk to that rhythm of
And you pledge yourself.

Welcome to the only thing brighter and louder than big bang itself.
Welcome to the Center of the Universe.

Vanity Plated Mind

I once knew a man who thought too much about himself and too little of others. While he did very little with his life, he spent a lot of time considering his own importance. He would chase crazy leads and give up easily. Here are the decrees of that man:

I want to found a great company. I don’t care what the company does, just that I can sit at the table of giants who walked before me and be considered an equal or even better off than they were. I want journals and newspapers to write about my daring exploits in the business world. I want to sell my secret to success in a bottle after I sell the company off for millions.

I want strangers to think I’m important. I want to walk down crowded halls full of young, ambitious men looking to catch their big break, and have each one stare at me. I want them to point to their friends and say, “There goes an important man worth looking at right now.”

I want to put my name on a boat, a plane and a building. I want my success to be a tangible symbol that I can rub in other people’s faces. I want people without their names on things to look out and see my name and think, there’s a successful man; he got his name on a yacht.

I want to be a politician. I want to control the fates of other people’s lives. I want to show them that I have not only mastered my own life, but also can exact control over their lives. I want to be the politician that rises through the ranks, not tied down by the morals of the common man.

I want to write a memoir. I want people to read my thoughts, not just now, but in a thousand years like we do with the great philosophers. While I don’t want writing to be my craft, I have such interesting thoughts that other people must acknowledge their brilliance. When great civilizations of the future read my thoughts, they’ll all hope to one day think like me.

I want to live to be 200 years old or more. When my great great great grandchildren come to visit, I want them to gather around and hear of the many adventures in my life. I want my great great great grandchildren to look at me and be amazed because I am the master of death. I am immortal.

If I were given the choice between being a man and being a statue, I think that perhaps I should be a statue. In 80 years people will look up at me and say, “This man was someone they made into a statue.” If I were to be a man, in 80 years I would be simply a stone in the ground.

King of the Mud

Ten Thought Tuesday: Class President Edition

Ten Thoughts for your Tuesday…

  1. Anyone have interesting apprenticeship opportunities for me this summer? I feel like I’ve looked almost everywhere else, maybe it’s time to look on my own site.
  1. Ryan Holiday is writing a sequel to The Obstacle is the Way! My friend Jeni encompasses the big struggle of the book. The obstacle is that she’s refused to read the book, but I haven’t found a way to convince her. I’m still working on the premise of the stoicism book, but it’s worth the read.
  1. The phone is now the number one defense against awkward moments. If you see something awkward, feel embarrassed, or find yourself lost, look at your phone and no one will know.
  1. Hillary vs. Bernie just feels like class president elections. One of the candidates is promising free soda and everyone sitting at good tables at lunch instead of just the fifth graders. He can’t actually follow through, but the other candidate may make your life miserable if you don’t vote for her. I’m still paying for not voting for Annabel in 5th grade.
  1. Sometimes I make up names. I’ve never known an Annabel in my life.
  1. This may be the best assessment from anyone I’ve seen on the power of authentic media storytelling, like podcasting, by Note To Self’s Manoush Zomorodi. She had a great episode on the power of podcasting for female voices: “When I was Hard Core News girl there was always the right answer at the end. There was always like, here’s the story, there’s a beginning, middle and an end. And with podcasting, I can be like, we don’t know the answer, but exploring it is super important and I’m going to be vulnerable here and tell you, I’m not sure where I land on this because that’s life and life is messy.”
  1. Online media companies are losing a lot of money through the online ads that reward clicks. While they blame advertisers, consumers are inevitably seeking out better products. There are only so many click bait headlines that people will click on before they get tired of it.
  1. I’m trying to figure out how to monetize my writing. I may start auctioning off an interview a week to the highest bidder. I’m kind of afraid the highest bidder will make me pay them five dollars to do the interview.
  1. Chicago is not a city where you’re rewarded for smiling at strangers on the train.
  1. I think that everyone should try to laugh out loud early in the day. I don’t have a lot of funny friends who are morning people though.

Who Are You Waking Up With?

It begins with me. My feelings of worth related to work, community and self all start with that moment I wake up in the morning.

That moment, for me, can sometimes be the worst part of the day. If the stress of the previous day did not melt off in my travels through sleep, then I have an uphill battle to climb.

I have an important decision to make in that first moment of the day. Can I put all of my effort into correcting the thoughts in my head, or is it better to perform the day as if I’m okay?

I’m lucky, I have people I can talk to about my struggles when necessary, but there are always moments I spend caught within the webs in my own head.

I need to remember to take the time to be my best self. At times in the last few months, I’ve tried to be someone else’s best self. Not only does this leave me in a vulnerable position, but also the other person almost never sees me how I would like them to see me.

The most authentic version of yourself that you can put forward is usually what the world needs. I need to stop feeling like I need to craft a version of myself to fit someone else’s vision.

How does Mary Poppins respond when you ask her to explain something?

“First of all, I would like to make one thing quite clear… I never explain anything”—Marry Poppins

That’s my latest blog post for Experience Institute:


Derek in Denver: At Least We Have Trevor

Rocky Mountain High: Trevor Story
Through the first three series of the Colorado Rockies’ season, there’s been nothing but good feelings surrounding Trevor Story—everything from his seven home runs to his nickname for the new outfield wall at Coors Field. He called it the “Bridich Barrier” after hitting the wall twice in Wednesday’s game, costing him two home runs. If Story can be decent the rest of the way, it gives fans a reason to watch his at-bats around those of Nolan Arenado, Carlos Gonzalez and DJ LeMahieu (who I love to watch at the plate).

The one downside to Story is the puns. The media, expecting ten years of Brock puns, now has to rely on Story puns. I’ve been guilty, and my friend Jen sent me Ryan Spilbourgh’s tweet about charitable donations for puns about Story. However, his twitter handle is @TStory2, which conjures up images of Woody and Buzz.


Lodo Low: Just One Season

April just isn’t the same with both winter sports teams sitting out of the playoffs for the second year in a row.

The Colorado Avalanche not finding a way to get to 90 points was just a travesty. Being .500 at the beginning of the season or the end of the season would have landed them in the playoffs, but it might be better that they missed. This team is a long way from a Cup and a band-aid playoff appearance might have kept management from addressing big issues. Now, they have to look at themselves in the mirror while everyone else in the division competes for a Stanley Cup (except the Jets).

The Nuggets seem to have a lot of pieces, but they are still young and growing. It will be interesting to see how the young core develops and if they can find consistent chemistry. I’d take an exciting basketball team too—there are only a handful of those in the NBA right now. The great 2013 team seems a long way from where we are now, but the people I trust around the Nuggets have high regard for Tim Connelly and Michael Malone.


Feeling better about…

Colorado Buffaloes Football: They seem to be getting a few recruits. That giant new practice field is paying dividends. If these recruits don’t work out, I’m nicknaming that thing the “Star Killer Base,” which means that Chip the Buffalo would be a cooler bad guy than Kylo Ren.

The Nuggets: Three picks in the first round? If this was football they’d be set for years. Unfortunately, it’s basketball. I do trust their ability to scout and make trades. It’s funny that Houston lost this pick after they had to get rid of Lawson.


Feeling the Same about…

The Broncos: It was cool to see the Super Bowl banner go up in the practice facility. I’m really just trying to enjoy this offseason and avoid all the hype around a Kaepernick trade. He doesn’t make the Broncos that much better right now. A question since I’m in Chicago, do I go to the draft to accept all the GM’s congratulations to the Denver Broncos ?

The Rockies: I was feeling worse about the Rockies, but they’re hanging around .500. The bullpen has been bad very early this year, with a handful of blowout losses in the first week. This usually happens when the arms are tired, so what’s the excuse this year? They’re not warmed up? This team should be fun to watch with their collection of hitters, but blowouts are never fun.


Feeling Worse About…

The Avalanche. I don’t want to talk about them anymore.


So Long…

DU Pioneers: A Frozen Four! They almost pulled that game out on Thursday.

Kobe Bryant: I’ve come to accept that he exists in the world. His decline mirrored that of the Nuggets, which kind of killed any hatred I had for him. However, these farewell tours are ridiculous. I respect the athletes who either announce their retirement a week before their last home game or after the season… Tim Duncan…


The One Thing You Should Read This Week: I really enjoyed this analysis by Nick Groke on the way Trevor Story is hitting home runs: How sustainable is Trevor Story’s home run barrage? So far it’s coming from all angles

The One Story I Never Want to Read Again: Could the Warriors Beat the 1996 Chicago Bulls? If the Warriors don’t win the championship no one will care about the record.

Question for the Crowd: 

The Week Ahead: If the Rockies remain at .500 when they return home, does that mean they can survive to May 1st in contention? I’m seeing them play the Cubs on Sunday and a win against the GREATEST TEAM TO EVER PLAY IN CHICAGO (coverage around this year’s Cubs, not my opinion) would be fantastic.

The Act of Killing the Artist

The second Dark Age descended with a flash. This time, no empire fell or dictator reigned. In fact, all of the information anyone wanted spread through the Internet. People just didn’t know where to look. They had a teacher to explain the wonders of Pablo Picasso, JK Rowling and Alfred Hitchcock.

These people could not experience the emotion and empathy of the world through art, writing and dance. Such ideas were not passed down and, therefore, forgotten by the culture.

You must be taught the value of music, art and stories. We fail our communities when we do not give individuals the tools and education to find value in creative endeavors beyond profit streams. For those of us who feel through artistic expression, we experience the world with richness. By not spreading our message, we’re denying others this joy.

Do you believe that money means more in this world than artistic expression?

Would you trade all the music, movies, books and shows for a few dollars?

If not, please enlist in our cause.


Some people are natural lovers of an art—these enthusiasts are rare and wonderful. Some people have a certain art form destroyed for them by an overindulgent teacher or a pretentious acquaintance. Some of us are told we’ll never find work in an art form and we need to grow up and get a real job. However, Art forms are a necessity.

In moments of grief and desperation, we want the words of poets and the grace of music. In those moments, very few of us pull out a 20-dollar bill and stare at it. We want to move closer to something heavenly. We want to evolve through the great gift of artistic expression. Art forms allows us to see more than what is and embrace more than we can describe.

Through good fortune and privilege, I was surrounded by forms of art my entire life. From a young age, my parents made sure I was well versed in everything from Elvis and Mozart to Chevy Chase and Scooby Doo (my Mom’s suggestion when editing).

In seven years at Denver School of the Arts, I never had to explain art’s intrinsic value to talented peers. Most artists are educated in closed-off systems away from the rest of the world, which means the general population is absent inx these interactions.

I have conversations with people from the other side of that fence. People  who are surrounded by a lot of thoughts of profit margins and customers. Some people rarely talk about art. Without prior knowledge, it’s hard to explain the value of expression or creating something for its own sake. That’s what marketing is about, right?

There is not a business proposal for artistic expression. Art has feelings beyond profit margins. Its value is inherent. Every organization is better with art in its culture, not just in a department.

People who are surrounded by art see the world with greater depth. They can draw inspiration from many places and can find empathy in symbols and stories. Art adds richness to life and can also add creativity to business environments.

We are a better culture when we embrace our artists. Not all art will resonate with us, but we need to be surrounded by symbols that make us think.

We need warriors willing to go out and expose people today to the humanities of the world. Not everyone can find art alone. If we stop teaching these disciplines, we’ll start to lose them as a culture, but we must begin to educate in this way.

For More: The Power of Books

I’m Sure You Know Great Storytelling

You know what great storytelling is? It’s getting to the end of The Great Gatsby and somehow feeling remorse for Jay Gatsby. This guy is a con artist, a liar, an egomaniac and a delusional manipulator. If I were to meet his equivalent on the street, there’s no way that we would get along. Yet in those moments when the world is falling apart and he knows he won’t end up with Daisy, you’re still rooting for Jay to find love.

That’s great storytelling. When the storyteller makes you hold a view opposite to how you perceive the real world.

Great storytelling is the release of tension. It’s the elation that comes at the end of a movie when the hero is going to prevail. It’s the amount of anticipation that’s built until Han Solo returns in Star Wars, it’s watching the hot air balloon fly away in the Wizard of Oz, it’s Willie Wonka’s clocks ticking away the seconds until Charlie gets the Chocolate Factory.

Great storytelling is a craft. It’s the tiny details that make up the beautiful language in a Shakespearean play or the level of symbolism in of The Sword in the Stone.

Great storytelling is familiarity. It’s returning to the world of Harry Potter and feeling as if you’re among friends. It’s the castle at the beginning of a Disney movie or the nostalgia of hearing a Beatles’ song on the radio.

Great storytelling is a willingness to begin. It’s a belief that themes fade way to a resolution. Whether that resolution is positive, like the end of the Mighty Ducks or heartbreaking, like To Kill a Mockingbird or The Diary of Anne Frank, it leaves something with us.

A great story surprises us. It interrupts the way we operate in the world and changes it. There’s no one great story—which means we have more worlds to explore and more adventures in which to partake.

Attention Derek Club Members

Dear Derek Club Members (of all spellings: Derrick, Derik, Derric, Derrik, Derreck et al.),

Listen, I know we said that Derek Jeter would only get two more years as president of the Derek’s after retiring, but come on, has anyone read the Player’s Tribune? He’s been able to bring a lot of interesting athlete’s stories to light through the site. Plus, he’s competing with all the big sports journalism companies for best stories. Bravo Jeter, you have my vote for president again.

No one is more disappointed than I am that Derrick Rose hasn’t stepped up to take the mantle. We thought he would lead us to some notoriety, but that Chicago Bulls didn’t even make the playoffs. We deserve better than that Derrick.

Also, we’re still pretty sports heavy with the likes of MMA fighter Derrick Lewis and Chiefs player Derrick Johnson. Not one of us could have run for President? (Derrick Fischer doesn’t even deserve an honorable mention).

Remember, we don’t always have an easy name to begin with. We’re technically named after that oil derrick thing. Ricky Gervais made that show called Derek, which was touching and sweet. However, raise your hand with me if you still feel like you’re living under the shadow of Life with Derek Thanks Disney Channel.

Look, I talked to Derek Sivers and he has no interest, so I think Jeter should win without ballot. The only question I have, will he be putting his support behind his friend Trump? He dodged that question in Cuba. I’m not sure that will be good for our collective image.

Anyway, I’ll see you guys at the Derek convention. Derik, Turkey is about to have a party on its hands!

Until then,

Member 2219

Carolina in Her Mind

I call her Carolina because I think of her whenever I hear the James Taylor song, Carolina in My Mind. The song always takes me back to that night when she wanted to believe that I was a moment worth having. I think about that moment often, and wonder if she ever thinks about me.

I went to see her in a play. She disappeared for months prior, despite my semi-frequent attempts to talk to her. However, out of the blue she let me know she was performing. Her abilities as an actress exhibited great talent for subtle moments. She understood how to elongate a pause between lines to build tension and keep the audience uncomfortable. Around her, I always wanted to know what happened next.

When she walked onstage, her eyes instantly connected with mine—the way they always did. Just thinking about the looks she gave me make my breath catch. We always seemed to lock eyes the instant we were in the same room for a fleeting unacknowledged moment, no matter how much distance separated us.

I think a lot about a single moment of the play. Carolina waited on stage for her love interest to show up and she started singing on syllables. “DaDo Da Da Da Da,” but I heard the melody “Going to Carolina in my mind.”

The audience held its breath, as Carolina stood alone on the stage, humming the melody to that song. The way she looked off I could tell she was far away, maybe thinking back to a time in our hometown—maybe of a future on Broadway. I just knew I wanted to go there with her.

I’ve looked up the play’s script and there’s no mention of any song in the stage direction at that moment. It was all her.

After the show, I waited for her in the lobby. She walked up, smiled and grabbed my arm, slightly holding me back of me as if to see me better.

“Let’s get a drink,” she said and she led me out through the mingling audience even as others were waited for her.

“The play was great,” I said as we hit the street and began to walk. “You transported me.”

Carolina said nothing, but burrowed into me. She grasped my arm tightly as we walked in the cold night air toward a restaurant she liked. Rain from earlier in the night lit up the pavement with reflections of streetlights.

“I always have this feeling when you come around,” she said finally. “Like this is a defining moment, but only a moment, always…”

“I tried last time…”

“I just never answered your messages,” she said. “I’ll be better, I promise, just don’t stay away so long.”

We continued to walk and I felt her focus slip away again. Whatever she felt for me floated off like a few words hummed on the stage. She was off to Carolina and I wasn’t bringing her back anytime soon.