[Friday Playlist] A Celebration of Minnesota, The State That Gave Us the Late, Great Prince

Photo by Robert Whitman, outside the Schmitt Music Mural in Downtown Minneapolis

by Adam Lehrer

NOTE: THIS PLAYLIST IS A CELEBRATION OF THE LATE AND ETERNAL PRINCE. The only reason this playlist isn’t solely made up of Prince songs is that there are only five Prince tracks available on Spotify. Why? Because Prince was infamously protective of his creative output. A shining beacon of musical dignity in the era where music had no value, Prince always had value. When funk had lost its swagger with the losses of your Sly Stone’s and the diminishing qualities of records by your James Brown’s, Prince still recognized that the musical style was the purest form of both art and entertainment, and to him entertainment was art. This was a musician who could play any instrument (and on guitar he was really only second to Hendrix), who could write any note, who could arrange music with the best of them. Yet he still had the fortitude and the ambition to create a spectacle. Prince was its own musical world, sounding completely contemporary and totally alien all at once.

And where did this funk alien god come from? Minnesota. Seems kind of strange doesn’t it? Even though it shouldn’t. In some ways, it feels like Prince could only come from a place like Minnesota, a place out of phase with contemporary ideals of music, art, and fashion. It allowed him the headspace for pure creation, to pull his ideas deep from the depths of his own imagination and spew them onto an unsuspecting world.

And Prince wasn’t the only musician to benefit from Minnesota’s isolation (and sub-zero winters). I mean, Bob Dylan came up here for christ’s sakes. This was the city where Husker Du stripped punk rock of its leanings towards machismo to imbue their music with a sense of sexual isolation and social despair to write the beginnings of what would eventually become alternative rock. Could they have done that trying to fit in with the tough guy punk bands in D.C., New York, and LA? Probably not.

The same could be said about The Replacements, a rock band who didn’t care about art or culture one iota. They just wanted to get drunk and make great rock n’ roll songs. Minnesota was probably helpful in developing that laid back attitude.

Some artists need to be surrounded by other artists to create. Some need to be unencumbered by scene politics and competitive glad-handing. Whether it’s Prince, or shoegaze band Low, or hip-hop collective Doomtree, or grunge girls Babes in Toyland, Minneapolis, Minnesota has always been a city that has amazing music on the low. Sometimes cold and isolation can be great creative elixir’s.