prince (hand on chin)

*I believe time travel is real, and doesn’t require a plutonium-powered DeLorean or harnessing a perfectly timed strike of lighting. All I need is the right song. Right now that tune is “1999” by Prince.

The shocking news of the icon’s passing on April 21st has millions of admirers searching through his extensive song catalog, reliving his spectacular concerts, or watching movies Purple Rain, Under the Cherry Moon, and Graffiti Bridge. I’m listening to his 1982 hit with my eyes closed, being transported back to my youth.

Sitting at my grandparents’ dining room table, daylight beaming through the window in front of me, I hear “1999” blasting from my Aunt’s house next door. My uncle Marvin is getting ready for work, part of his daily routine is sharing music with the entire neighborhood via his JVC boombox which sat on their kitchen counter. He’s a well-known DJ, one noted for playing old school jams and breaking soon-to-be-hits. My grandmother is focused on cooking dinner, oblivious to any noise around her. My grandfather, napping in his recliner, is also unfazed.

I leave the table to go next door, catching a whiff of my uncle’s cologne the second I enter the house. Once in their kitchen I stand in front of the blaring box, laying my eyes on the cassette tape case in front of it. The psychedelic purple cover of Prince’s 1999 LP is like a high-priced painting found in some smarmy, new-age art gallery. Given the success of this album and its title track, I can only imagine how much that cassette package is worth.

Once the music stops I’m transported back to now, to a heartbreaking reality. Prince is dead, my uncle and grandparents are also deceased, and I have no idea what became of that cassette. Simply playing “1999” though, took me through space and time where I could glimpse all of them.

Stores are busy right now with collectors buying all things Prince. His memorabilia will dominate EBAY. The best, rarest and most valuable items, I imagine, are found inside Prince’s much speculated-about vault at his Paisley Park complex.

Movie director Kevin Smith filmed a documentary of Prince, which he describes in detail during 2002’s An Evening with Kevin Smith. As he tells it the project was completed but vaulted, stashed among a treasure trove of unreleased albums, music videos, studio sessions, and passion projects that have yet to see the light of day. Only time will tell if any of this material surfaces now. Surely, its value just increased.

I’d be willing to bet there’s a 1999 cassette filed away in there, and likely copies of other valued memorabilia. Honestly, we don’t need its contents. Prince left us plenty outside its safekeeping. You, and I, could listen to a number of Prince’s songs, relive his concert performances and watch his movies, and be sent rocketing through time and space to places where those memories meant the most.

Prince’s life, as well as my uncle and grandparents, as well as your friends and loved ones, supersedes monetary value. Our time with them is invaluable. And I believe we’d pay astronomically for a tune that could bring us together over and over again.

Known as “The Word Heavyweight Champion,” Mr. Joe Walker is a biographer, journalist, and columnist, currently a senior writer for SoulTrain.com, staff writer for Muskegon Tribune Newspaper, and writer for Concrete Magazine’s Concrete615.com. Also managing editor of Liquid Arts & Entertainment Magazine, Walker’s acclaimed, award-winning work has been published thousands of times regionally, nationally, internationally, and online. Like him on Facebook, follow on Twitter @mrjoewalker, and visit his official blog

mr joe walker

Mr. Joe Walker