Prince and the Opening Tip-Off
The drum-filled intro of this song brings me to the Target Center.
As a kid, going to several Timberwolves games with my parents in the late 90s and early 2000s was a treat that I knew I was fortunate to witness. Watching Kevin Garnett play helped me fall in love with basketball quickly.
But, accidentally, attending so many games as a kid also helped shape the way I listen to music. As the players would make their way onto the floor for the opening tip, nearly game, that opening drum beat to one of Prince’s biggest hits “When Doves Cry” would sound. It pumped everyone up, including a young me.
At first, I had no idea that I was listening to Prince, or even who he was, really. I just knew I loved whatever I was listening to as the game started up, and was always bummed when the arena DJ would fade that opening song.
Eventually, my dad told me the artist I was listening to was Prince, that he was from (and still lived in) the Twin Cities, and that his music was in fact great, past that one hit’s opening drum beat.
I first got into his Purple Rain album, because I had to listen to how When Doves Cry ended, but also to jam out to “Let’s Go Crazy”, but quickly, I was floored listening to some of Prince’s oldest stuff, dating back to the days he was still a budding star trying to break into megamusical-icon status.
It became clear to me, quickly, that past Prince’s funky sounds and catchy hooks was his ability to captivate a crowd in a live setting. His fun dance moves and his insane guitar playing sound like a recipe that has materialized in other forms before, but it’s nothing like what he pulled off.
And yes, seriously, Prince’s guitar playing was insane. He’s truly one of the best shredders ever.
Which, in a way, made little sense to me. Every now and then, he would show up at a Wolves game. The arena would buzz when this happened, but he couldn’t have come off more shy if he tried. It makes sense, in a way. One of the biggest stars in the musical world sitting front row at a sold out NBA game, is probably there to watch basketball, not make a scene. But his on-stage persona always suggested he loved the spotlight.
That, to me, is what made Prince such an interesting person to follow. He had multiple personas, but all of them felt authentic to me, even as a kid. I became obsessed with his discography and learned more and more about him. About The Revolution, New Power Generation, The Time, Wendy & Lisa, all of it.
Prince became a huge, huge influence on my musical taste, and that has never really left me. He changed the way I heard guitars, background vocals, the way I look at different genres of music, and the way I viewed what’s “cool” to listen to (and why what’s “cool” shouldn’t matter, even though Prince himself was unequivocally cool in every way).
All this, and I’m not sure that would have ever happened if he wasn’t from Minnesota, attended Timberwolves games, and had one of his biggest songs play as the games would begin.
Rest in peace, Prince Rogers Nelson, and thanks for giving the Target Center something to dance to for all these years.