Prince: “Raspberry Beret”

See image credit below.

See image credit below.

For all his musical genius, Prince was not much of a storyteller. Think of any number of his songs – “1999,” “Delirious,” “Purple Rain,” “When Doves Cry,” “Kiss,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” or “D.M.S.R.” (a particular favorite of my gang in graduate school) – and you’ll be hard pressed to find much of a story line.

Since StoryWeb celebrates stories of all kinds and since I wanted to pay tribute to an artist whose work I love, I set about identifying a story song in Prince’s discography. And then it hit me: the delicious, lush pop song “Raspberry Beret”! One music critic calls it “as perfect a pop song as Prince ever wrote.”

I have tried –without luck – to determine whether the song is based on Prince’s actual experience. Rumor has it that he was due to release an autobiography next year, and maybe he would have shed some light on the truth of this song. Now we’ll never know, and “Raspberry Beret” must be enjoyed solely for the up-tempo, catchy tune that it is.

From working leisurely at Mr. McGee’s five-and-dime store to experiencing his first romantic rendezvous with the woman who wears the raspberry beret, the singer carries us along. It’s almost as if we, too, start keeping an eye out for raspberry berets, especially those bought in second-hand stores.

Some fun facts about “Raspberry Beret”:

  • It could be argued that the song was Prince’s first, full-on pop song (and indeed it is virtually the only Prince song I still hear played regularly on classic rock stations).
  • The song featured Middle Eastern finger cymbals and stringed instruments, giving it a world music sound that was appropriate for the album on which it appeared, 1985’s Around the World in a Day.
  • The song reached number 2 on the U.S. Billboard charts (second only to Duran Duran’s “A View to a Kill”).
  • There’s a funky consignment shop in the Boston area named Raspberry Beret. It sells vintage and modern fashion.

Want to learn more about Prince? Start by reading the New York Times obituary of the music icon. Then turn to Ronin Ro’s 2011 book, Prince: Inside the Music and the Masks, or Matt Thorne’s recent volume, Prince: The Man and His Music. Both books trace Prince Rogers Nelson’s journey from his childhood in Minneapolis to worldwide stardom.

But really, why read about Prince when you can listen to his music? My favorite Prince albums are 1999, Purple Rain, and Parade (which contains the best “whoo!” in all of rock music on the track “Anotherloverholenyohead”). But of course there are so many, many Prince albums from which to choose. Whatever you do, just put some Prince on and dance (as if you haven’t already been doing that these last few days!).

Want to extend the tribute to Prince? In the comments below, share your favorite Prince story. Where were you when you first heard Prince? What song stays with you the most? What are your favorite memories of dancing to Prince or singing along with his tunes on the radio? Let’s celebrate the sheer, unbridled talent of one phenomenal human being.

And if you find you need your own raspberry beret, you can buy one here!

Watch:Watch the original video for “Raspberry Beret.” Prince was fiercely protective of the copyrights to his music and insisted that YouTube and other video sites take down his work. But this clip of the 1985 video was posted in the days following his death and may still be viewable for a while. If you decide to watch it, notice Prince’s cough just before he starts singing. Apparently, Prince meant to cough. He told MTV, “I just did it to be sick, to do something no one else would do.” And if you’re looking for a little more Prince, check out his amazing guitar solo on “When My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Recorded at the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductions, the video plods along for the first three minutes, as Tom Petty and other rockers perform the classic George Harrison song in tribute to the fallen Beatle. But things take a different turn at 3:28 when Prince takes the stage.

 

Image Credit: Prince at the 2008 Coachella Festival, used with permission from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Prince_at_Coachella_001.jpg.

Comments

  1. Suzanne Custer says

    When I first heard that Prince was found dead at his home, I, like most of my friends, felt stunned, questions filled my mind immediately. . . . Why and how could this happen. I began searching everywhere for answers.
    A few hours later, as I watched post after post of Prince video, I began remembering 1985 . . . “Purple Rain” was playing as Men and women dressed in their midshipmen’s White uniforms danced. A few of my girlfriends had invited me to a party at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. Our senior year was colorful like that. I had many adventures; one very special one was dancing with those “soon to be”officers dressed so handsomely in their whites–all of us so young just about to leap into the future. Songs are part of my story, each one giving contour and meaning to each life experience over the years. I am smiling still remembering. Thank you Linda.

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