You know how when you’re a kid and you’re able to identify a song and that it belongs to a certain artist but you really don’t get it? That was my relationship with Prince for the longest time. “Purple Rain”, “When Doves Cry”, “Kiss”, “1999”, etc. all existed as I grew up but they were just Prince songs. By 1991, I kind of understood what I was listening to with Diamonds And Pearls but I wasn’t quite there yet. Even though dad had it, I never listened to the Love Symbol Album.
In 1996, I knew that Prince wasn’t Prince anymore, instead going by The Artist Formerly Known As or just The Artist. After 3 years of fighting with Warner Bros., they released him from his recording contract. The 3 disc Emancipation album was Prince’s first effort following the freedom he had been craving.
Emancipation is a lot of music so I can hardly call it a classic. But it was the first Prince album I digested and processed. “White Mansion” wasn’t a single; it was an album cut that was lodged on the first disc. I wouldn’t even say “White Mansion” is in the top 75 of Prince’s catalogue. But I would say it gives you a better idea of what Prince tried to do musically than most of the singles you could name.
“White Mansion” is a R&B song, with shades of funk and pop mixed in. At its heart, Prince is talking about Minneapolis, Minnesota, his home. As much credit as Michael and The Jackson 5 got for being from Gary, Indiana, they also left and never looked back. Prince never left Minnesota. He had some of the greatest names in the business coming to see him in the Land of Lakes… at Paisley Park, his big white mansion at the top of the road.
Never forget your roots. Prince never did. And it didn’t hurt that dad and I bonded over this song as well.
And let’s pretend I’m not finishing this 31 Days of Music idea that came to me on November 30th on January 30th and finally publishing all of it… on April 3rd.