Prince: Part 1 - For You
Updated: Jun 9
Riley Creek Tunnel, Chanhassen, MN
Many Prince fans have grown up with his music and have nostalgic memories tied to his songs. I have very few memories of Prince from my childhood. I remember “Partyman” because it was my favorite scene in the 1989 Batman movie. I was also only 7-years-old the first time I saw that movie so I did not know it was Prince at the time. I remember a news story about him changing his name to a symbol and thinking it was weird but not giving it much thought beyond that. I also remember him performing at the Super Bowl Halftime show because I always watched the Super Bowl with my dad growing up. I did not know the song Purple Rain at the time, but I remember thinking it was ironic and kind of cool that it was raining during a song with the word “rain” in the title.
When he passed in 2016, I was working on my Master’s in ergonomics and biomechanics at NYU. During one of my studybreak social media scrolls, I saw the news that Prince had died from an accidental fentanyl overdose. My heart sank. Not necessarily because it was Prince. I was saddened to hear of another opioid-related, unnecessary death. I am now a sports chiropractor. One of the reasons I went into this profession was because my passion is helping people get out of pain. I have my own pain story which brought me to chiropractic care, but my story is for another day. This story is for Prince.
Back in October 2021, I was scrolling through Facebook when a video of a 1985 concert performance of “Purple Rain” started playing. I was only 1-year-old in 1985 but, I did recall his Super Bowl performance in the rain. So perhaps that was the nostalgic memory of watching football with my dad drew me to watch this video as an adult. The video starts with a silhouette of a guitarist with enormous shoulder pads bouncing up and down. I thought it was so cute for some reason — so 80s! I now know this was his backing guitarist Wendy Melvoin, but at first I thought it might be him. In fairness, they all had the same hairstyle. Prince entered later with a guitar solo, but what got me hooked was his solo later in the song. His playing sounded like a cry, or maybe yearning or pleading, or maybe worship. Perhaps it was a little of all of those sentiments, but I also think I needed my adult ears and a little more life experience to truly hear it. This time listening to his guitar solo brought me to tears and I was not even sure why. I found myself coming back to this video over and over again for the next several weeks. Then I thought, “This guy is really talented. Maybe I should listen to more of his music.”
It started with a few YouTube videos of concerts, music videos and special performances. His solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame made me feel like I was watching a magician and left me speechless. By January 2022, I hit full-on fangirl mode. I was consuming all things Prince, anything I could find — videos, books, music, interviews. Who was this man and how did I not hear more of his music when I was younger? Then some of his lyrics made it clear to me. I grew up very sheltered in a religious home. I understand why my mom would not have kept his music in our house. I also now understand that my mother was secretly a Prince fan and just did not want her adolescent daughter dancing around the house to “Soft and Wet” or “Sexy Dancer”. Touché, mom.
Then something happened while I was watching one of his early performances that shifted my demeanor from fangirl to doctor. This is what I do. I see pain. I analyze gait and muscle activation. I predict injuries before they happen based on biomechanics and determine the best way to treat, or better yet, prevent these injuries from occurring in the future. I do this even with people walking down the street. It is difficult for me to turn off this mechanism in my brain. In an instant, I went from drooling over his perfect hair and derrière to seeing him as a very human man — a man in pain. I started watching him like he was my patient and predicting his injuries based on his dance habits. I analyzed his form and suddenly it all made sense to me. He had injuries I treat everyday. My heart sank again. This time because it was Prince.
This time my heart sank because I have knowledge now that I did not have before and I believe his pain was preventable and opioids should never have entered the picture. It is a strange feeling to be in the early process of becoming a fan of someone and mourning them at the same time. It is fascinating as a doctor and heartbreaking as a fan. I want to honor him by explaining what I saw and why I think if I had been a chiropractor back then I feel I could have helped him. I recognize someone like Prince would have been nearly impossible to reach, but I cannot help but think that if I could have reached him maybe this story would have had a different ending. I also want to be sensitive to his fans and loved ones because I know everyone thinks “what if….”. It is a challenging balance for me to speak in science and in emotion. I am used to writing research papers and text messages with very little stylistically in between. But, Prince, FOR YOU… I will try.
I started writing this article back in February and I am continuing it on the plane back from Minneapolis, Minnesota where Prince called home his entire life. I attended Celebration 2022 at Paisley Park, his home and recording studio, this weekend. That is what I want to do — celebrate him. I would be lying if I did not say I was also hoping someone there would know if he ever had a chiropractor or someone to help him with pain from a holistic perspective. I hope my question did not rub anyone the wrong way and if it did, I give you my sincerest apologies. I know it is not a topic anyone wants to talk or think about. I also know HIPPA will keep private health matters just that — private, as they should be. My intentions come from a pure place of concern and my desire is to educate and help others avoid unnecessary surgeries or long-term pain medications.
Before I begin, we have to recognize that when Prince performed, he gave his all. He was a musician, but he was also an athlete. So, I will analyze him like an athlete practicing and performing the same movement patterns repeatedly for the majority of an over 30-year career. There are several physical components to Prince’s dance and performance style I want to share in an analytical context because I believe they are the key contributers to his long-term pain. Over the next several weeks I will post on one topic at a time. I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I enjoy writing them. Maybe you’ll learn something about your own physical pain and maybe you’ll come to love Prince as much as I do now!