Earlier today, Prince died at the age of 57 in Paisley Park Studios in Chanhassen, Minnesota. His talent was limitless: he was a singer, guitar player, record producer, actor, movie director, sexual chameleon, ping-pong enthusiast, and fashion icon. And, as you know if you've read Questlove's excellent 2013 memoir Mo' Meta Blues, he was a brilliant roller skater.
Prince's love of roller skating isn't exactly a well-documented part of his persona. For one thing, it's incredibly difficult to find a photo of Prince roller-skating. Save for the song "Strollin'," off his 1991 album Diamonds and Pearls, on which he sings, "We could rent some roller skates / We could skate around the lake," his discography isn't exactly packed with roller-rink references. The only evidence we really have is Quest's incredible story (read it here).
Questlove later told NPR, "It was the most surreal night of my life." It starts with the Roots drummer getting a text message from Prince's assistant inviting him and some "cool people" to a roller-skating party on Valentine's Day, which is exactly the type of demand you would hope an icon like Prince would make. Questlove recruits Eddie Murphy to join him, but when they arrive at the roller rink, it's mostly empty. They end up skating for an hour with no sign of Prince. Finally, the Purple One arrives with a mysterious briefcase, and Questlove is forced to check his phone.
Here's the best part: "When I got back, Prince had the briefcase out on the floor," writes Questlove. "He clicked the lock and opened it, and took out the strangest, most singular pair of roller skates I had ever seen. They were clear skates that lit up, and the wheels sent a multicolored spark trail into your path. He took them out and did a big lap around the rink. Man. He could skate like he could sing."
I always think about that line: "He could skate like he could sing." That's what was so special about Prince. It didn't matter if he was performing at a tiny club or playing "Purple Rain" at the Super Bowl, he did everything his way. And he just kept doing it, releasing albums of uncompromising, often boundary-pushing music right up until the end of his life. Tonight, whether you're pulling out your favorite Prince LPs, your CD copy of the Batman soundtrack, or just talking about him with friends, close your eyes and picture Prince gliding around a roller rink with sparks flying around him -- skating just like he sang.
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Dan Jackson is a staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment, and he'll be listening to Dirty Mind tonight. He's on Twitter: @danielvjackson.