Prince, The Hippocampus and Creative Genius

I wonder if anyone has ever done a study on just how many individual songs the average person in the western world, aged around 55, would have had exposure to during their lifetime, and indeed be familiar with. It must run into tens of thousands – Looking at my iTunes library there are currently 4083 songs there, then there are all the CDs, the vinyl, the bakelite 78s and the cassette tapes in storage. That covers purchased material but what about all the other material that we didn’t buy but have heard over the years on the radio and on television, listened to in films and at concerts and within all the other media platforms we have access to nowadays. I’m starting to think that “tens of thousands” might be an underestimate!

The really scary thing is that in the morning, when the radio comes on and you are still half-asleep, it only takes a few seconds of intro for you to work out what the next song is going to be. This morning it was Princes’ “Little Red Corvette” which actually starts off a bit slowly and unremarkably – In a heartbeat, my husband and I both knew that it was this 1985 song despite the fact neither of us had ever been particular fans of Prince, or the song. Why, oh why does this not happen at work when you are asked a question about something really important you did just the previous day.

red

Apparently long-term memories like this are stored in the part of the brain called the hippocampus, so-called because it’s seahorse-shaped. I am totally in awe of how our brain retains all this information and especially of this little seahorse-shaped bit. When you think that early computers, holding and processing very little information, filled massive rooms and had to be treated with kid gloves in order to churn out a few figures – the old hippocampus is a seriously impressive body part. Granted we have come a long way and your average mobile phone will be more powerful than the computers that got men into space, but for a little bit of soft, squidgey, grey tissue to hold all our memories and have the sheer capacity to also remember these tens of thousands of songs – Well, words fail me.

hippo

At this point I usually add a clip of the song I am writing about but it seems Prince has managed to extricate himself from YouTube and all other forms of shared media. Yet another foible of this artist who in 1993 changed his name to the unpronounceable Love Symbol (can’t even insert it here as not easy to find on a keyboard). There is no denying however that the man from Minneapolis has talent and apparently played all 27 instruments on one of his albums, but again like others I have written about, the more the artist is imbued with creative genius, the slightly weirder they become. Don’t know if you’ve ever seen him on any awards shows but he is definitely “otherworldly”.

symbolBefore leaving the world of Prince entirely however, I did find a clip of his wonderful song Diamonds and Pearls which I think has one of the most beautiful intros ever. It came out in 1991 which was the last year I lived on my own before getting married – It was often played on the Radio 1 Breakfast Show and if you had to wake up alone, at least it made for a lovely start to the day!

prince

Diamonds and Pearls Lyrics
(Song by Prince)

This will be the day
That u will hear me say
That I will never run away

I am here for u
Love is meant for two
Now tell me what u’re gonna do

If I gave u diamonds and pearls
Would u be a happy boy or a girl
If I could I would give u the world
But all I can do is just offer u my love

Which one of us is right
If we always fight
Why can’t we just let love decide (Let love decide)

Am I the weaker man
Because I understand
That love must be the master plan (Love is the master plan)

If I gave u diamonds and pearls
Would u be a happy boy or a girl
If I could I would give u the world
But all I can do is just offer u my love

D to the I to the A to the M
O to the N to the D to the pearls of love
D to the I to the A to the M (To the M)
O to the N to the D to the pearls of love

There will come a time (There will come a time)
When love will blow your mind (Blow your mind)
And everything U’ll look 4 U’ll find (Take a look inside)

That will be the time (That will be the time)
That everything will shine (Forever)
So bright it makes u colorblind (U will be color blind)

If I gave u diamonds and pearls
Would u be a happy boy or a girl
If I could I would give u the world
All I can do is just offer u my love

If I gave u diamonds and pearls (Pearls)
Would u be a happy boy or a girl (Yeah yeah)
If I could I would give u the world (Give u the world)
All I can do is just offer u my love (All I can do)

If I gave u diamonds and pearls (Diamonds)
Would u be, would u, would u
(Would ya, would ya, would ya be happy little baby)
A happy boy or a girl
If I could I would give u the world

Postscript:

Can’t believe that only 11 days after posting this, Prince was found dead at his home in Minneapolis. I now realise that of all the artists I have covered since starting the blog, Prince was the most multi-talented of them all. I hadn’t really appreciated that until writing about him. He not only wrote all those amazing songs but also sang, danced, produced, choreographed, could act and played every musical instument on some of his albums. Don’t know what is going on this year but we are losing our most talented artists at an alarming rate. RIP Prince Rogers Nelson.

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was recorded for the film of the same name and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might finally work out the answer to his question, "What's it all about?"

2 thoughts on “Prince, The Hippocampus and Creative Genius”

  1. So I can blame my hippocampus for retaining catalogue numbers of LP’s I used to order when I worked in record shops in the 1980’s, (‘Face Value’ by Phil Collins, V2185 for example) but why then can’t I remember what it was that Mrs S asked me to do, five minutes after the conversation finishes? I blame these bouts of ‘forgetfulness’ on senior moments, but I’m not sure how much longer i’ll get away with that excuse! Must start writing stuff down.
    Prince was a genius and no mistake. I was lucky enough to see him live a few times. He had it all and it all seemed supremely effortless to him. What a loss.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes a pretty damned impressive body part. I can remember which song is on which side of an album from 40 years ago but can’t remember what I went to the shops for once I’m there! As for Prince he died only 11 days after I wrote that post – a massive shock.

      Like

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