Some lessons from a Super Bowl halftime of old

As proof that I’ve been on this planet longer than a couple of decades, watching the relentless hype before and then half-way through the Super Bowl last night left me reminiscing.

I don’t respond well to it, but I understand that Super Bowl producers need to pump up the volume to 11 and keep squeezing as much as possible from those faders until the very last second of the event.

I understand Hollywood’s incessant need to glorify themselves, which is why they couldn’t help but spend an excessive ten minutes before kickoff selling us on their glory.

And I also understand the political realities of a half-time show justifying its more than $1 million per minute cost to manufacture something appealing to their important demographic.

It was the halftime extravaganza that most left me yearning for yesteryear, specifically 2007 when Prince performed a 7-song live concert on a lit stage carved from his well-known symbol of rebellion.

The story surrounding that spectacular night has inspired me to this day.

Prince Singing Purple Rain in Super Bowl XLI

It was a pouring, driving rain in Miami that electric February night and the halftime producers were freaking out. The smooth stage was not built to be wet and Prince would be gripping four live 120 volt electric guitars throughout the performance. Would he be electrocuted or would he and his two dancers wearing 8-inch heels slip and hurt themselves on the slick tiles that would be covered by water?

Praying for the rain to stop, his producers dreaded having to call Prince and talk about the unfortunate circumstances, but unable to wait any longer, they dialed Prince’s number.

Prince picked up and the senior producer began telling him about the pouring rain. Prince acknowledged that, yes, he knew it was raining, and then asked a most peculiar question, “Can you make it rain harder?”

It was at that moment that the producers knew something for the ages was about to transpire that night in front of millions.

In stark contrast to other Super Bowl performers lip syncing their latest hits in meticulously choreographed movements on over-the-top sets, here was Prince performing a concert of his tunes and covers to the world with a mesmerizing clarity and live honesty.

And in the end, closing with Purple Rain, one got the sense that the gods had set the stage for an epic performance that night in Miami. Every time I watch and listen to that performance I experience what it means to have artistic clarity and certainty of purpose.

What our culture’s seemingly insatiable addiction to gratuitous hype, higher volume, and brighter lights portends for the future of jazz, I’ll leave for another post.

8 thoughts on “Some lessons from a Super Bowl halftime of old”

  1. The fact that popular music has become dominated by so-called “songs” that are “written” by a committee, using cut and paste computer fragments, which are devoid of melody, and devoid of interesting chord changes, with lyrics mumbled/shouted by DJs, whilst endlessly grabbing their crotches, is not an encouraging indicator of cultural/musical evolution nor progress.

    What continually surprises me is how society at large continues to either:
    not notice,
    to pretend that the King’s new clothes are of such high quality that the threads are merely invisible to people like me.

  2. For me, I didn’t watch a single minute of the half-time show. The political haze of Hollywood was evident in the run-up to the show – and it made me physically sick (as most of the slanted media portends in their daily broadcasts). I would have loved a live version of “We the people” by Kid Rock to balance the show in some small way. Fat chance.

    …back to Jazz, where emotions are closer to my heart.

    The late Prince, a true performer/artist.

  3. I’ve been on this planet longer than Mike – 7 decades to be exact, but I know quality over quantity when I see it or hear it.

    My attraction to Hollywood choreography and artifical canned music is sinking fast. Netflix, for example, has made better award-winning movies with developing actors on tiny budgets. N-movies (not all) have a well-thought-out plot and storyline instead of pixelated special effects (graphical diarhea) of fantasy and flip-flopping scenes jumping across time. Hollywood has become driven by computer technology – running VERY low on originality and creativity, and blinded by glittery advances in virtual reality.

    Let’s breed the next generation of authentic original musicians (Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Ol Blue eyes, Nat King Cole, Aretha, Ella, Duke, Basie,,,) with singers who can hold a note frequency without artificial audio-bending FX. They performed live shows and could interpret lyrics with feeling instead of babling nonsense syllables with fould language on a 2-chord vamp backed by primitive precussion thumping.

    Pardon my rant ! You hit a nerve, Mike.

  4. I’m with you.

    Prince’s half time show was the real deal. Supreme musical talent. Real human soul and great songwriting. The performance of Purple Rain was MONUMENTAL !!!!!

    There has been a concerted effort to dumb things down by the powers that be for a long time. It’s particularly sad to me that black folks, the peeps who gave us Jazz, R+B, Soul Music and people like Coltrane, Aretha, Marvin Gaye, Mahalia Jackson, Ray Charles etc. are listening to these mechanical, soulless robot beats with clowns talking low consciousness bullshit over it.

    I feel sure that real music, real soul will never die. It probably (with rare exceptions) just won’t be where the money is.

  5. AGREED – All of the above! I didn’t initially watch it because I had already discerned the outcome based on the scheduled “performers;” however, I heard good things about it from family and media. So I watched the recorded playback in retrospect, It confirmed my suspicions! Kudos to those who can determine the difference between honest art and crass entertainment. Plaudits to all of you who are trying to keep gravitas and substance in art – particularly aural art.

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Michael Lake

Michael Lake

Trombonist, author, marketer, & tech guy

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