Little red Corvette
Baby you’re much too fast
Little red Corvette
You need a love that’s gonna last.
I first paid attention to Prince and the Revolution when I was about twenty years old and “Little Red Corvette” was getting regular airplay on Radio One. It was the eighties. Accordingly, I had big hair, big enough to be in The Revolution, and stowed in the back of my mind I had big plans to escape from Northern Ireland and its greyness. Most of the time, I was bored and with no particular place to go other than the disco on a Saturday night with my best friend. And, “Little Red Corvette” – if it’s about anything – is about Saturday night, when driven to dance under strobe lights and a fog machine, you might just get the girl or the guy, if only for that one Saturday night. Sexy, seductive, and – as only Prince could sing it – smooth.
I knew that “Little Red Corvette” wasn’t really about the Corvette, not that I could have correctly identified a Corvette had it been parked sideways in front of my door. It was about something else, some elusive thing that shook and shimmered beyond a Saturday night at the disco in a Northern Ireland town, something wild and just beyond my grasp, something that all these years later still teases and taunts me to take a walk on Lou Reed’s wild side. It was a little dangerous, but not enough to stop me from taking that walk with Lou Reed or David Bowie or Prince or the man I married. That walk has always been worth it because along the way I would discover at least one book of magic in the garbage can – the kind that makes an appearance just once in a lifetime, the stuff of shooting stars, and only for those who are the luckiest. And the unluckiest, because then comes the loss – just to even things out.
Long before he met me, and somewhere between the motorcycle, the muscle car, and the flatbed Ford, the man who loved me owned a Corvette. A little red one. A 1961 model that became highly sought-after, he said, decades after he had traded or sold it for something more practical. He regretted letting it go, and every time the song came on the radio, he would tell me so – and then he would tell me again. I would pretend to understand his longing for that car and all it represented to him, but invariably the sound of Prince would drown him out, and I would find myself dancing in the shadows of a disco on a Saturday night over three decades ago.
Just last weekend, a lifetime later, I spotted a little red Corvette parked in front of a drugstore next to Ken’s favorite breakfast place. I pulled in right next to it. It was a beauty, its cherry red paint glistening in a rare Phoenix rain. I could dismiss this as a coincidence, but I am choosing to consider it a little sign from beyond the grave that he is still around, watching out for me, perhaps frustrated that he can no longer save me from myself.
Before getting out of my car, I found my glasses and then found the song on an app on my phone. I turned it up and dancing in the driver’s seat, I listened to every word and then to the silence at the end after Prince fades away. And, I was young again.
‘Cause in this life
Things are much harder than in the after world
In this life
You’re on your own
And if the elevator tries to bring you down
Go crazy, punch a higher floor
For Prince Rogers Nelson ( June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016