Where were you 30 years ago? Perhaps you were a teenager. Perhaps you were a zygote. Wherever you were, you can't deny the fact that these three songs from February, March, and April of 1986 struck a chord with plenty of people, and for good reason.
February 1986: “How Will I Know” by Whitney Houston
This Whitney Houston classic peaked the charts in February of 1986. The video featured a fresh-faced Houston slinking around in a tight silver cocktail dress, a larger-than-life silver bow bouncing on top of her head, and raspberry lip gloss framing her wide, glamorous smile. In true 80s fashion, plenty of zany, neon paint splotches assault the eye in this video: splotches on the set walls, splotches on the set floor, splotches on Houston's color-enhanced eyelids and cheeks.
But the best part of the video is when Houston gestures to a black and white TV screen featuring the visage of Aretha Franklin, all the while crooning, “I'm asking you, 'cause you know about these things.” Interestingly, Houston was 23 years old at the song's release, and Franklin was 44. As we all know, Houston is no longer with us; she died at 48. Franklin, by contrast, is alive and kicking at almost 74.
Perhaps, as Houston suggested, Franklin DID know a something important about “these things.”
March 1986: “Kyrie” by Mr. Mister
“Kyrie” by Mr. Mister aptly peaked the charts in the Easter season of 1986, but what on earth was this song about? Many good Catholics already know this, but the Latin phrase “Kyrie eleison” (peppered throughout the song) translates to “Lord, have mercy." The lead singer of Mr. Mister, Richard Page, credited the inspiration for this song to his spirituality, but even so, plenty of 80s music fans had no idea they were jamming in their Escorts and Peugeots to a tune about the good Lord.
Consider these lyrics from the Mr. Mister hit:
“Kyrie eleison, down the road that I must travel. Kyrie eleison, through the darkness of the night.”
If you didn't know what you were singing before this, well, now you do! As for Mr. Mister, the band isn't active anymore, but Page still pursues his musical career. Most recently, he's toured the U.S. and Canada with an eclectic group of traveling musicians called Ringo Starr and the All-Starr Band.
April 1986: “Kiss” by Prince and the Revolution
There's something special about a man who can make women salivate at the sound of his girlish falsetto. We're talking about 1958-born Prince, who really WAS named Prince by his mama. (Last name: Nelson.) The lyrics of “Kiss” point to a man who doesn't care much about money or social status. (“You don't have to be rich to by my girl. You don't have to be cool to rule my world.”) Rather, the ideal woman of which Prince sings is one who wants to pucker up and give him a big fat smooch . . . presumably on the lips.
It's fair to say that Prince has done his share of smooching. He was married to singer/dancer/actress Mayte Garcia in 1996, but sadly, the marriage ended after the loss of an infant son. Garcia has said that their relationship was “the most bizarre . . . ever” and that she's “not normal anymore” because of it. Prince later married Manuela Testolini Nelson in 2001; that marriage ended in 2006.
In February 2016, just moments before he was to take the stage at the Grammys, Prince learned of the death of his former girlfriend and back-up singer, Vanity. Prince dedicated his Grammy performance of “Little Red Corvette” to his former protegee.
Whether Prince is kissing anyone these days remains to be seen. We do know that he's currently on a “Piano and a Microphone Tour" which will cover ground in Australia and New Zealand. According to Entertainment Weekly, the artist opted for simplistic accompaniment because singing with just a piano is “more naked, more pure.” One has to wonder how “Kiss” could possibly rock without the catchy rhythm tracks of the 80s, but if Prince's creative juices still flow like they used to, he's sure to find a way.
Whitney Houston, Mr. Mister, and Prince: Who is your favorite? Please share in the comments below.
Photo by Surian Soosay, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons