Prince and the Purple Banana – The meaning of Let’s Go Crazy

Back in the eighties, Prince had a smash hit with his song Let’s Go Crazy. We all sang the song but being teenagers, we never gave much thought to what the song is actually about. When Prince suddenly passed away last year I started listening to back catalogue and I realised that these lyrics are quite interesting. In one part of the song, Prince sings:

Let’s look for the purple banana till they put us in the truck

These nonsensical words have generated many discussions about what they mean. This short line poses many questions. What is a purple banana, who is putting us in the truck and where an why are they taking us? Is Prince singing that we are so crazy that we look for a non-existing purple banana and that ‘they’ will transport us to an institution? Or perhaps there is a deeper esoteric meaning in this song? The official music video does not give us many clues as it only shows Prince performing the song and scenes from his movie Purple Rain.

This article discusses some possible interpretations of Let’s Go Crazy

Let’s Go Crazy

One possible interpretation of this song is Prince tell’s us that we should break away from our mundane reality and look for the esoteric purple bananas. But our behaviour deviates from the norm and other people think we are crazy. Perhaps Prince wants us to ignore what other people think and to keep breaking norms until they haul us to the loony bin.

Contemporary society separates madness from the everyday world. Michel Foucault describes the history of madness and the development of the first asylums. In the Renaissance, the mad were portrayed as possessing a kind of wisdom—a knowledge of the limits of our world, knowledge of the horizon of reason. As the ‘age of reason’ developed, anyone that didn’t meet the strict requirements of rational thought and behaviour was labelled as mad and locked up in an institution.

Let’s Go Crazy is ultimately a song about our personal responsibility to create a meaningful life in an otherwise absurd and unfair world. This message aligns with the work of Existentialist philosophers. Prince voices this thought clearly in his song:

What’s it all for (What’s it all for).
You better live now.
Before the grim reaper come knocking on your door.

Prince creates meaning by not following what society deems to be reasonable and rational. He advises us to go crazy and go nuts. Being different is not a disease, being deviant is not a reason to be locked up. Living on the Horizon of Reason is necessary to be able to live life in fullness. Prince’s imperative does not necessarily mean that we must constantly party like it is 1999, but that we dare to be different in our thoughts or to use a well-trodden cliché, think outside the box.

 

The Real Purple Banana

Perhaps Prince was wrong and purple bananas are not so esoteric after all. The Banana São Tomé is a purple species of banana. The fact that purple bananas can exist does, however, not reduce the potency of his lyrics and the existentialist message contained in this song. Now everybody sing along:

Let’s go crazy
Let’s get nuts
Look for the purple banana
‘Til they put us in the truck, let’s go!

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