“Let’s look for the purple banana till they put us in the truck”, Prince sang in his 1984 song Let’s go Crazy. These nonsensical words have generated many discussions about what they mean.
One possible interpretation is that we should break away from our dull, mundane reality. But our deviant behaviour makes other people think we are crazy. Prince wants us to ignore what other people think and to keep doing so until they haul us away to the loony bin.
Contemporary society dictates that madness needs to be separated from the every-day 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, the horizon of reason. As the ‘age of reason’ started to develop, anyone that did not meet the strict requirements of rational thought and behaviour was labelled as mad and locked up in institutions.
The song is ultimately about our personal responsibility for creating a meaningful life in an absurd and unfair world. This message is in line with the thinking 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, advising us to go crazy and nuts. Being different is not a disease. 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 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
The fact that purple bananas can exist does, however, not reduce the potency of his lyric and the existentialist message contained in this song.
Let’s go crazy
Let’s get nuts
Look for the purple banana
‘Til they put us in the truck, let’s go!