Song of the Week: “Ballad of Dorothy Parker” by Prince

If experimental poetry were a Prince song it would be this one. This ballad has no verse and no chorus, but uses a meandering vocal line to tell the fragmented story of an affair with a witty waitress called “Dorothy Parker.” The vocals and the drums propel the track forward and push the watery keyboards and synth bass into the background. It’s a pared-down sound for a song about nerds flirting awkwardly. Dorothy makes fun of Prince for ordering fruit cocktail, insists on taking communal baths with their pants on, and sings along with Joni Mitchell on the radio. For his part, Prince thinks of his encounter with Dorothy as an escape from his purple rainy baggage, and learns to self-sooth by re-enacting the bathing-with-pants-on scene until “all the fighting stopped.” Their quirky romance is embalmed in the coolness of Prince’s minimal funk.

-Paul Foster Johnson

Paul Foster Johnson is the author of Study in Pavilions and Safe Rooms (Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs, 2011) and Refrains/Unworkings (Apostrophe Books, 2008). With E. Tracy Grinnell, he is the author of the g-o-n-g press chapbook Quadriga. His poems have appeared in Jacket, The Awl, Cannot Exist, GAM, EOAGH, Fence, and Octopus. He has served as a curator of the Experiments and Disorders reading series at Dixon Place and as an editor at Litmus Press/Aufgabe. Currently he lives in Brooklyn and is the editor of The Poetry Project Newsletter.

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See all Songs of the Week here.