No longer a citizen of Funkytown   

Updated: February 1, 2007, 1:18 PM ET

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As Super Bowl XLI approaches, the world still doesn't know how an injury will affect the day's biggest star.

Forget Peyton Manning and his achy thumb. It's all about Prince and his bum hip. "Cut that meat" ain't got nothin' on "When Doves Cry."


Anyone who has seen Prince's funk, please return to Minneapolis -- postage guaranteed.

Reports surfaced about a year ago that decades of dancing in those high heels the ladies love caused serious damage to one of his hips and that he needs a replacement. That's a pretty big deal considering that Prince's stage show has long been a James Brown-styled affair, full of spins, splits and bumping and grinding against pianos, microphone stands, and other inanimate objects. It's pretty tough to do those things with a bad wheel.

It's an even bigger deal considering the significance of the hips to the funk. Mark Anthony Neal, a professor of African and African-American studies at Duke University and one of the foremost authorities on black popular culture, says the hips are an essential part of the funk. "In a traditional sense, the word funk was about an odor -- an odor generated by intense physical movement," he says. "By the time J.B. and others were embracing the word to describe their music, it was generally accepted that one had to be seriously shaking their hips, if one was really going to get funky."

For a man so known for getting pungent, a hip replacement would be like what a microfracture procedure is to a jumpin' jack on the basketball court. Sure, he could play after the surgery, but he wouldn't be nearly as explosive.

Physical therapist Bryan Beatty of Balance Physical Therapy in Carrboro, N.C., graphically explained what takes place during a hip replacement.

"You take the deepest, most stable joint of the body, designed to handle the most weight," he said. "Then you dislocate it, saw off some the bone [from the femur], put in a cup to hold the bone, put in the prosthesis, then sew all the muscles and tissues back onto the bone."


However, it's not known whether Prince actually had or will have the replacement. Prince became a Jehovah's Witness in the mid-90s, and that religion does not permit blood transfusions, which are sometimes necessary for a hip replacement surgery. The faith also prohibits dancing that mimics sexual acts, but not dancing in general.

A representative for the William Morris Agency, which handles Prince's affairs, said he was "not privy" to whether the surgery actually took place.

But whether he did or he didn't, Prince isn't likely to be 100 percent, even if he gives 110 percent of what he's got. So what can be expected from this middle-aged man with an elderly hip?

Not too much.

A replacement would come with its own risks. Dislocation is a risk following surgery, one that would preclude a wise man from doing much of anything, let alone dance.

"If [Prince] has had the replacement, [dancing is] very unsafe," Beatty warned. "It would take the hip to a range of motion where it should not be pushed. He could still do the moves, but it would not be smart."

It would be even dumber considering Prince's penchant for pumps. According to Beatty, high heels change the body's line of gravity by pushing the hip forward and causing "suboptimal mechanics."

Without the procedure, the pain would be ridiculous. Needing a replacement means any way used to avoid the pain, from shifting one's weight around to changing movements, has proven futile. And, as Beatty noted, "the man can move. He can come up with all kinds of shifts to compensate."

So if Prince can't move to make it better, things must have become positively agonizing.

But the great ones play through the pain, right?


Moves or no moves, the guy taught himself how to play 20 instruments.

Toward the end of his life, putting on a smokin' show would leave James Brown bedridden for days. But he continued to give the most he could because live performance was his calling card from the '50s into the new millennium.

Aging can truly be cruel.

In recent years, Prince has toned down his stage shows, which have been more about guile than athleticism. The acoustic sets from the 2004 "Musicology" tour showed he's become more like the cerebral Jordan of '96 than the aeronautic phenomenon of '86. He put on a great show, but it wasn't the sweaty affair his earlier tours were. Plus, his religious conversion prompted him to remove some of his raunchier numbers from his set lists (although "Little Red Corvette" and its references to soiled condoms were somehow still fair game as recently as 2004). And much to the FCC's delight, he's unlikely to wear those butt-out pants.

So who doesn't hope that, for the few minutes he'll have the stage in Miami, Prince can do something extra for the Super Bowl? Maybe, just maybe, he can hop in a time machine and party like he would have at Super Bowl XX. Considering that Michael Jackson, Prince's rival since "Purple Rain," brought the house down at Super Bowl XXVII, it would be sad if Prince's body wouldn't allow him to provide a smashing response, even if his rebuttal comes 14 years after Jackson made his case.

After all, true superstars shine in big games. Boo-boos are no excuse.

Bomani Jones is a columnist for Page 2. Tell him how you feel at


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