A twangy rendition of Prince’s iconic “Purple Rain” hit my ears. I was sitting in my seat at the start of a Delta flight from Los Angeles to Minneapolis, waiting for passengers to settle in. As the mandolin and violin harmonized, I thought to myself, will the indignities on airplanes never end?

Meals and blankets are mostly history. More rows have been squeezed onto planes. Decent seats cost extra. And now this? Boarding music that includes a dispassionate, upbeat version of what, when performed by Prince, is a soulful, searing love song?

Prince infused the original “Purple Rain” — from the 1984 movie and soundtrack album — with rock, gospel, R&B and orchestra to create a mesmerizing, heart-wrenching song. He employed not one hint of bluegrass.

After touchdown, I powered up my internet connection and learned that the onboard version I heard is by country star Dwight Yoakam. So not exactly Muzak.

His countrified “Purple Rain” is the result of an impulse move and a loving homage. He was in the studio making his “Swimmin’ Pools, Movie Stars...” album when he learned that Prince had died. The recording grew out of his shock at the news and his appreciation of the artist. So my beef isn’t with the big-hearted Yoakam. It’s with Delta.

I concede that when it comes to boarding soundtracks, real music is better than Muzak. And Delta does a pretty good job of curating an interesting lineup. Among the songs used to distract — and entertain — fliers at a stressful time are Sara Watkins’ “One Last Time,” Joshua Radin’s “High and Low” and Lady Gaga’s “Million Reasons.”

Me? I’m just looking for one reason. Why doesn’t the airline with a Twin Cities hub play “Purple Rain” — the original by our hometown superstar Prince? His version may not soothe (if that’s what they’re after) but it definitely transports listeners.


Send your questions or tips to Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg at travel@startribune.com, and follow her on Twitter: @kerriwestenberg.