In high school, I was shrimpy, big glasses wearing, brown kid who connected to music in a strong way. And one of those artists who stood out for me, and whose music just clicked in me was Prince. In high school, he was my everything.
I was just a kid of 8 years old when “Purple Rain” came out, and I even remember as an 8 year old thinking Prince was the coolest being I had ever seen in my life. I remember watching the videos for “When Doves Cry” on Friday Night Videos and trying to imitate that leg swivel thing he does towards the end of the song. I remember singing “Let’s Go Crazy” at the top of my lungs (my own garbled, misheard lyric version) in the back of my cousin’s car.
He was like this creature that made it ok to be whatever you wanted to be.
For a long stretch of time in the early 90s, Prince would release an album once a year. ONCE A YEAR. I was obsessed with his creativity. I longed to see his endless vault of music he had unreleased. I remember my brother picking me up the “Diamonds and Pearls” cassette for me (with its hologram image on the cover) and the “Love Symbol” album the following year.
I remember being obsessed with his back catalogue and wanting the tapes of his early work. I remember buying his “Lovesexy” album and making sure to never show my mother the album cover. I remember taking my brother’s “1999” album and making a dubbed tape of it so that I could listen to “Little Red Corvette” and the title song over and over in my room on my boom box.
I remember freaking out that it was Prince who wrote The Bangles’ “Manic Monday” and sought out other people he wrote songs for. I remember being made fun of because I bought Martika’s second album, “Martika’s Kitchen” because she worked entirely with Prince. I remember how excited I was that he wrote a song for Paula Abdul called “U” off of her second album.
I remember thinking “Gett Off” was the coolest shit I had ever heard, and thinking how hilarious it was that he showed up at the MTV Video Awards with ass-less yellow pants.
I remember devouring his three disc greatest hits set when I had started CEGEP and having parties in my basement where that was the soundtrack. I remember blaring songs like “Erotic City” and “Raspberry Beret” and “Alphabet Street” and “U Got The Look”.
I remember being 20 years old, visiting Minnesota for my sister’s university graduation. I remember being out with her friends and them not having anything to do one night. Me being underage, and not able to really go anywhere suggested “Let’s drive to Prince’s house.”
For some reason, they agreed. And we drove. And we made it to the front of his house. There was a big gate. And I got out of the car, and saw a beautiful purple light shining down in the front. And I remember digging my feet in my shoes and taking that moment in.
In 2000, I finally got to see him at Place Des Arts. Back then, he was known as The Artist. In what is now his typical fashion, he announced the show 2 days before. I commuted to Place Des Arts early that morning and sat down on the ground in line with others.
He ended up performing on his birthday. I remember people holding up big scenes behind us that said HAPPY BIRTHDAY with the symbol he had created on it and him yelling “Put those damn signs down!”
At that time, he wasn’t into doing his hits and I remember him sitting at his piano and playing bits and pieces of “Purple Rain” and all of us in the audience going wild. But, then he would veer off and go into another riff of some sort, leaving us all waiting. He baited us in that crowd, and I loved every second of it.
To this day, I say his Super Bowl performance was the best one I’ve ever seen.
He’s just always been there.
I don’t know the man one bit. But, his music just engulfed me.
And even when the intensity of my love for him dwindled with time, my eternal love and respect for the man didn’t.
I always loved to see what wild thing he would do next in order to share his music unconventionally with people.
I don’t understand how life works.
Today felt like my head was in a cloud of disbelief and memory.
I think I have only recently accepted the fact that Michael Jackson is gone. I haven’t reached that point with David Bowie yet.
But Prince? This is different.
It bothers me that we now have to talk about him in the past tense.
My head is heavy.
The man should be spoken of for the genius he is. He now needs to be brought up in the same breath when people speak of Elvis, The Beatles, Sinatra…
He never got tired. He was always moving.
I may not have ever known him in real life. But that shrimpy kid knew him. And loved him.
And I love him. I will love him always.
If there’s anything we learned from him, it’s that it’s way better to go against the norm, and to pick the road no one walks on. And preferably with heeled shoes.
There will never be anyone else like him. I don’t know the world, I don’t know what the future holds. But, no one else EVER can replicate that man and what he gave to those who would listen.
I’m so glad I listened.
I’m still listening.