I’m still in shock. Prince, of all people, bigger than life – should’ve been immortal. How is it possible that he’s gone? How is it possible there will never be another blistering guitar solo? Never another incarnation of him? How?
My love affair began around 1982. I was in junior high and hanging out one summer afternoon with one of my girlfriends when one of the cool older guys – Petey – drove up in his car. I don’t remember the model, but it was sleek and it had “Horny Toad” in script on the back. I’m pretty sure at 12 I had no clue in hell what “Horny Toad” even meant, but you know how it is when you’re that age – you know it’s vaguely dirty but you don’t know why. He was playing a song from the “Controversy” album and it was just so damn sexy. I wanted so desperately to fit in I pretended that I knew what it was.
About the same time – my very best friend in the whole wide world always had a bitchin’ Halloween party. And for whatever reason, 1999 was on the playlist at the party that year. And y’know, at that point, 1999 was soooo far in the future. But I just could not get enough of that song.
Not too long after that, I started catching Prince videos on MTV every now and then. And once I *saw* him, it was over. He was so different from everything else that I’d ever seen up to that point in my life. And he was so damn dirty. But then he was also religious. It was the first time I ever woke up to the idea that maybe it wasn’t wrong to feel sexy and to explore your own sexuality. Here was this guy telling me that sexuality was a gift from God, and that appealed to me on so many levels, as I was already someone who had rejected so many notions of what constituted a “sin”.
This photo was taken in San Francisco on May 23, 1986 – my sixteenth birthday.
From there, it was spending every dime I had on the latest single, teen magazines, posters, buttons, t-shirts – you name it. Anything with his Royal Badness on it. And blasting that vinyl with everything I had in me. My parents hated it, but by that point, it was an obsession. When “Purple Rain” came to the little town I live in, me and a couple of my girlfriends crossed our fingers and hoped to hell the clerk at the theatre would let us in (they did). I sat for a full two hours absolutely mesmerized – soaking in every note, every dance move, every glance. By the time school started again, my friends and I had the whole Abbott & Costello routine between Morris & Jerome memorized word for word. At one point when life got really rough for my friend Julie and I, we actually had a half-serious plan to run away to Minneapolis and try to be a part of his entourage. I mean, we could sing and dance better than Vanity and Apollonia, so why not? And I started to be known as the Prince girl at school. Hair swept back on one side, black eyeliner, trench coat and Prince t-shirts. Because this man KNEW. He knew what I was feeling. He knew what it was like to have emotions swirling around inside of you and whole other worlds in your mind. He was just able to bring them to life in ways I couldn’t. Every bit of my high school life is set to a Prince soundtrack. By the time “Around the World In a Day” came around, I was ready for that spiritual awakening – ready for “The Ladder”. And I was seeing all the things Prince was singing about in “America”. “Pop Life” – yeah we all got a space to fill. “Parade” – that was all for a guy that I had a major crush on at the time. He was Prince and I was Sheila E. “Sign O The Times” – I was hitting junior year and trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life and in a “Strange Relationship” of my own. And then “Lovesexy” – that was when I met my future husband. So it was late nights singing “Alphabet Street” and making out to “Anna Stesia”. By the time “Batman” came around, I had our first child and strangely enough, he’s loved Batman almost from birth. And he came to love Prince in his own time, too.
I didn’t get the chance to see Prince live until 1997. And the second song into the show was “Purple Rain”. I can’t even tell you what that did to me. It was a religious experience. And I saw him again in 2004 for his Musicology tour. Same experience – just complete transcendence. And that time, my husband and I bought tickets to his after-show at a bar downtown in Cleveland. We waited for an hour or so for him to show. Now, being 5’2″ on a good day, I wasn’t in a position to see much, so when he popped his head in the door behind the stage and then back out again, I heard the crowd around me go crazy but I never saw him. But I felt him.
When the first reports came out that there was a death at Paisley Park, I prayed so hard that it wasn’t him. I felt awful wishing that it was someone else who had passed, but I just couldn’t imagine a world without him. I still can’t. I’ve taken a lot of shit over the last 34 years for being such a hardcore fan, and I bore it gladly. I knew the truth of his unparalleled talent, his golden heart, his beautiful soul. I knew that he was a once in a millenium artist. I knew no one could ever compare. I knew the story behind many of his songs, knew how many other artists he had helped, knew about his charitable works. Knew things like the fact that when he was inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 and was told that they’d be playing a tribute to George Harrison with “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, he didn’t know the song, but learned it overnight and delivered an absolutely masterful solo. I knew that he played over 23 instruments and was self-taught. I knew that a portion of “Purple Rain” was improvised on the spot and that the version that made it into the movie and subsequently onto the album was recorded in one take and was the first time the band had ever played the song. I knew that he gave generously to a number of charities and never asked for any recognition for it.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that I love the man. I do. And I always will. For his talent, for his heart, for his contribution to my life and to the lives of so many others. And for saving the life of an awkward little white girl from a small town in Ohio so many times. The facts of his death are immaterial to me. He is to me what he will always be – my Prince, my first love, my idol, my savior. And the sorrow that I feel is as real as it would be if he were my friend. Because in so many ways, he was.
I know for awhile I’m going to cry when I hear his music. I’m going to feel sorrow when I remember all that he’s meant to me. But I will also go back and listen to the songs I haven’t heard in years, and I will remember all the good times and all the wonderful memories of which he was a part. And I will dance, and I will sing and I will be thankful for everything that he gave me.
I hope u lived 2 c the dawn.
Much love. – Michelle 0(+>
Note: None of the photos are my own and no disrespect is intended. I’ll be more than happy to give attribution wherever necessary.