A few days ago, I was sitting at my kitchen counter hunched over with tears spilling down my face. My maid, Geeta, walked in and immediately asked if I was okay. She doesn’t speak English so it was very hard to convey why I was upset or even what it was about. I tried several words before I found two that she understood and ended up mumbling through my sobs and tears “music. . . . .finished.” She still had no idea what I meant, but this is it. . .
I was only 4 years old when Purple Rain came out, but thanks to all the Gods known to humans, I grew up in a family that praised music, praised talent, praised adventurous creativity and spirit, and praised that little purple man called Prince. Memories of my childhood are laden with dance parties and movie nights where we watched and loved every sweet beat and revolutionary ruffle.
At that age, I didn’t really know the affect it would have on me three decades later. I was just integrated into a world of never ending happiness where my Dad and I relentlessly watched Purple Rain like we were at the First Avenue Club, in the crowd, inspired and enamored by every wink, and kink, and riff like it was the first time every time. We’d talk about the outfits, the guitar licks, the dance moves, and the chicks. I even mastered the hand signals for “I Would Die For You” with such finesse and style that even Prince might’ve thought I was cool.
In my teens, I remember when he changed his name to a symbol. It was weird, I guess, but it didn’t matter to me. Those of us who loved him didn’t care what it said on the packaging. It couldn’t erase all the years he showed us to love ourselves with reckless abandon no matter what outfit we wore. It just gave all the skeptics something to get a head trip about. Who dares to defy the boxes we all live in? Who dares to challenge what we think is important in this life or what should matter? Prince, that’s who!
It wasn’t until I saw him live for the first time that I understood what I lived and breathed for my whole life as the moxie in my soul. In August, 2004, in Detroit, I went with my mom to his show. We had eighth row floor seats in a massive stadium.
The stage had a solitary, white, swivel chair that he sat in while chatting to everyone. I don’t remember what he said, exactly, but I remember that his energy commanded nothing but love. He was bashful, silly, funny, sexy, witty, and as he swiveled in that chair, I thought that he was made up of the kind of magic that could make anyone of any age fall in love with him. And I don’t mean in a sexual way. I mean in a spiritual/guru/god kind of way. Like Amma gives hugs, Prince performed, and when he sang “Purple Rain” we were all baptized together–dipped in a deep, purple pool of love and acceptance.
That was the first time I saw him. He even had Morris Day from The Time join the stage. The experience gave us all a glimpse of what that First Avenue Club would’ve been like, and I’d be lying if I said it was anything other than fucking awesome. At the end of the show, we even got the Musicology album for free.
Prince treated his fans like royalty and he always had the most talented musicians on stage. As if the mere presence of that magical man wasn’t enough, he’d throw in other people like the cherry on top of the purple sundae. Shelia E, Morris Day, Larry Graham, Maceo Parker. . .not to mention uncountable talented female musicians and dancers on every tour over the years. Prince’s stage was an open space for expression and he was a gracious host to artistic dreaming.
As a promise to the universe, and myself, I ended up seeing Prince three more times. Each time I got the jitters while getting dressed for the show. It’s hard to pick an outfit suitable for a Prince, but he inspired all of us to adorn ourselves for the occasion. Three more times I learned how amazing it is to be a woman, to be different, to be fearless and creative, to not care what other people think. Three more times I felt like the luckiest person in the world to witness such an immense force of love.
Prince was a soldier of love.
It’s been six days since he left this Earth. I have to admit, it’s been hard, real hard. I wake up in the morning hoping to hear that it’s all a big, stupid rumor. I guess my heart just doesn’t want to believe in this tragic loss.
Sure, I didn’t really know Prince. But I grieve for the part of myself that he reflected. I know I’m not the only one. Letting him go means WE have to do the work now. We have to be a little more fierce, more daring, more fun, more creative, and true to ourselves. And we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life. So, let’s do this thang. Prince wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Hey, look me over,
Tell me do u like what u see?
Hey, I ain’t got no money,
But honey I’m rich on personality
Hey, check it all out,
Baby I know what it’s all about
Before the night is through
U will see my point of view
Even if I have 2 scream and shout
Baby I’m a star!” –Prince