Many people have Prince stories. These are mine.
Two thousand zero zero party over, whoops, out of time.
It’s 1999. 1999 is back on the radio. I think that 1999 was written this year, for this year, and foolishly think it’s kind of dated.
It seems like I was busy doing something close to nothing, no different than the day before
I’m coming off of a long contemporary christian music obsession and am unsure about music in general, coltish about top 40, but I like the way Kiss and Little Red Corvette sound on Star 105.5 (the 80s, 90s, and today) even though Little Red Corvette seems kind of dirty. Linnea talks me into buying Prince’s Greatest Hits at Best Buy and we listen to Raspberry Beret as I drive her home.
Close your eyes, and let me guide you.
Hollywood Video is still a thing that exists in the world, so when I decide that I want to see Purple Rain for myself, Linnea comes with me. We scour the fluorescent aisles but need help. “We’re trying to find a movie. It’s…not current.”
“I like you.”
Purple Rain is not very good from a narrative perspective but I find myself mesmerized by the performances. I do not yet understand that Prince is sexy and when he smiles on his motorcycle with Appolonia behind him I think he looks like a creepy bunny.
It’s hard for me to say what’s right when all I want to do is wrong.
I become known for liking Prince, even though I still only have his greatest hits and know them incompletely. I’m going through an indie, precious phase with other people who are also going through largely indie, precious phases and I listen to the Prince album only on my own, only in the car, when I need a break from Damien Rice and Andrew Bird.
Sophomore year my dorm floor watches PS I Love You en masse and many young women are aghast at Hillary Swank’s karaoke performance of Gett Off. 23 positions in a one night stand. only call you after if you say I can. “Who sings this song?” someone asks. “Prince, I, uh, believe that it’s Prince.” I say, and blush.
I’m beginning to understand that Prince is sexy, that he’s got more swag than just about anyone alive, and that this confidence combined with his outrageous talent overcomes the things that might inhibit him. I will deny his sexiness several times before graduation. “Do you really think he’s hot?” “No, but I think he thinks he’s hot in a way that’s really interesting.”
You don’t have to watch Dynasty to have an attiude.
Between The Very Best of Prince compilation and the Purple Rain album, which I memorize, Prince slowly becomes a beacon in my life. An icon. I love how filthy and ridiculous but still kind of hot Little Red Corvette is with the convoluted car metaphors. I love all the weird asides, lines like “let’s get married, have a baby, we’ll call him Nate, if it’s a boy” in Sign O the Times and how Alphabet St sounds half like it should be for children (put the right letters together and make a better day) but also clearly includes Prince wanting to watch his partner masturbate. I respect the subtle feminism of Gett Off (I’ll only call you after if you say I can).
I love Prince’s style & arrogance, his side-eye, the way he commands any room and any stage. I don’t know very much and I don’t try especially hard to learn because, even now, I don’t find many of his albums immediately accessible. But what I do know I love. Prince joins Twitter and it’s the best day on Twitter. Prince joins Instagram and that’s even better. You don’t have to know everything about a person to love them, to love their work, to champion them.
Five-ish months after Jon and I start dating I’ve determined to tell Jon that I love him, but I don’t know when or how. I’ve checked on the internet and confirmed that five months is an appropriate amount of time, but I’m nervous, even though I know I don’t have to be. Jon and his parents help me move most of my things out of my only solo apartment into the apartment I’ll share with my best friend. I say that I’m tired and am going to take a nap before I finish cleaning. Jon stays with me and we lie down on the berber carpet in my empty bedroom. We start singing Purple Rain, neither of us getting it quite right, but I’m further off-key. I never wanted to be your weekend lover. I only wanted to be some kind of friend. Baby, I could never steal you from another. I turn to him, place my hands on either side of his face. “Hey,” I say, and tell him.
A few months later Prince comes to Chicago and I almost empty the $250 in my emergency fund to go. Almost, this close.
People always say nothing come too easy. But when you got it baby, nothing comes too hard.
I think about this line from Baby, I’m a Star all of the time. What does it mean to be really gifted? What does it mean to be really and truly talented? If you’re going to make art, should it feel hard, or should it feel natural and right, like an extension of yourself? Is it possible–really and truly possible–for joy and work to meet and fuse together in a person’s life, or does only happen for truly incredible artists, who’ve seen and believed in their power and potential since childhood?
What does it mean if it’s too hard to create something?
There’s a bold, self-assuredness to Prince that I admire and long for and have never once felt. Even my proudest–and by proudest I mean acting proud, a sort of umbrella word for cocky and self-important and dismissive–moments have had an underlying tinge of self-doubt. And the worst, meanest parts of acting proud is probably fed by that self-doubt, that manifested impostor syndrome. If you feel like an impostor you also feel the need to act your role and keep anyone else from finding out you’re faking. What a gift, what freedom, to know you’re the shit, both before and when everyone else knows it too.
The most popular episode on the Sass ‘n’ Brass podcast is the episode that’s supposed to be about Ginuwine’s Pony, where I spend all of my airtime trying to convince Dayna that Prince’s songs are better than Pony. I know, now, that Prince has few equals. There is no one else like him now and there likely won’t be again.
April proves to be the cruelest month of 2016 and news reaches Twitter around noon on a Thursday that Prince has died unexpectedly in his home in Minneapolis. I’m not a functional employee for the next day and a half, and the following week remains a question mark. If I could peek behind the veil now and say one thing to Prince, I think I’d say thank you, and that I didn’t know you best but I loved you most among artists. I hope you were right, and the afterworld is filled with never ending happiness, you can always see the sun, day or night.