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My Life and Night with Prince Ƭ̵̬̊

April 26, 2016

I’ve never known life without Prince. Since I was able to formulate and retain memories Prince Rogers Nelson has always been a constant in them. My mother is a long-time fan of the Purple God(dess), so since toddlerhood his music and aura have engulfed me. Purple Rain had become one of my most watched films by the time I turned eight years old, and over the years I often laid on couches in various homes we lived in watching Under the Cherry Moon with my mother. However, my Prince immersion wasn’t just my mother’s doing. I grew up in an era where Prince continually bathed in popularity and prominence. 

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I remember laughing until my stomach hurt at “In Living Color’s” riff on Levi jeans and Prince’s infamous ass-less pantsuit that he rocked so effortlessly during his 1991 VMA performance of “Get Off.” Batman’s release in my youth allowed the film to flood my television in repeated showings during my adolescence. To this day I consider the original Batman paramount to any in the series, although Batman Returns is arguably the better film. The reason for my loving clutch of the original has always been due to Prince’s combined musical arrangements with Danny Elfman’s score filling Tim Burton’s lifeless aesthetic with a pulsating beat. By the time I reached high school Prince manifested back into my life as my best friend’s obsession. There were two things my newest friend at the time loved, The Little Mermaid and Purple Rain which would prompt late night rides around the city in her truck as we’d blast “Purple Rain” and shout lines like “I never wanted to be your weekend lover” out the window into the stale night air.

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I was a tomboy in my youth constantly pressured to act more like a girl, then to act more like a woman as I got older. I listened to rock music and spoke properly which made me a target for ridicule that I was “acting white.” I dressed the way I felt comfortable dressing and not the way others who looked like me were supposed to. I never gave into the social pressure to fit into anyone else’s ideas of who I should be or how I should act. It wasn’t always easy and effortless. It still isn’t. Nevertheless, the strength to define myself the way I want to is owed to icons before me who smashed barriers and became legendary for being themselves. Icons like Prince. Prince was always around somewhere doing something whether it was controversial, evolutionary, or just straight up strange. He was always there inadvertently encouraging me to find comfort in my own skin even when others fought to make that difficult. Prince helped connect me with myself, but the biggest connection I owe to him is the one I have with my mother.

No other celebrity figure has had this sort of deep-seated influence in my life. Michael Jackson is a close runner-up who again because of the time period and being in the African-American community became a staple in my life. Michael Jackson’s death was an complete shock to me. I remember rushing to my mother’s room when CNN broke the news with wall-to-wall coverage. I opened her door and told her “ma, Michael Jackson just died!” She looked at me and asked “really?” Then responded with slight intrepid apathy by saying “well, it’s not Prince. That’s my boy you know?” In that moment I was reminded of her devotion for an icon. That moment always stuck with me which made Prince’s passing all the more painful. My immediate thought when I got bombarded by texts the day Prince passed was “does mom know? How is she taking it?”

My mother and I never shared icons. I have friends who can connect with their parents through musicians like Led Zeppelin, or the Beatles, or Elvis, or David Bowie. But, my mother’s tastes align true to her age and her surroundings just as mine does. I grew up loving the soul music we listened to in the car along with gospel and R&B at its pinnacle in the 1990s. But, while there was a mutual love for certain songs there was never a bond over an artist between us. When she fell in love with Joe, I was listening to Hanson. When Tank was her favorite artist I had discovered the Beach Boys. Even when growing up and Prince was her boy, I was a Michael Jackson fan (music alone). There was always a disconnect which is what made my evolution into Prince fandom a few years after Michael’s death a more rewarding experience.

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It began on the last day of my longest running job. On that day, the duties of myself and co-workers was to clean and rearrange classrooms for the upcoming school year. This annual task had always been accompanied by music and on this day Prince’s “I Wanna Be Your Lover” came on the radio. A good friend and I bounced along mumbling the words in falsetto before she asked, or maybe just mentioned always being thrown off by the fact that Prince tells his lover, “I wanna be your mother and your sister too.” We joked about the insane possession of it, but that line got stuck in my head. I went on to listen that song about 30 times over the next few days falling more and more in love with Prince’s conviction to be everything important to this one person. It was obsessive, it was insane– it was so hot. This man pining for a woman with such vulnerability was raunchy poetry that I had never paid attention to before. I called my mom and told her about my desire to listen to more Prince and inquired about which albums I should check out. She named a few before admitting wherever I started would be a good place, so I went down the road of Prince, The Revolution, The New Power Generation, the Artist Formerly Known as, then back again and my love for that man swelled to new heights.

I began to picture my mom at my age. She had seen him numerous times growing up. She conjured those memories in my childhood as I’d listen with wide eyes and a grin as she recounted seeing Prince at his dirtiest and sexiest in Macon. She claims he got banned from the Coliseum for ultimately being Prince and slutting up the stage shocking squares of the city. I longed to be like mom, I wanted to see a legend countless times. Live music has doubled as religious experiences for me over the years and I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to see nearly every major musician I’m a fan of including legends that I love. Prince, Neil Young, and Paul Simon are the trio of those left if Sly and the Family Stone or Talking Heads never get back together. Paul Simon tickets came into my possession before Prince did, but they finally arrived and I knew with no doubt that I’d see him. I got lucky and did.

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I went to the last show Prince ever performed. I was among the sea of ecstatic fans in utter amazement that this little man jamming on the piano was Prince Rogers Nelson at the Fox Theater. The woman sitting next to me at the show talked with me about her past Prince shows. My mother got to enjoy Prince in the onset of the 1980s while this woman got his glory in the 1990s and told me all about it. She was kind enough to let me view this galactic being with better vision from her binoculars which allowed me to see the source of speckled colored lights on the stage. Those dazzling glimmers emerged from his pumps any time his feet hit the floor on beat. He shmoshed us all. We cat-called and sang with him and he led us in hymn after hymn. There was an unmistakable feeling of mutual love that filled that venue that night. He knew we loved him and we knew he loved us. Especially when he broke out “Purple Rain” on the encore, a treat the show before us didn’t even receive and we all sang in connected harmony.
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Not a single person could have expected what would happen a week later. I was shell-shocked when I heard the news. I had plans to be like my mother. I longed to have stories about multiple Prince shows. My desire was to tell my future children about the times I saw Prince. I wanted, more than anything to experience a Prince show live with my mother. Now my story will always have an air of grief to it. I’m lucky, I understand that and am immensely grateful for it. It had been difficult getting tickets for the Fox show. I know so many people who tried but didn’t succeed and yet my partner and I got a pair. While watching Prince from binoculars, yelling out songs, and dancing in my best outfit I thought for a second “if I never see him live gain that’s ok, at least I get to see him this time” thinking that luck wouldn’t always have my back to secure tickets in the future. So, that night I made myself go crazy in celebration of that amazing deity in human form. I drank in every minute of that show, the messages he promoted, and the love he showered. His memory will be honored for the rest of my life and I intend to give to others what Prince gave me.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Fancee P Pearse permalink
    May 23, 2017 4:36 PM

    this was beautiful – i could just about smell Princes cologne listening 2 ur words – ty

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