I Feel Just Like the Sky . . .
I was afraid to write this tribute to Prince because I thought I would cry. I started writing it about 6 days ago and kept putting it off to avoid the tears. I’d write a bit then walk away. However, in spite of the sadness I felt during the writing process, I actually spent more time singing and dancing to his songs than crying. Writing this, and listening to his music, was cathartic. I’m glad I finally sat down and put my thoughts into words.
It’s been over a week since Prince passed away. It really is difficult to believe. I feel sad and kind of heartbroken. Although I’ve had the great pleasure of being face-to-face with Prince, I didn’t know him personally. He was a celebrity; a world renowned singer, musician, songwriter, and entertainer. However, I took his death like I had lost a good friend or relative. In many ways that’s how it feels. Sometimes I can’t help but wonder why I feel like I’ve lost a loved one, but I guess in a way I have. Prince is (not was, is) my favorite artist/musician. For so long, I’ve found inspiration from him and his music. Now he’s gone.
Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad, When You Know I Love You?
I first became enchanted by the amazing artist known as Prince when I was a little girl. I was watching American Bandstand with my father and Prince was the guest. I was immediately mesmerized by him. In my opinion, his performance was perfection. He was really into his music, almost as if he was in another world. However, when it was time to be interviewed by Dick Clark, he was more like a shy teenage boy. This was awesome because he was shy just like me.
I had never seen anyone like him before- a black man with long curly hair, dressed like the lead singer of a rock band and playing an electric guitar. See, Jimi Hendrix died before I was born. Although my parents listened to all kinds of music from The O’Jays and Aretha Franklin to War and Led Zeppelin; Prince was an anomaly for me. This introverted extrovert who stood out from soul singers and rock n’ roll musicians alike, eventually became my favorite artist.
At such a young age, I never understood the impact Prince and his music would have on me; or the whole world for that matter.
Am I Black or White? Am I Straight or Gay?
The more popular Prince became, the more curious people became. I guess he was a little controversial, even going back to the releases of Prince, Dirty Mind and Controversy. I never understood why- maybe because we live in a society where people feel the need to pretend to be chaste and Puritanical. Then again, maybe it’s because some people are stupid and look for negativity.
I suppose the lyrics to some of Prince’s songs were “controversial,” especially in the early 80s. He sang about sex, having fun and rebelling against the system; these were typical topics of people in their teens and early 20s. He also had a lot to say about politics and the state of affairs at that time, but all people heard was sex, sex, and more sex. All people saw was the style of his dress.
In “Ronnie Talk to Russia,” Prince is singing about the United States’ conflict with Russia and all people cared about was whether he wore panties and liked hand jobs. Ugh, this world. We were under the threat of a potential nuclear holocaust and all people were thinking was “sex is bad.” Uhh! Where were the priorities back then? Oh, there were none. They were too busy trying to tear down the fabric of our nation while holding back people of color, women, the LGBTQ community and the impoverished. Oopsy, I stumbled onto my soap box. My apologies. I’ll keep it moving.
The way Prince dressed and looked really caused concern for people. I didn’t get it. Maybe because I was young. Maybe because I was a girl. Nope, it was probably because I wasn’t a backwards thinking Neanderthal. I understood that people had complexities and differences; and believed that all people didn’t need to look and think alike.
Throughout his entire career, Prince was a sexy, confident man who didn’t seem to be moved by machismo and false bravado. He was comfortable in his own his skin and being the man he was. In my opinion, that was one of the greatest things about him. I wish all men had that type of confidence- hell all people. Prince came up in a time when men, especially black men, had this ludicrous idea about what was considered manly or what made a man a man. Prince defied those ideals. He blurred lines. Wearing lace, thigh highs or high heel boots didn’t emasculate him, it made him all the more appealing and confident. He was shy but he kept his head held high no matter what he was wearing, no matter what people said about him.
I always wondered why people cared. Why did it matter if was straight or gay? What difference did it make to them? Were men interested and wondering if they had a shot?
I knew people who wouldn’t listen to his music because they thought he was gay. What a bunch of ignorant assholes! They missed out on some great music because they thought his sexuality didn’t conform to their ideals. Fools. I can’t stand those type of people. When I was younger, I’d let them know. I argued with many people over Prince. Talking negatively about him was like talking about one of my family members. I was not having that. You see, I was a very loyal and dedicated friend. (Side note: Prince didn’t like the word fan because it’s short for the word fanatic. So he called his “fans” friends.)
I never understood anyone questioning his race or ethnicity either. I guess his style of music brought about those questions. What? Black people can’t listen to or compose rock music. He didn’t fit into any one particular mold. His music was too rock to be R&B or Soul, but he was black so there’s no way it was rock n’ roll. Given the roots of rock n’ roll, let’s just sit back and chew on that for a second then laugh out loud at the absurdity of that. In actuality he would have fit nicely in both genres, plus jazz. If people had really listened to his music instead of just judging one or two songs and his appearance they would have known. Honestly, I think they did and were intimidated by him. This one man did more than crossover; he merged genres that were divided more by race than music styles.
I don’t know Prince’s sexual preferences or the details of his sexuality; we never talked about it 😉 Judging by the lyrics to some of his songs, I tend to believe he was gender fluid. And that’s great. He was a person ahead of his time. People in the 70s, 80s and 90s didn’t get him and he didn’t care. People didn’t need to get him. Ha! The only thing that mattered to me was that I loved him. People today need people like Prince, David Bowie, Freddie Mercury… I could go on. There are people in this world who need to know it’s okay to identify however you please. David Bowie and Freddie Mercury were white, British rock stars; Americans could blame the culture and move on. The reason it’s so important that Prince existed and became famous is because he was a black man from the Midwest. Black people and other people of color needed to see someone who looked like them without conforming to the norm.
2000 Zero, Zero . . . Party Over . . . Oops Out of Time
1999 was the first Prince album I bought. I was still in elementary school, so I didn’t understand half the stuff he was singing about. But hey, there was some good music for dancing. The songs on this album were epic in length. I’m talking about songs over six minutes long. The only other people that I knew of that were making songs this long were Parliament/Funkadelic. And they were freakin’ awesome. I have to admit, even though I listened to the album quite often, I didn’t really hear what he was saying until I was older. After really listening to the album, I’m so happy I didn’t play it in its entirety around my mother. Because it would have been “bye-bye Prince, I’ll see you when I’m 18 . . . maybe”.
How Can You Just Leave Me Standing Alone in a World That’s so Cold?
Hey everybody, Prince is going to be in a movie. Oh, I am so going to see it.
As Prince’s popularity grew it was only natural that he’d get to star in a movie. Am I right? Of course I am. And of course I had planned on going to see it. But first, I bought the soundtrack. Oh my goodness, Purple Rain was such an amazing album. By the time it was released, I was a Prince connoisseur; at least in my head. I wasn’t really. Owning two albums does not an expert make; but years later I would know all things Prince. Well, all things that were within a respectable limit, which were not based on rumor and fodder, which he allowed me as a friend to know.
My favorite song was “The Beautiful Ones,” and guess who he was singing to. Yeppers- he was singing to me. That’s believable, right? Well it could have been me, except he didn’t know me and I was only 13 years old. So, yeah, there was no way he was singing to me. But hey, a gal could dream and I did. Why not? What teenage girl didn’t want Prince singing “The Beautiful Ones” or any other song to them?
When Purple Rain was released in the theatre, my mother took me, my younger sister Tea, and our cousins Tony, AJ and Sabrina, to see it. This is something I think I will never forget for the rest of my life. Ok so, we went to the theatre at Southgate. We were a few minutes late and I was freaking out a little as if I was late for the prom or my first wedding. When we got there we’d already missed a little bit of the opening; the performance of “Let’s Go Crazy” was almost over. The theatre was packed, so we couldn’t all sit together. Tony, AJ and I sat in one row; my mom, Tea and Sabrina sat directly behind us. I’m sitting there starry eyed staring at the screen enjoying this spectacular movie. The movie progresses and I’m loving every second. Now, Apollonia almost ruined everything by stripping off her clothes to purify herself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka. My mother told the boys to clothes their eyes and it was all good.
“That ain’t Lake Minnetonka.” Hahaha, that’s hilarious! I looked back at my mother – who sat stone-faced. Oh, I guess not. Back to the movie. As the story goes, The Kid and Apollonia develop a relationship. They go to his place, I figured for a date. At some point, The Kid and Apollonia start kissing, one thing leads to another, and she comes out of her clothes, again. The Kid starts to…well, you know how the scene goes. My mother puts hands over Tony and AJ’s eyes and yells “let’s go!” What? Are you kidding me? All eyes were on us. A man next to us started laughing. I was completely mortified and angry. The movie wasn’t even close to being over. I pulled her arm and yelled: “What the hell, Mom?! It’s only been 20-30 minutes!” Oh wait nope, I didn’t really say that. My mother was not a woman to be trifled with. Had I said that, I would not be here to share that story. But as you can imagine, I was pretty peeved.
Needless to say, I’ve never seen Purple Rain in its entirety on the big screen. When it came out on VHS, my father rented it for my sister and me. He watched the beginning with us up to the love scene. At that point, he clicked fast forward. When The Kid and Apollonia were done, my father told us to enjoy the movie and left the room. Thanks Dad, you’re the greatest!
We Can Fuck Until the Dawn . . .
Wait! He said we can funk. Didn’t you hear him?
For some singers the B-side to a single is some remix of the single or worse some dud that never made it to the album. Prince B-sides were always just as good as the single and were worthy of being on the album. It was as if he was going to add a few more and the label gave him a limit and he was like “Oh well, I’ll just put it on a B-side”. There are so many singles I bought for the B-side (or the 12” EP remix). I mean, I already had the album but I just had to have the B-side. I think that’s why he eventually released The Hits/The B-Sides. He knew everyone loved his B-sides as much as they loved the songs that made it to the album.
I owned most of them, but the one that stands out the most was “Erotic City.” This was another Purple Rain moment. I bought the single on 45. I had it, played it and enjoyed it for a few hours before my mother came home from work. It was playing when she walked in the house.
“We can fuck until the dawn, making love ’til cherry’s gone.”
My mother stopped in her tracks and asked me how much I paid for it. I’d paid $1.59. So she pulled two bucks out of her purse then took my record and snapped it half. I picked up the pieces and glared at her, shouting “What the ever loving hell, Mom?!” Oh wait, another delusional memory. That didn’t happen- have you met my Mom?? I didn’t say it but I probably wanted to. Not only did she break the record I had just bought, she did it in front of my friends. Good grief, my mom had no chill back then.
Keep in mind this was before Tipper Gore and her ilk, the Parental Music Resource Center (PMRC) decided parents weren’t mature enough to decide what music their children could and couldn’t listen to. Well that’s how I took it. My mother proved them wrong that day. Oh yeah and I did say ilk. Musicians had been cussing in songs and singing about sex forever. It wasn’t until singers like Prince, hip-hop artists and gender blurred heavy metal artists started crossing into the mainstream that it became a problem. What are the common denominators that suddenly caused such an uproar that a U.S. senator’s wife felt the need to reach out to congress to force record labels and musicians to put warning label their music? I always laugh at the fact that they say the music was marketed to children and their denial of censorship. They got their parental warnings and most musicians saw an increase in sales. So, I guess it worked out in the end. Welp, let me kick my soap box to the side and get back to the man of the hour.
I Guess We’ll Make Love Under the Cherry Moon
Yes! Under the Cherry Moon, what would soon become my favorite movie was release in 1986. Looking back, I was surprised my mother let us go see it. I mentioned that today and she said it was because we were older. It probably helped that the movie was PG-13 and I had just turned 15; yep, practically a woman. Not really, but I didn’t care. So my sisters Tea, Leona and I went to see it the day it opened. We were there before the theater opened. It was a work day, so there weren’t many people in the theater, which made it all the better. No one was crowded up on me while I’m trying to enjoy Christopher Tracey in all his glory. Ooh, I loved this movie. I loved it so much my sisters and I went back to see it that evening. There were more people there and I could swear the man who laughed as me as I was being dragged out of Purple Rain was sitting nearby. Guess what! It was just as good the second time. And it was just as good when I watched it last week.
Sadly, Under the Cherry Moon, didn’t do so well at box office and critics panned it. I guess you can’t please everyone. People just didn’t get the complexities of a gigolo falling in love with his mark. It could happen. Some people had a problem with the fact that it was black and white. That’s called art people.
In a Word or 2, It’s U I Wanna Do . . . No Not Cha Body, Ya Mind U Fool
It was obvious that Prince was a sexual being. He expressed his love for sex and what it meant physically and mentally via his music. Not only did he love sex, he loved love. Think about it: if a person loves you the way Prince loves in his songs, you’d truly live the ultimate high.
“Until the end of time, I’ll be there for you.
You own my heart and mind. I truly adore you.
If God one day struck me blind your beauty I’d still see.
Love’s too weak define just what you mean to me.”
Are you kidding me? Who doesn’t want to hear the person they love say something like this to them? Prince made me set my standards high. His words made me want a love that was probably unattainable. Not just a fairy tale love but a love that goes deeper than cooing at each other like teenagers or sexing each other up like newlyweds. But that doesn’t really exist- no, it has to be real. That kind of love is out.
While he would sing about this wonderful love, he would also sing about having a broken heart or not being able to experience the love he desired.
“’Cause I’m so alone
It ain’t like my life is ended
But more like it never started”
Oh, he’d just make you so sad.
“You’ve been gone seventeen days
Seventeen long nights
The main drag is knowing that
You’re holding someone else tight”
Who is this person that broke his heart?
Then there’s the sexy love making songs.
“Do me Baby, like you’ve never done before.
Ooh give to me until I just can’t take no more.”
Now that’s some baby making stuff right there.
“Slow and slippery, groovy
If we bathe in each other’s hips
In other words, get close enough to stick”
Aw, come on now.
“All I wanna see is the love in your eyes (hey, lover)
And all I wanna hear is your sweet love sighs
All I wanna feel is burning flames (hey, lover)
Tell me, tell me, baby, that U feel the same”
Gah! This guy and his sexy talk. I loved it.
“I could tell u things 2 get u excited,
things u never heard
U know the Kama Sutra?
I could re-write it with half as many words”
When I got older and understood it, of course. I learned something important from Prince’s music; sex wasn’t dirty and was it was okay to be a sexual person.
Money Don’t Matter Tonight
Prince wrote love songs, songs about sex, songs that made you want to dance and he also wrote songs about what was going on in the world around us. You could tell in his music that he cared about the state of the world and our country. Through is music he spoke out against war, crime, poverty and the destruction of the environment. You also learned from his music that he cared about the plight of being poor and black. Unbeknownst to many, Prince was a compassionate philanthropist. He donated his time and money to a lot of worthy causes such as Marva Collins’ Westside Preparatory School Teacher Training Institute. He was also the man behind Green For All and Yes We Code.
Yes We Code means a lot to me because its purpose is to help underprivileged people find opportunities and success in the tech industry. As a woman of color, I know that there aren’t of lot people like me working in the tech field and there are not many opportunities for us. When I went to school to become a graphic designer we had to learn programming and coding in addition to designing. I was one of four women in the programming class (the only black woman). In the design classes I was one of five students of color and again the only black woman. We need organizations like Yes We Code to more people of color and women into tech careers. So, thank you Prince. Thank you for your passion and desire to push people forward.
God Made You, God Made Me, He Made Us All Equally
Prince embraced his sexuality and his religion. If you listened to his music you knew that. On almost every album he made a reference to his love for God. In the song “Controversy,” he recited The Lord’s Prayer. In “The Cross,” he spoke of the coming of Christ. He also spoke of the coming of our Lord at the end of “Darling Nikki.” In a song that starts off talking about a woman pleasuring herself in a hotel lobby then their eventual one night stand, he then talks about God. At the end of “Temptation,” he seems like he’s having a conservation with God. That was my take on it, at least.
For me, that was another thing to love about him. He loved sex, he embraced gender fluidity and he had a deep spirituality and love for God. In a country where people believe you can’t love God and enjoy sex, Prince defied them and proved them wrong.
Up Yours . . . Smile . . . That’s Right, You’re a Star
Prince was a very private man. However, in life and death the tabloids have no respect for his privacy. I did not read gossip about him while he lived, I did not read gossip about him when he passed away and I will continue to never read gossip about him. I don’t care how he died. All I know is my favorite artist is gone. I will never get to see another live performance and I will never have the pleasure of experiencing what he had planned for the future. He will be missed. But like they say his legacy will live on through his music.
Rest in Peace, Prince Rogers Nelson. I wish you Love, I wish you heaven.