Trigger warning for discussion of abuse and sexual assault.
Life is just a party, and parties weren’t meant to last
Let me start by saying that I can’t believe I’m writing this, and let me therefore apologize for my inevitable rambling. Any of you who know me know about my obsession with Prince. As recently as two days before his death, my friends would just randomly post Prince clips, interviews, and memes to my wall. Purple is one of my favorite colors for a reason. That’s why on April 21st, when a coworker mentioned that they were investigating a death at Paisley Park, I started to shake. I spent the next half hour searching news sites hoping to find out it was someone else, but one by one they confirmed it: Prince had died.
Friends were texting me to see if I was ok as if I had lost someone close to me. Sure, I was big fan, but it’s not like he was a relative, so yeah, I was ok. At the same time, I very much was not. I cried watching the news, listening to the radio in the car, and hearing the tributes. Even sitting here now, over a week later, I’m typing this and listening to his music and I’ve got the tissues ready. Music touches something deeper, and so you feel you know the creator of that music because somehow they seem to know you. Music ties into your history because different songs conjure up specific memories. Before I get into the profound reason I love Prince so much I’m just going to share some of those memories with you.
I remember seeing the When Doves Cry video as a young child. I remember him crawling across the floor and thinking it was very weird, but I liked the song. I remember buying the 1989 Batman soundtrack because I thought I was buying the Danny Elfman score. Surprise! I got a whole Prince soundtrack. A few years later, they would play both the score and some of the Prince songs on the queue for Batman: The Ride at Great Adventure and I always sang along. One of my dance recital themes was “Decades”, so our finale was choreographed to 1999. That was also the year I graduated high school, so 1999 featured prominently at all of our dances and especially prom. I remember fighting with my brother over who got to listen to the Diamonds and Pearls album on our long car rides to Tennessee. We had our own Walkmen, but only one cassette. I remember Prince performing Get Off at the VMAs. I didn’t really have a concept of what sexy was, but I was pretty sure that was it.
My obsession grew in high school, mostly due to the fact that VH1 was having Prince marathons for some reason. I taped the specials and video collections and I’d still watch those tapes if I had a VCR. I watched all of Prince’s movies, especially Purple Rain, with my friends. I went to my first Prince concert with my Mom and my friend JulieAnne, and since it was a school night, I raved about it through my exhaustion the next day in class. I did an art project that revolved around Prince. When my Discman was stolen out of my locker, I was more upset that the thief had also stolen the 3rd disc of Emancipation which I was listening to on the bus that morning. My yearbook quote was from the song Style, “Style is not lusting after someone because they’re cool. Style is loving yourself ’til everyone else does, too.” When I got to college, I think many people were confused. Prince? Really? My response to that was usually a passionate explanation about why everyone is a Prince fan, they just don’t realize it. They always agreed. I was cast in a medley dance piece in my freshman year dance concert, and it was all Prince songs. Better yet, they were the acoustic songs from the 4th disc of Crystal Ball, called The Truth. I had bought that album in a record store in Philly the day I finished my high school summer program at University of the Arts. I was so excited that someone else loved these songs as much as I did. Prince songs were requested at every Alpha Psi formal, they were played on every road trip, and they were on the must play list at my wedding. Our DJ went with Kiss, a very good choice. I sang every word whenever a Prince song came on at The Breakfast Club in Old Bridge and took pictures with the giant poster of him.
The second time I saw Prince it was at Madison Square Garden in 2004. I was in a pretty bad place due a recent break up, so my mom and I decided to go to lift my spirits, and because you know, Prince. He played for three hours, non stop. Somewhere in the middle of singing Purple Rain with the entire crowd, I felt something release in me. I wasn’t mad anymore. “I never meant to cause you any sorrow…” and then I didn’t feel any. That moment felt to me the way saints describe religious ecstasy. This was what mattered, enjoying my life and making memories with my mom. Laughing in the purple rain, indeed!
The other, and most important reason I love Prince so much, is that my obsession also grew in high school because of the guy I was dating. He was also a huge fan and that was one of the reasons we were friends in the first place. When we started dating we would spend a lot of time making out to Prince. I probably lost my virginity to a Prince song, but honestly I don’t remember. It might have been Led Zeppelin, the other band he loved. The reason I don’t remember is that things got bad quickly. He was a very different person as a boyfriend rather than just a friend, at least that’s what I thought. In reality, he was just as manipulative, that way no one would believe me, or any of his ex-girlfriends, when we described his behavior. He was controlling, isolating, and sometimes violent. He always made me feel like it was my fault he was treating me that way. Then he’d apologize, and we’d cry, and he’d beg (force) me to have make up sex because that proved he still loved me. The emotional and sexual abuse went on for months, until I had enough. But he hadn’t. He wanted one last shot at what he considered “his”. Then finally it was over.
In the fall, he used his incredible charisma to make everyone believe I was crazy, and jealous, and a liar. He took so much of me with him, and left behind so much self-doubt and fear. To this day there are emotional issues that I can attribute solely to my relationship with him. The reason I’m writing about all this is that the one thing I did not let him take from me was Prince. I do not associate my love of Prince with my relationship and experience with that guy. It would be easy to, but if I did I couldn’t have continued listening to his music. No, instead Prince was my victory march, my thing he couldn’t take. I wore my passionate heart on my purple sleeves and rose from those ashes. Prince was one of the few things we shared that I was keeping for myself, and with his music a stronger self was created.
I know that I did not know Prince personally, but that’s not going to stop me mourning him. His music saved my life, and so it feels more like losing a friend than losing a celebrity. I am so grateful that I got to see this genius perform live not once, but twice, and yet I’m devastated that I won’t have any more chances. But he will live on. His music will continue to make me smile, and cry, and dance. It will continue to be an essential part of what makes me… me.
Spirits come and spirits go
Some stick around for the after show
Don’t have to say I miss you
Cause I think you already know