I was introduced to music by my aunt. After my dad passed away, I moved to Jackson, MS. Through the process of transitioning, my aunt took my brother and I through a tour of music.
The music that she would call “grown folks” music. My fondest memories are when she would take my brother and Ito school and we would jam all the way to St. Mary’s Catholic School.
I would love when I could impress her friends when I knew all the words to a Roger and Zapp hit, or knew when to come in after the long pause during the song Bernadette by the Four Tops and shout “BERNADETTE!” in my most pitiful scream voice.
So at an early age, I had my picks and chooses of my artist choices. Yes, like every other raging hormonal teenage girl, I liked the Backstreet Boys, N(asterisk) Sync, Usher, etc.
On the flip side, I was taught that their music wasn’t necessarily “original.” They were sampling “The Greats!”
Today, when I heard the news of Prince. I didn’t want to believe it. I just didn’t want to trust TMZ. It took me back to that moment where I was when I learned that Michael Jackson died. I kept keeping it on CNN, because they were still holding onto hope while FOX had already let America know when the funeral would be held.
I thought back to two memories when I saw that CNN had finally released their hope and let this dove fly.
The first was when I was younger. My dad was still alive. He had brought my brother and I to a house of a friend of his. We were told to go in the back and watch TV. My brother and I, who had at this point, become used to this routine, did as we were told. We sat in a small room on one of those velveteen rose printed couches and waited paitently until our next direction was given.
My brother and I were always timid when it came to someone else’s home. We didn’t touch anything unless we were told we could touch it. So, naturally, we didn’t even touch the remote. We left the tv on the channel it was already on.
What I saw next changed my 4 year old eyes. “Raunchy” scenes of this man and woman on the screen. My brother and I sat in awe. A couple of awkward scenes for a 4 year old go by, and my dad comes in to check on us.
“WHAT IS THIS, PURPLE WATER?!”
Us, having no clue.. Just responded timidly with “.. Yes sir.”
“NOT PURPLE WATER, PURPLE DROPS!!”
again.. We would of said “yes sir” to anything to this man.
“HELL.. I MEAN PURPLE RAIN…. WITH PRINCE!!!” ( You know when people are trying to figure out something.. they snap their fingers as if it gets their brain to rattle faster to the answer ..) He was doing that the whole time.
“…. Yes sir…”
“GET IT OFF OF THERE.. WHO SAID Y’ALL COULD WATCH THIS?!… OHH MY GAHDDD THESE KIDS IN HERE WATCHING PURPLE RAIN. JESUS..!”
His outrage confused the hell out of me… at that moment….but intrigued me at the same time. Why was he so up in arms about this PRINCE?!
So we changed the channel like we were told, but as soon as the commotion settled, I kept flipping back to “Purple Drops” and looking behind me to watch for grown ups until it was time to go.
Prince. He must be something if it sent my dad into a whirl. I never forgot his name.
So fast forward to the car rides with my aunt. Music has officially become my coping mechanism. She put in a song that started with just electronic sounds.
“… I was dreaming when I wrote this, forgive me if it goes to fast.” I gave her the look which meant to TURN IT UP, ITS TIME TO JAM!
“Yes baby.. This is Prince right here.” PRINCE!!!!
“…. Tonight we gonna party like its 1999” I turned the music down…
“Auntie Rowena… It’s 1999 right now… I’m confused”
“Just listen..” I WAS HOOOOOOKED. “If you didn’t come to party.. Don’t bother knocking on my door!”
Yasssssss my inner most self in a song. We listened to all of the Prince classics. I eventually knew all the words to all the greatest Prince hits. The man was eclectic, an outsider, a misfit, a genius.
As I got older, the car rides became fewer, but the appreciation for Prince never left me. I would watch his concerts on tv and be so enthralled. Those chaps he would wear and when he would turn around you could just see his ass. I SAW A MAN’S BARE ASS ON TV!
I will never forget this one day…
I had to be a freshman/sophomore in high school. I was with my aunt. iPods had just become all the rage. My aunt though with a cautioned sense for change kept it “old school” with the cassettes. She put in Prince. Thinking it was about to be my chance to show of my lyrical skills, but it was a song I didn’t know. “PartyUp”.
I listened. “You’re gonna have to fight your own damn war, cuz we don’t wanna fight no more.”
It was something about those words. The time we were in, you felt it. It wasn’t to me about partying… It was about wanting peace.
In a world where peace seems to only be had your coffin, words like these hit you.
“How you gonna make me kill somebody I don’t even know?”
Shit. He had done it now.
I remember thinking… Let me download this on iTunes immediately! You know I couldn’t find that song?! I had to search in the depths. It took so long, I thought I had dreamed the song.
Prince brought out my inner most self. My carefree, never wanting to be sad, always wanting the world to change self.
Prince’s nature of not giving a damn about gender stereotypes and putting on those gold platforms and putting on a kick ass show made me feel like I too could have a voice. It doesn’t matter what I look like, dress like, or sound like, just as long as I’m being true and honest to myself. That’s when people will stop just hearing you, but listening to you.
So today, I’m sad. I’m reminded how much music has shaped my inner being. A part of my healing process has died, but he will never be forgotten. The beauty of music is that it can be replayed.
Prince. The Artist Formerly Known as Pricnce. Prince. Prince Nelson.
Thank you for your music, thank you for awakening in me a spirit that I thought was not allowed to exist. Thank you for reminding me to demand for those to not just hear me, but listen to me.
Thank you Dearly beloved for helping me get through this thing called life.