This was first written April 22, 2016, the day after Prince died.
I first heard Prince from my neighbor and older sister in spirit Alicia. I would have been 6, 8, something like that. I think I remember 1999 coming out. Her dad, the late David Starr, had more than a thousand records, maybe more like two.
We made a project once to count them all, but I can’t remember the count, just the hot, gabled third floor, the records flipping as we worked all around the room. I always thought it was cool that she had the same last name as one of Prince’s alter egos, Jamie Starr, who he used in production credits and in a song or two.
I remember sitting in front of the record player with the liner notes all opened up in front of us, listening. He did such great liner notes: the Prince spelling and numbers, the pull-out pin-up from Dirty Mind, the Nagel-esque face from Purple Rain. All thanks 2 U and God.
Purple Rain came out when I was 10. I made Dad take me. We went downtown, to the now defunct Skyway Theater, in a Minneapolis that was as seedy as the one in the film. There was a strip club next door, and the buses rarely ran on a Sunday.
I’m feeling defensive suddenly of my father, because although Purple Rain is maybe a bit much for 10, it was absolutely defining for me. I’ve told the story of his taking me a hundred times, because I loved every single moment. I was in the same Minneapolis as Prince, with my dad, and every single frame of Prince’s musical performances are a revelation. A Revolution.
At 14, up at my grandparents’ with friends and cousins, listening over and over to the Batman soundtrack.
Quoting lines from the insane Under the Cherry Moon because all that self-indulgent weirdness was perfect, right up to the tragic end.
All of us stumbling out of Graffiti Bridge wondering the fuck had happened.
Scrounging desperately when he released and then recalled The Black Album. Listening intently to the bootleg, and understanding why he did it: all that darkness and pain. He then transmuted that all into LoveSexy, which I think is one of his most deeply spiritual works. He always worked in dichotomy: white/black, man/woman, straight/gay. LoveSexy was his uplift after the darkness of The Black Album. It’s his word for the power of God’s love.
Going to a concert in high school, disappointing and nosebleed, still jazzed to be anywhere near him.
Going to Paisley Park in the vain attempt of seeing him. Dancing.
Listening to the bootleg The Chocolate Album (I think) which was mostly released as Crystal Ball and Sign O’ The Times. There’s a song on that album called Place in Heaven, which I can’t find, which surely exists on a tape somewhere, recorded painstakingly from the vinyl. She wants a place in Heaven/ Baby U’re already there. I can hear the piano, his high, clear voice, like he is alone and speaking to me.
Purple Rain reminds me of my son Galileo’s birth, that long, exsanguinating ending playing over and over.
That one time.
That one time.
I sobbed on the street today walking through my neighborhood, listening to my neighbors out on back porches and front porches with Prince playing everywhere.
My son sang me Starfish and Coffee.
Prince was the soundtrack of my childhood and he’s gone.
He’s gone, you guys, and I am so, so sad.