Actress Carrie Fisher (who we lost 8 months later) was quoted as saying "Take your broken heart, make it into art." When you're a writer who's a lover of music, your first impulse in these scenarios is to do just that, but I couldn't. I was steeped in anger, frustration and the doldrums. After repeated attempts to write a memoriam, only the following sentences came naturally:
"I'm tired of this; sick of it, really. I'm completely tapped out on waking up and going about my day, only to be shattered by the sudden news that yet another precious figure of my life and/or childhood is irreversibly gone. Dead. Never to hit the stage or sing a note again. The last time I saw or heard from them etched in my psyche. My memories, no matter how happy or wonderful, to forever end in a sigh. That awful, incessant feeling of shakiness coming over me because I got a cold, hard reminder that I could lose anything or anyone at any given moment. I'm tired of there being a situation where I have to somehow muster words and phrases to encapsulate someone's significance to me--a frankly impossible task in which I'd be scratching the surface at best. So, here I am, exhaustedly sad before you again, to scratch the surface. 'His Purple Majesty, Royal Badness,' Prince Nelson Rogers, needs to be commemorated. I'm not sure where to start, so I guess I'll go with the beginning."
The plan was to tell the story of how I came to love Prince, but reminiscing felt contrived. I thought maybe going "off the cuff" would be a better angle, but my innate reflections were too bitter and did a disservice to my remembrances. I just wasn't ready. I decided I'd try again for his birthday, June 7th. Less than 2 months later? Who was I kidding?! Surely, I could etch something by the first anniversary, right? Needless to say, April 2017 came and went. I felt it would be disrespectful to let the year pass without a tribute, so I told myself that no matter what, I'd rip the band-aid off and take (brief) breaks when I needed to. On Day 1, as I did previously, I stared at a blank Microsoft Word canvas unsure of where to start. After an hour of that, I conceded to taking the leap with my original idea: coming from the beginning.
Prince is one of a handful of artists my musician father has on his "Holy Grail" list. He's such a fan, he even owns Prince's critically-panned film, Under the Cherry Moon on DVD. My mother had "The Purple One" on a list too: "People My Kid isn't Allowed to Listen to." Of course, things fell through the cracks, and mother had her approved selections, like "Diamonds & Pearls," and "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World." My personal reaction to him was mixed. Being a child that rarely disagreed with my parent's judgment calls, I understood my mother's aversion to him in my space: he seemed to have no couth. That tongue was always wagging, those booty-cheeks were always out, and it was like he never had a shirt on, haha. I thought he was kind of gross. When he was at war with the Warner Bros. label and painted "Slave" on his face in the early 90's, I thought he was pulling a melodramatic stunt (despite me not grasping the particulars). At the same time, however, there was a magnetism...an intrigue. His brooding idiosyncrasy and mysteriousness came off to me as jerk-ish, but also as the mark of a genius. They say the line between genius and madness is thin. Also, as I hinted earlier, my father was/is very restrained in his admiration of and compliments to other artists (he refutes this, but I digress, haha). So, I knew Prince must've had a gift to enthrall him. Dad would watch and listen to Prince so intently; air drumming and fluttering his fingers like he was at his piano, I could see him processing Prince's work. Till' this day, he has pure joy on his face when he practices covers, especially for "Pop Life." Rehearsal joy doesn't always occur in the world of event performing. These were indicators that there was more to Prince than what met the eye, and musicianship was one of them. A spiel on that in a bit.