I was in love with Prince’s music before I was born. My parents placed headphones on my mother’s stomach when she was pregnant with me, blaring Purple Rain into the womb. And through this, I always had an otherworldly connection to his music that’s deeply rooted within me. Before I could see him, before I could ever understand who he was, I was drawn to his songs. That’s why, upon hearing the news about his untimely passing yesterday, I felt like I’d lost part of my family.
I’m never one to take to social media to express grief over the loss of celebrities. While I’ll often address it in conversation, you’ll most likely never see an RIP tweet or a tribute Facebook post from me. But this is different. This is an artist whom I’ve always idolized and celebrated. I’ve never stopped appreciating everything he’s contributed as one of the greatest musicians of our time.
So many of my greatest memories are tied to his songs. Waking up for school every morning to to a cheesy alarm clock parody of “Get Off”. Sitting on the living room floor listening to my parents’ old Prince records on a Saturday night. Getting lost in the B-sides and the funky, rhythmic world his albums created. Lounging in the breezeway at Flagler College doing my best imitation of Prince’s wail on “If I Was Your Girlfriend” with my dear friend, Sparkle. Singing “I Would Die 4 U” at karaoke as recent as the last 6 months. Prince’s music has been the soundtrack to my life.
As I got older, I was able to appreciate him even more for what he represented. He completely ripped masculine archetypes and gender norms to shreds. He had a fearlessly sexual approach to fashion and visuals that’s unrivaled by anyone. He took one of the biggest taboos in the black community and spun it as his platform. Though people often speculated about his sexuality, it never distracted them from his music. And for a little black gay boy, he taught me that it was okay to be me before I ever knew I was different.
Whether it’s the live recording of Prince and Rosie Gaines battling through “Nothing Compares 2 U” or the pop euphoria he created for Sheila E. on “The Glamorous Life” or the late-career subtleties of “Reflection”, his talent never wavered. The social commentary of “Pop Life”, the aching heartbreak of “The Beautiful Ones”, the undeniable, confrontational sexuality of “Sexy M.F.”. He was unapologetically legendary.
While everyone rushes to the iTunes app to purchase whatever they can find to celebrate his legacy, it’s the long-time fans that feel a bond. We’ve always recognized his greatness. We’ve never taken his songs out of rotation. We have always been in love with who he was, who he is, and who he’ll continue to be. Today, I salute him. I celebrate him. I mourn him just like so many others.
Because I know there will never ever be another like Prince Rogers Nelson.