Hi! It’s Lynne. We haven’t written in a bit because Leslie has been busy at work, and I have been working on getting my theater company off of the ground, and we haven’t been able to talk to you guys as much. But we have had lots to talk to you about, so hi! And the first thing I had to talk about was Prince.
This is not an exhaustive report on everything that the music of Mr. Nelson has meant to me over the past 30-some years, because I haven’t figured out the extent of that yet. Because ever since his death last week, I have had his songs and his lyrics running through my head and my heart, and I wish that I had time to take all of them and write a really definitive thing about it, but it’s fluid, what I am feeling. On Thursday, when my Facebook timeline was covered in purple, A friend asked if I was okay, since she knew that I loved Prince. And I did. And what was funny, though, is that I wasn’t a Superfan the way some of my friends are: I had never seen him live (although I wanted to), and I didn’t have the Black Album, and I didn’t know all of the B-Sides. And I have at least 4 friends who I checked in on because of their massive love of the man because I knew that they were crushed. And I myself wanted to cancel all of my plans Thursday night and just sit and listen to his music and read what people who loved him were saying, but I could not. And in the past few days, I have had remembrance upon memory of the little and big places that his music has filled up in my life. Actually, the day before Prince passed away, my husband corrected me on something, and I said “I stand corrected.”, and I promptly launched into “U Got the Look”, and I promised myself that I would look that song up as soon as I got a chance. But the memories go further back. These aren’t all of them.
Hanging out with my older cool cousin when we were like 10 as she freaked out to “Controversy”.
At 13, seeing the video to “When Doves Cry” with him sitting in that bathtub, and me feeling all kinds of ways, like sexy things, when I don’t think I had ever really used that word before, except for singing along with Rod Stewart when I didn’t know what they meant. Prince made me feel what that meant, even if I didn’t have words for it.
Jamming in Cousin Paige’s room to “Let’s Go Crazy”and doing guitar solos while jumping off of her bed.
My late grandmother Streeter seeing the “Raspberry Beret” video and asking us if that was a boy or a girl. “He’s a boy, Grandma”, we said. “Well, he looks like a girl.”, she said. “Well, he’s like SUCH a man.”, is what I would have said but I also valued my life and you didn’t say things like that to my grandmother.
Seeing the video to “The Most Beautiful Girl in The World”, and feeling really SEEN. I was living in Miami working in theater, and I looked nothing like the tall, thin model types on South Beach, and oh my gosh I just remembered that we waited in front of Prince’s club on South Beach once and didn’t get in right away, and the bodyguard asked us to wait and that he would let us in later, but we left. But anyway, in the video I was talking about, there were all different kinds of women in different parts of life, as moms, and as career women, and they sat down to see pieces of their lives, and how all of it made them beautiful. I was struck that Marva Collins, an amazing educator and voice for children from Chicago was in it, because The Artist was saying that minds and voices were beautiful too. And I needed to hear that about myself.
Having a friend in the 90s, who is truly the biggest Prince fan that I know, almost like teach a master class on him in every conversation, and explain the religious things behind the music (how had I not seen it all?), and who also, respectfully, differentiated the music that Mr. Nelson made under the name “Prince”, and that which was made under that symbol, as The Artist Formerly Known As Prince, because there was a difference in expression.
And this leads me to probably the thing that stands out to me the most about Prince. As I said, this was in the period where he wasn’t using the name “Prince”, because he was standing against his record label, and the fact that they owned the masters to his recordings and the trademarks to his name. So he stopped using that name, and kept on making music. And it became somewhat of a joke to some people, where they shook their heads like “Oh, he’s crazy”, or more politely “He’s eccentric”, but there was definitely out there this idea, depending on who you talked to, that he was being spoiled, and weird, and that none of it was a big deal. And I have to admit that I didn’t really understand it all either, until I saw him being interviewed by Larry King in December of 1999, and I can tell you exactly where I was. I was on tour in a play for kids and we were in Mississauga, Ontario, and it was a Friday night (I guess that makes it alright), and I sat in my hotel room and watched. I think either my friend Jeff watched it with me, or we called each other during it. But here is what I remember: The Artist spoke clearly on why he was doing what he was doing, and he said, and I am quoting this wrong, but that basically he didn’t own “Purple Rain”, or any of it, and that his label did, and that they were able to use it to do whatever they liked with it, and he was fighting to get that power back over his own artistic output. And a light went off in my heart, and I have referenced that interview over the years. And yes it is significant that it was the last few days of 1999, and that of course, The Artist had talked about that, but that it was a time for new beginnings. But going back to the interview, the things that I took away the most were this:
1. We should all have the right to our own work, and to be able to represent ourselves the way that we want to. Your voice, your words, your art, your dance, your thoughts all belong to you, and you should share it, but you should be able to say how that happens.
2. You should stand up for that right, even if other people call you crazy, either because they don’t understand, or because they benefit from other people thinking that you are crazy, so they get to misrepresent you and reap your rewards. Dance and make music and awesomeness in the face of people thinking that you are crazy. Because when you persist, who looks crazy now?
And The Artist won his fight, and reclaimed his name, and he never lost a step in still producing things that were true to who he was. And he had a big heart, and was a philanthropist, and helped countless people that he never told people about, and he was a man of faith who loved and serves the way he thought his God wanted him to, and he wore a doo-rag on his head as he sang in the rain in the Super Bowl because he was not trying to get his hair messed up, and he slayed everybody at the Super Bowl party I was at, and even the non-fans had their jaws drop, and they had to recognize. Re. Cog. Nize.
Because greatness and humility and humor and intelligence and sexy and kindness and faith don’t often come in the same package. But they did in Prince Rogers Nelson. And I need to stop writing because now I am thinking of more things to say and I need to end this. So I will stop typing, and turn on his music, and dance. Because we still have that.