Prince wasn’t supposed to leave so soon.
He wasn’t ethereal or otherworldly like Bowie. He was distinctly human. The prevailing joke that got passed around on Twitter when he passed (ahem) was of the petty shade and side-eye he threw at lesser beings in the constellation of celebrities he was surrounded with.
And for me, that’s what made Prince legendary. He was distinctly grounded in earthly joys and pleasures. He was so in-the-moment, so concerned with love and sex and the end of the world that he was unfazed by his mortality. And, along the way, he just so happened to drop a couple dozen of the most earth-shattering, perfect tunes across more than 30 albums and 40 years.
Much of his success and reputation hinged on his self-assuredness. Sure, he wasn’t a deity. But he cane-walked his way into anything so confidently that he may as well have been one. Prince was so suave, so blasé about the world around him. He was a revolutionary: He was unabashedly Black, unabashedly androgynous in a time when it wasn’t (and still isn’t) acceptable to be either. The rules of the human condition didn’t apply to him. And, really, they still don’t.
— Joshua Bote
On the way to the kitchen for a snack, I remember a young version of me peeking from behind the couch as my mom watched a movie. A short, curly-quiffed, purple-clad man hopped off a motorcycle — rocking a heeled boot — with a beautiful woman. Sure, the woman was gorgeous, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of Mr. Heeled Boots. He walked with a swagger and confidence that I couldn’t — and never will — imagine. I circled around the couch, as I often would, to sit with my mom. I asked what it was and she said, “Purple Rain.”
“Who’s that man?”
“Why is his name ‘Prince’?” She promptly shushed me and we finished the movie.
Since that day, Prince has always been on my radar. No, I was never an avid Prince listener, but he was always sort of a hovering purple smoke in the background of my life. He was this strangely untouchable, ethereal being who practically floated around: soft-spoken, ubiquitous, inconceivably talented. Just this inexplainably magical presence — and I was only seeing him through a screen.
Prince floated in and out of my life in repeated, but always distinctive micro-memories, like that first time I watched “Purple Rain.” I’d hear “Kiss” at a grocery store and sing along as I scanned the aisles for my mom’s shopping cart. I’d watch Jack Nicholson’s Joker parade around the streets of Gotham City in “Batman” to the sounds of Prince. He was everywhere.
Maybe I never actively sought out Prince’s music because I didn’t feel worthy of listening to this divinely talented, incredibly cool human being. I yearn for the day I can be as cool as Prince, confidently sauntering around in sparkly jackets and playing piano from an onstage couch — which is something that Prince actually did.
But the truth is, no one can. He was, well, royalty. And let’s just say that since that first viewing of “Purple Rain,” since I asked that question my mom never answered, I now understand why he’s named “Prince.”
— Danielle Gutierrez
My mother’s lullaby canon had two unorthodox songs on constant rotation: the title song from the hit Broadway musical “Cabaret” and “Raspberry Beret” by Prince.
“Are you sure you want me to sing this to you again?” my mom would coo at toddler me, confused, caressing my toddler head in her lap as she combed my hair. “You know that’s not really a lullaby.”
“Yes, mom,” I replied. “I like it!”
And so the bizarre story goes. She would rock me to sleep, singing the uncharacteristically comforting words to her young daughter: “She wore a / Raspberry beret / The kind you find in a second hand store / Raspberry beret / And if it was warm she wouldn’t wear much more.”
I think Prince would be proud to know that my mother put me to bed every night by singing a song about a tryst with a woman in a red hat. And that she would nearly run red lights everytime “When Doves Cry” came on the radio. Or that she exclaimed, “This is my favorite song!” whenever “Kiss” would blast throughout our family car.
When I found out Prince had passed away, I texted my mother. She replied, “Aw. I love his music.”
And I think that sums it up perfectly.
— Rosemarie Alejandrino
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