I didn’t understand Prince when I was 7-8 years old when Purple Rain came out. All I knew was most of the talk I heard surrounding Prince was that with all the frilly, purple clothes, blouses, and such, he was too effeminate to be straight. Too effeminate for the real men I’d hear talking about him. Same for the boys talking about it at school and other places.
Didn’t matter how many women around adored him and wanted to be with him and whether or not he got the girl in the movie and whether that was his girl in real life –because the rumors were always there– Prince had to be gay and gay == bad.
Even if you liked the music, which by the way, wasn’t necessarily for us, it was said around me a lot, because it was laden with rock guitar.
Let’s go crazy. Let’s get nuts.
I didn’t know enough not to join in.
I wasn’t quite there in my teenage years, either.
Even if songs like “Adore” and “Diamonds and Pearls” weren’t just fun to sing, they told the stories of my growing infatuations with the girls I’d have feelings for or outright fell in love with.
Love is to weak to define
Just what you mean to me
Even if “Scandalous” and “Insatiable” and often mirrored the puberty-driven thoughts I would have in the later hours.
I got a jones, Martha.
Prince was still supposed to be too weird. And that weirdness, with the dress and the symbol and all of that, was still supposed to be too much. Especially with all the other reasons added in. Especially with a more religious-based homophobia that I’d added..
I still wouldn’t listen to my own conscience about the man.
At some point, once I became interested in my own art; and quite frankly, when I developed enough confidence in myself to not follow the pack and try to fit into what others did or thought, is when I discovered what I think is one of his greatest geniuses.
It wasn’t the fact of his musical virtuosity. Playing 27 instruments on an album says enough, but it wasn’t that.
It wasn’t even the blend of sexuality and sensuality and spirituality in his music. Historians and musical historians will probably write volumes about the introspection and investigation of sexual identity in all the various forms that it manifested in his music and where it crosses with his notions of spirituality and love. Prince is one of the only artists who could merge the vulgar and the sacred to the point where you had to question for yourself where, if anywhere, the line of demarcation was.
But that’s not even, for me, his greatest genius.
As I think back to all of us talking about him, making jokes about him, mocking him and what we thought about his sexuality, there he was, not just making great music, not just beginning to change the world, but he was doing something that none of those people back then, I think can say they were doing — Prince was living life on his own terms.
As folks went back to their crap jobs and their crap coworkers and hated the whole thing, Prince was living his life by his own rules.
Yeah, look at the frilly blouses. Where was Prince’s supervisor or employee handbook that told him he could or couldn’t dress that way? Where was his compliance officer or HR director to ensure his pants were tight or purple enough?
Nowhere. That was just him. No bullshit. Sure, in a sense, he performed off-stage as well as on, but that was how he decided to live. Prince wasn’t being told when he could get off or go on vacation. How to dress. How to keep his hair. None of the same bullshit people had to do to get by. Looking back, that looks like it was always his plan.
Hell, he changed his name to a symbol to be able to continue to do his work the way he wanted to. Up until he died, he was working to get control of his masters.
He even redecorated Carlos Boozer’s house to suit himself and when he was finished renting it, he changed it all back the way it was. Regular people might ask why Prince would spend the money to do something like that, but he had a vision for himself and his life and compromise wasn’t part of it. How many compromises do many of us make before noon on any given weekday?
I wish I could go back and tell my child self to look closely — there was someone who knew who he was, knew his worth and value to the world, and lived that. He didn’t follow others and he didn’t try to fit in. He was who he was and anybody that didn’t like it, too bad. My child self could have used that lesson. Many of us now could use that same lesson.
Do I believe in god? Do I believe in me?
Some people want to die so they can be free
I said life is just a game, we’re all just the same, do you want to play?
Yeah, oh yeah