The Sky Was All Purple

purple_deannewilliamson

The loss of music icon Prince has been shocking and upsetting to music lovers everywhere. I’m no exception. It’s that “you don’t know whatcha got ’til it’s gone” feeling. Prince has always been there and it seemed as if he always would be. The loss is monumental and I can’t do it justice, but something has moved me to write about it.

I think it’s because I can’t shake this melancholy feeling. I’m not usually one of those people who feels personally affected by the passing of a celebrity. This one however, has a hit a very personal nerve for me. Maybe it’s because so many of my greatest memories have been tied up with Prince music. Or maybe it’s because I always think of his concert as the best I’ve ever seen. Whatever the reason, I’m sure you feel it too. The Purple One was magic. He affected us all.

I was part of the MTV generation. The first tweens to watch “All music, All the time” and Prince was a huge part of that. Not only were we mesmerized with the music, we were mesmerized by his whole persona: all bedroom eyes and androgynous sex appeal.

My most vivid memory of him was being on a road trip with my parents and “When Doves Cry” was in constant rotation on the radio that summer. The photo above is from that time and I remember feeling like his music made me feel something new. The lyrics wreaked havoc on my pre-teen hormones (“the sweat of your body covers me”) and his style made me wanna put on eyeliner and wear ruffles (hence the outfit and makeup above).

The funny thing is, that feeling he inspires has really never gone away. Even 30 (gulp) years later, I still feel that excitement about him. As you can imagine, when you’re a Prince fan and you move to Minneapolis, the thought of him is front of mind. Every time I pass the music venue First Avenue downtown, I remember the movie Purple Rain. And every time I say “Lake Minnetonka”, I feel the inexplicable need to purify myself in the waters.

A few months after I moved here, a friend of a friend invited me to Paisley Park for one of Prince’s famed all night dance parties. Being sort of a fuddy-duddy these days, the idea of going somewhere at midnight did not at first appeal, but the excitement of potentially seeing Prince outweighed every argument I had.

It was surreal walking into the Paisley Park studios. The motorcycle from Purple Rain sits in the lobby and then you enter into one of two sound stages. On the first stage, a DJ was spinning Prince’s new album and on the second stage, a wildly infectious funk band was playing dance music while the movie “Car Wash” was being projected on the wall.

There was a feeling in the room. Anticipation and excitement, the feeling that the Purple One might step onto the stage at any moment. No one wanted to leave for fear that the minute you walked out, you would miss him. We stayed until 3 am.

Ultimately he never showed up that night but I feel like that experience was a good metaphor for Prince himself. His presence was there. You could feel him. He almost didn’t even need to show up. He was part of the air. Mystical fireworks and magic.

That’s what great art does. It makes you feel something. It becomes a part of you. So much so that when it’s gone you feel its loss deeply.

There will never be another Prince. I for one, feel pretty lucky to have felt his magic.

 

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