Prince was one of the first artists to turn my musical world upside down. 14-year-old me found “1999” and “Controversy” on my parents’ CD shelves – I knew my mom loved his music, and owned a ton of his records (she used to DJ, too), but I’d never really listened for myself. After sneaking those two CDs upstairs to my room (I was pretty sure that as an eighth-grader, titles like “Do Me, Baby” and “Jack U Off” might not be “appropriate” in the eyes of my parents), I was completely enraptured. Who was this sexy, tiny, androgynous man who played all his own instruments, had a vocal range I could (and will) never dream of, and, perhaps most interestingly, sang of sexuality, faith, and politics in almost equal measure?
I remember sharing this exciting discovery with one of my closest friends – she, in turn, hosted a “Purple Rain” viewing slumber party for her 14th birthday (you can see why she is one of my closest friends). By the end of high school, I somehow convinced many of my choir buddies to sing an a cappella version of “When Doves Cry” at our spring concert. We gave a performance that Prince would be proud of, I think (if he send us a cease and desist letter, as is/was his tendency).
Since then, Prince has always remained on my radar – how can he not be? – but those teenage years of Prince listening had an especially large impact on me as both musician and human being. He never seemed to be quite like the rest of us mortals, and I don’t think he was – sometimes I like to think of him as my personal 20th century Mozart.
Purple Rain has been stuck in my head since I first heard the news of his passing, and something tells me it’s not leaving anytime soon.