(written over a few hours of denying, raging, listening, singing along with, dancing, crying, and mostly just feeling – Prince)
what do you mean Prince is gone?
Prince taught me how to be who i am still becoming.
he was every. single. thing.
Prince taught me to stretch between genders, and then beyond the binary of gender, in how i love and understand myself, in how i understand my desire, my holiness.
to embody raunch and devotion in equal measure.
to be unapologetically sexy, a small man or big woman, to induce desire and discomfort, taking the center of everyone’s attention with transparent seductions in a society that demonizes nature and the sensual world.
to be political and humane with my curiosity and my resources. to seek guidance and teachers and collaborators all around me.
to have diva-high standards, and to offer my opinion with a pursed lip and raised brow. to be shady as an art form.
to wear more eyeliner.
to love god and pleasure in the same breath, with the same song, with the same dance. to believe different things over time, but always claim myself as a child of the divine.
to be generous with time and support for those in my field who please me, to mentor and partner with and uplift talent.
to take the lower harmony sometimes, even if you can hit the upper range.
that it’s ok, in fact it’s my right, to be vulnerable and controversial and personal in the public realm and still have a private life.
to grace the world with the exquisite gift of a perfect falsetto whenever the moment calls for it.
and mostly to be different, to offer the world a joyful rejection of the normal, the appropriate, the mediocre.
what do you mean Prince is gone at 57?
and now what’s rushing to my mind are the memories.
oh so much time spent feeling private and shared desire listening to his music alone, while making love, while falling in love. he is a lover to me, to so many of us.
how i dreamt of Prince, how he awakened me, taught me new ways to move.
that road trip with my family where the song ‘head’ came on and i blushed in the dark as the guitar expressed the right way to do things, while my dad, who “doesn’t really hear lyrics”, just effusively praised the funk.
with my college roommate Adriana, turning our dorm room into ‘erotic city’.
the first, and best, michael vs prince party, celebrating my homey Evans.
seeing Prince in his first concert at madison square garden after the label fuckery, on the musicology tour, with my besties Sofia and Janine. how i fell out multiple times during both the old songs and the new ones, touched so intimately by his presence, up in the nosebleed section.
purple rain live.
then hearing that he had heard my little freedom song, and liked it. wanting to crawl to another dimension where i could even handle that.
and actually every party – every single party of any worth at all – that i have ever been to.
every friendship i take seriously has had a Prince component.
in my entire life.
no. no no…too many things are coming, too many aspects of my life.
with all due respect to death, fuck this.
i found out about his impossible passing just before i had to facilitate the closing plenary of the just giving conference. unbeknownst to me one of the conference co-chairs, samantha harvey, found a quote from Prince, and we closed with his words:
“When you don’t talk down to your audience, then they can grow with you. I give them a lot of credit to be able to hang with me this long, because I’ve gone through a lot of changes, but they’ve allowed me to grow, and thus we can tackle some serious subjects and try to just be better human beings, all of us.”
finally, i love so much of his songbook. ‘adore’ is a perfect best song ever. but so is ‘the beautiful ones’. and so is ‘purple rain’. and ‘call my name’, ‘diamonds and pearls’. ‘nothing compares to you.’ no – there are actually too many to even start down this path. let me stop.
but i was recently moved by the sci-fi imaginings and poetics of Art Official Age. i offer up the lyrics to ‘Way Back Home’, which i am playing on repeat:
I never wanted a typical life
Scripted role, huh a trophy wife
All I ever wanted, to be left alone
See my bed’s made up at night
‘Cause in my dreams I roam
Just trying to find, trying to find
My way back, back home
So many reasons why
There’s so many reasons why
I don’t belong here
But now that I am I
Without fear I am
Gonna conquer with no fear
Until I find my way back home
Most people in this world are born dead
But I was born alive
(I was born with this dream)
With a dream outside my head
That I could find my way back home
My, my, way way back home
Is this the way?
Power to the ones who could raise a child like me
The path was set
But if you look the truth will set us free
I’ve heard about those happy endings
But it’s still a mystery
Lemme tell you about me
I’m happiest when I can see
My way back home
Can you see
My way back, my way back home