was released, I was born "Alexa" - a nod to the Mountains single B-Side. The first words I ever sang were the "Yeah yeah yeah"s of Alphabet St, and then later "[back] and white, red and [geen]" from Partyman.
My uncle David took me to see Graffiti Bridge in the theater when it came out - a fun and rare outing just the two of us. He was the first Prince fan in the family and had hipped my mom to it in the previous decade.
I used to fall asleep to the live performance footage from the Sign O' the Times tour and a mix tape of Prince music videos, both on VHS. The Cross was the first song I ever played on guitar and sang at the same time. The only fan letter I've ever written was addressed to an unpronounceable symbol.
My befuddled kindergarten teacher wasn't sure whether to not to issue me dress code violations when I insisted on repeatedly wearing the shirt my mother bought me on the Lovesexy tour. My first grade teacher showed considerable concern while reviewing a drawing I made - a scene from my favorite movie - that, however poorly, depicted a white-clad Prince mid-fall as a result of a gunshot wound in his back. After my initial viewing of this scene from "Under the Cherry Moon," my uncle, aunt, and mom all assured a distraught me that he had not died, only that the high heel of his boot had broken and the film merely ended because of his unfortunate fall. I believed them for a while.
I was ostracized from the beginning by my peers - for singing all the time, for always talking about Prince - at least until 1994 when, for a brief period, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World was on the radio and other 8-year-olds at least knew who he was. (Aside from what the radio DJs played and the occasional Sting or Janet Jackson record, my musical vocabulary was truly limited to Prince, old musicals, and music from Disney films until I was a preteen.) I was kind of fine being a loner as a child - I preferred to read books inside at recess (or on the bus, or at the bus stop, while walking, or in my room while my mom and brother played their Sega marathons), but when my poor teachers insisted I go outside, I'd retreat to the furthest empty baseball diamond on the school lot and sing songs to myself (sometimes "writing" little songs that sounded a lot like Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad? or When You Were Mine) and I'd yearn and wish and pray (like my Disney princesses) that someday soon someone would come into my life who really understood me.
I cried on my knees, nearly bursting with jealousy watching Beyoncé perform with him at the Grammy's in 2004, and it was somewhere around then that I finally admitted to myself I did really want to be a pop musician - casting off my music theatre aspirations or the slightly more feasible dream of pursuing a career in classical music. I had two chances to see him, but they were both while I was living with my Dad who, already bewildered and embarrassed about my Prince obsession, staunchly refused any outings with even the most platonic of male acquaintances, so I wasn't allowed to go at either invitation.
It wasn't until I was much older that I started to find other Prince fans, but even then it was a distant version of how I loved him. They being mostly GenX-or-just-post-GenX-ers whose adolescences, comings of age, and sexual awakenings were set to a Prince soundtrack.
No - for me, there was never a world without him. I never was "changed" because of something I heard from him - maybe just found new things or had more appreciation for production or writing aspects as my ear and skill developed with age and my chosen field of study. I've spent countless hours begging party-hosts to throw on his tracks, have sat through hundreds of horror stories from his detractors with clenched teeth, spent hours defending him to people who wouldn't understand my fervent ardor. However, I would say most of my closest relationships have been forged because of a mutual respect for my life-long musical hero.
This past week has been bittersweet for me - on one hand I am incredibly grateful to see so much love, admiration, and respect for my idol, but on the other hand, I'm a little confused where this love was before. I've been trying to understand my hostility, but I guess it's just my displacement - I've never quite been accepted by the generation that grew up alongside him, and never quite aligned with the older millennials who realized how amazing he was once they had become musicians or had developed their musical palates.
Not to bring this up for pity or to dwell on it like a big baby, but my childhood and teenage years weren't the easiest - there was a lot of uncertainty, abuse, and isolation. But one thing was always constant - Prince. He would be consistent: always putting out records, always being a badass, always inspiring me even when I couldn't stand letting anything else in - inspire me to continue on, to have fun, to reflect, to party, to cry, to love, to have the self-respect to not give a fuck if people didn't dig what I was about or what I was into, to always look up - appreciate the earthly delights all while recognizing the divine within each of us and the Universe without. I've kidded that he's always been my fairy-godfather, the unseen guardian angel or metaphorical parent guiding me along my way, bringing me to my ultimate purpose and nurturing my "god-given" gifts. Fairy-Godfather, yes, but he and his music were a bit like a security blanket for me as well - a source of consistent support and shelter in what I often found to be an unkind world.
Prince was my "birds and bees" talk - because of him, I was innately tolerant and loving of all types of people regardless of the color of their skin, how they dressed, or who they wanted to love. Because of Prince I knew I didn't have to be ashamed of my sexual desires, that having them didn't make me a "sinner," and he taught me that in intimate sexual relationships it is important to be independent and have self-respect while still making oneself emotionally vulnerable - that sex was often a result of love and devotion, that it was a natural part of living, and that it could be wonderful and spiritually enlightening.
It confused those around me how much I loved Prince while I was a teenager dressed in purple bondage pants and leopard print creepers, but his crazy outfits and the "be who you want and don't cower to oppressors" message I'd absorbed from him was undeniably punk rock to me. In his own fabulous freaky way he was a minister - preaching peace and love, tolerance and self-acceptance.
To try to sum up all this person meant to me would be impossible. I will never mourn someone I've never met like this ever again. I feel like I've lost someone incredibly close to me. As hyperbolic as it might sound, I simply would not be ME without him. From my name, to my comfort, to my ear, to my spirituality... the list goes on and on. I feel I was born to be a disciple of all things Purple.
I know he likely greeted death with an open heart and a calm spirit - to me he seemed spiritually evolved and I sense he was ready for the next adventure, despite leaving behind "all the fools" who loved him so.
I am devastated I will now never get the chance to meet my ultimate sensei, but he'll be with me always, just around the corner...
The track included is just me running through "Sometimes It Snows in April" while I was practicing. It is by no means a great tribute, just a little something to go with this post.