I never meant to cause you any sorrow. I never meant to cause you any pain. -Prince, Purple Rain
You did cause sorrow- with your purple passing. This one death hit me very hard, and I am not sure why. After all, I never met Prince, never even went to a Prince concert. We thought we saw him on Lake Street once, but more likely it was someone dressed up like him- his presence was so pervasive in Minneapolis. I hadn’t really been a hard core fan. If you asked me what his most recent album was,I couldn’t tell you. Even though he is gone, I can still listen to his music the same way as I always have.
The beautiful ones
U always seem 2 lose – Prince, Beautiful Ones
Yet, I am sad. Why?
Prince really embodies the 1980s for me, and his passing has felt like a closure of my youth- not that I have been really young for a while. I am steadfastly,flat-footed middle-aged. But it sure feels like a door closing on my youth with his passing.
So what did Prince mean to me?
His wonderful, overt sexuality was attractive to me. Of course, for me, I was 16 years old when Purple Rain come out; full of curiosity about anything sexual, without any understanding of the actuality. Prince tapped into my budding sexuality. Besides that, he sang about love and he is the perfect lover full of intensity and devotion.
On another level, he really embodied the idea of a gender spectrum before it was really even a thing. There were men who dressed like him, but they were mostly gay, not straight. There were men who were overtly sexual , but didn’t look like him.
They say two thousand zero, zero
Oops, out of time – Prince, 1999
He wrote about the end of the world, which every generation since Christ’s has been anticipating as just on the horizon. Of course, my generation grew up under the shadow of not God; but man’s ability to end the world. With the constant tension from USSR, it felt very possible. Yet he took that anxiety and made it into a party anthem.
You may say lots of artists were doing similar things and you would be correct. Boy George and Micheal Jackson overtly and covertly played with gender identity. Sting and Nena wrote songs (much sadder) about nuclear annihilation. Madonna pushed overt sexuality into a powerful woman’s genre. But none of them took these elements and bundled them up into one package- that is what makes Prince so much more complex and multifaceted.
I leave you with a piece I made several years ago, which I have called the “Tiny Angel” quilt. The background was my visual representation of Purple Rain. Now the piece seems even more appropriate:
Goodnight, sweet Prince!