Raw, textured, soulful, unapologetically fun and deeply satisfying. That is how I would describe Prince’s music. And sex, for that matter.
In 1984 I was 22. MTV was in its infancy and, at some point that year, I caught a bad flu that I sweated out at my mother’s, in her bed, the tv dragged into the room to relieve the boredom. A video of a guy in a bathtub was on heavy rotation and the song, Purple Rain, moved me to tears. It can still make me cry with longing at the drop of a hat. I kept MTV switched on all day waiting to hear it again. And again. And now I own most of the music Prince Roger Nelson ever recorded.
As a young white woman with still a limited experience of the world, I can’t say I could identify with Prince’s music. But I connected on a visceral level. Beyond the artistry, the talent, the genius that will be banded about in the next few days of mourning, Prince’s music gave me the tools to understand sensuality and, by extension, sexuality. There was a deeply feminine side to his work, that he honored and exalted – and actively promoted by working with and writing for female musicians, more so than any other contemporary artist I can think of. Would Sinead O’Connor be Sinead O’Connor without “Nothing Compares to You”? Or what kind of Chaka Kahn would she be without “I feel for you”?
Prince was one of those rare musicians who displayed a generosity on stage beyond reverence for live shows. You knew when a Prince concert would start (more or less, mostly late) but couldn’t predict when he would call it a night, reveling in the energy that connected him to the audience. I saw my fair share during the years, with a memorable one compliments of sofagirl, who worked with His Purpleness for a while, and who took me backstage for a meet and greet. Between my awe and his shyness I don’t remember more than two words exchanged (but I do remember the polka dot ensemble. His).
In a time defined by the habit of over sharing, I often think artists are also measured by how much we crave to know about them. I never cared much to know what Prince did with his free time, or who he was dating, or what he consumed for breakfast: like all great artists, his work was enough to fill the craving. And it will be enough now to fill the void. For many generations to come.