Sometime in the late 1980s, on a weekend evening when my 10-year-old ass should’ve been in bed, I came downstairs and my dad was sitting in the living room watching Purple Rain. I don’t think my mom was there because if she had been she probably (and rightfully) wouldn’t have let me sit down to watch, but I don’t think I asked permission.
The movie was at the scene where The Kid is playing out his revenge-fantasy from “Darling Nikki” on stage and Apollonia is embarrassed and seething next to Morris Day. I remember this because I was thinking that it was nice seeing a parallel universe where my afro-curly hair was still hip, and also that I had never seen anything so weird in my entire life. I’m pretty sure my dad fast-forwarded through just about the rest of the movie, but I saw the clip again years later when the internet became a thing and I smiled so big.
My dad and his vinyl collection are the reasons I found such love and fulfillment in music, and I have been so grateful looking back at that moment the last couple of days. He led me to Prince. I’ve seen Purple Rain about every year since then, and I can still tell whether I’m going to like someone if I make a joke about purifying oneself in Lake Minnetonka and they get it not because of Dave Chappelle, but because they’ve seen Prince’s marginal acting.
Prince was “getting it” for me. He was weird, deviant, and compensated for his shyness with attitude, all of which describes me far more than I’d ever like to admit. He was from Minneapolis for chrissakes, and he was the biggest pop star I could imagine. If he made it through life without imploding on his teenage self — have you seen an 21-year-old Prince talk to Dick Clark?! or his 1980 appearance in leopard-print bikini bottoms on Midnight Special?! — I had hope that I could make it, too.
I knew I had reached pure Prince awakening when I broke up with a long-time boyfriend with the line “I never meant to cause you any sorrow.” He either didn’t get the reference or didn’t care to respond because, ya know, I was breaking up with him, but I felt better knowing that the breakup was Prince-approved.
Back in 2012, I moved from Pennsylvania to Nevada and drove the northern route up past Chicago and into Wisconsin and Minnesota. I drove all the way up through Minneapolis that day, hours out of my way and further into mosquito territory than was comfortable. I drove there because Prince (and my dad’s vinyl) taught me about the Minneapolis Sound. I wanted to see that place. I couldn’t even get out of the car when I drove by First Ave because I had two dogs with me and two states to cross before the end of the day, but I drove through with my windows down and I listened carefully to try to hear what Prince heard. I’m glad I did.
I’ll miss you, Prince, with your intellect and savoir-faire (sort of). No one in the whole universe will ever compare. Here’s to 57 years of His Royal Badness.