My next blog was going to be about the rough patches in life, how they are necessary and how they shape us for our own personal victories but something else occurred and shook my world as an artist. The untimely death of Prince. So, I’m going to reserve the planned blog for another time and go where my heart is leading me.
Prince has been a huge part of my life, maybe even a bit more than Michael Jackson, as Prince’s musical genius has been with me throughout my artistic development. It is more apparent to me in his death than I had allowed myself to see. Isn’t it sad how we often realize people’s significance when they are gone? Despite that sad fact, I often, through my adult career, have covered his songs. If not in shows, than at home while working on vocal exploration. I owe the love of this man and his music to my cousin, Gena. My cousin was the ultimate Prince fan. So much so, that she owned more than one Purple Rain album. One that had been played so much that it skipped and another that was working. WE were not allowed to touch either one. It was a running joke in the family to run for the LPs, even the covers alone, in an attempt to touch them in front of her and then run for our lives as she chased us out of retaliation. She didn’t play with her Prince. She played that album religiously, and being the captain of her high school dance team, she would often do routines from the film in the living room or her troupe would dance on the porch and I would join in as we sang and danced our brains out! Often, when she was gone, I would sneak to the secret hiding places where she kept the albums and just stare in awe at the artwork, the colors, his expression and feel the power of holding it in my hand. I was no more than 6 or 7 so I was not really supposed to watch the movie, as I was too young to see the sexual gyrations and innuendo in the film, but I found my way around that as well. LOL
Those memories are so deeply etched in my mind that even now, at 33, I can be transported back to that living room with my cousin and those LPs. There were many other musical memories, of course, but none that stand out like those of Prince. I remember when I was old enough to purchase my own copy of Purple Rain on VHS, how I felt so empowered and as if I had somehow defied the Gods in being able to have my own copy. I still have that VHS tape, which I played last night in homage to one of my musical heroes.
It was not until I was 13 years old, that I started writing songs of my own. Prince has greatly influenced my ability to craft a song or stories put to music. His ability to create poetic and symbolic visuals of pain, love or sacrifice shaped my writing greatly. I have yet to hear any song that can be played in the club while still having religious undertones, other than Prince’s “I Would Die For You.” Do you know who rare that is?! Even my ability to be very straight forward in my sexuality lyrically were due to his influence. He had no boundaries, as his music was a reflection of the full human experience. Sex, love, joy, pain, fear, God, peace. He mirrored all these things. When I went through times of writers’ block or depletion of faith in myself, I would go back and explore his music. I would relish in the beauty of his creativity, individuality and how he touched not only myself but the world. I always thought to myself, “God, I would love to write songs like that or meet him one day”. Instead of rocking out with him on stage, I would rock out on stage alone covering “I Would Die For You”, “Purple Rain”, “The Beautiful Ones”, “I Wanna Be Your Lover ” and “How Come You Don’t Call Me?”. In 2014, I even found myself doing “I Wanna Be Your Lover” one night, unbeknownst to me, in front of Sheila E. She came up to me shortly after and said, “That was the best cover of that song I’ve heard yet and I heard many versions. Prince would be very proud.” I felt overcome with joy, accomplishment and pride that I had done justice to the works of one of my mentors; as if it was him giving me his approval.
I think the thing that I love most about him is that he is not merely being mourned for his music but everyone who knew him has nothing but good things to say about him. Think about that. How often does that happen? Damn near never! Typically, when someone of his status passes, if you are not hearing about their turbulent past with some kind of substance abuse, addiction, depression or scandal, you’re hearing about their music. Not with Prince. Person after person is coming out and paying homage to who he really was as a person: kind, there when you need him, an amazing cook, a regular jokester, a secret philanthropist and humanitarian and most importantly, someone who truly believed in artist’s rights and sharing his gifts. I found out from a very lucky gal pal of mine, who was personally invited, about his in home jam session for FREE on random late nights at his LA compound. He also would take to the streets of LA and go to random jam sessions with guitar in hand to listen and if he was moved, he would get up and play. And we can not forget how he put up 25 shows, in Inglewood, a part of LA were most can not afford to attend live shows, in a venue that was going to be destroyed. Most tickets were just $25.00. He did not believe that his fans should go into debt just to see him. He sold out nearly every night, some people going to every show. I was lucky enough to be one of them. The night I attended, I was doubly lucky, as Chaka Khan, my other musical idol opened that night. I lost my shit; and my voice from screaming. After Prince gave the show of a lifetime, I mean hitting every hit song for at least an hour and a half, some of us stayed, chanting for an encore. He not only came back, but did another 45 min. set!!! It was incredible and a night I will never forget. I was so tickled at how sexy he was. Even at 5’2″ and with 7 inch light up platform boots on, he could still get it! His knowledge of self, confidence and peace in being unique, made any common style faux pas appealing and sexy. He was one of a kind.
Watching the news and seeing all these people who had the blessing of knowing him, made me want to be better. Made me want to continue to strive to be a good person, made me want my character to proceed my legacy, made me want to share with those close to me, give back to communities in need, not be afraid to stand up for something and never bite my tongue to sound politically correct or any way other than what the fuck I feel (not that I struggle with this at all. LOL). And more importantly, it makes me want to share my gifts with the world, allowing music to flow through me and submitting when creativity overcomes me as it pleases.
When I was having a rough time overcoming fear recently, I spoke with a very accomplished friend, who happens to be in the business, and he said to me, ” It’s a crime for you not to share your gifts with the world. Do you know how many times I watch the video of you singing in my house?! The world must see that, otherwise you are doing God a disservice.” At the time, I heard him when he said it but I did not absorb the full meaning. I am not nor have I ever been an artist that must sing everywhere. I do not need a crowd’s applause and praise to validate myself or my gifts, or to make me feel some kind of way. I firmly believe in just supporting other artists or simply spectating at times. However, there is something that speaks to my soul when someone emails me and says that a song I wrote got them through whatever an that was the mission of this great man. In the aftermath of this lost, I will ask myself more often, when pondering such things,
“What Would Prince Do?”