I’m not ready, not for any of it.
The retrospectives and remembrances. The rehashings and new revelations.
It’s been a year, and I’m still not ready to watch the whole world settle into a permanent state of Princelessness.
My roots, of course, are a primary factor. Despite living elsewhere for more than half my life, I am fundamentally Minnesotan. That’s not just a geographical designation but a guiding life philosophy, one that reveres community, humility, and hard work. Prince was one of us. Locals saw a side of him that the world often did not; we were unsurprised when he frequented his favorite record store or dropped in on suburban dinner theater performances.
I spent the years I lived outside Minneapolis reading about his random outings while I ate my cereal; they were documented in the newspaper’s social section, just above the comics (which he didn’t really appreciate). These constant updates and sightings reinforced that this legend really did live less than ten miles away from me and most everyone else in the metro area. Prince was, for all practical purposes, our neighbor. And it’s not like he lived in a fortress — a determined deer could have gotten through the Paisley Park fencing. He could have easily lit out like our other iconic songwriter, but instead, he valued the same things about Minnesota that we do, and by proxy, made us all value ourselves more. We’re a nice people, but for a little while there, we were also cool. His specialness made us special. It hurt a whole lot to lose that.
After Prince’s death, I realized I lived in a strange middle lane of fandom. I owned almost every studio release and had seen him in concert twice; I could quote lyrics all day and provide Top 5 lists in ten different categories; I even had the special limited edition of Crystal Ball that was supposed to only be released to NPG club members (and then appeared at Best Buy months later — that was a rough time in our relationship). But I hadn’t sought out every bootleg, hadn’t gathered with other fans in chat rooms, and had never, despite nearly lifelong desire, stepped inside Paisley Park. As the world mourned, I felt on the outside of the inner circle but also distant from the casual fans who could throw on The Hits and dance off the loss.
This is the part that will sound most ridiculous, but I have to admit it’s true. Part of my separation from the Super Fans was because I’d always believed that Prince and I would cross paths someday, and I wanted to meet him, if not as an equal, then as someone whose appreciation for his work was thoughtful and professional. When I read Andrea Swensson’s first reaction piece, I realized she had a form of the relationship I’d subconsciously expected to materialize — she did not claim Prince as a close friend, but they were friendly. He read her work, respected her, invited her into his world for brief, surreal visits.
I realize it seems silly to think that as a copywriter in Memphis I’d ever have this type of bond with an international superstar, but the thing I knew about Prince is that you really never could know. He was so distant and isolated yet also incongruously accessible. He’d pop up in those chat rooms, invite strangers to party at his home, make 3am phone calls to journalists — hell, he ended up marrying a woman because her mom got backstage with a VHS tape of her dancing. Meeting him seemed like a long-shot, sure, but so were the Twins in the 1987 World Series.
Because of Prince’s strict rules with the media and recalcitrance in interviews, it surprised a lot of people to discover he’d been working on a memoir before his death. It didn’t surprise me, though, because in 2015 I was privvy to a call that went out to the ghostwriting inner circle looking for someone to work with him. I even tried to throw my name in the ring, although I’m not sure how far my toss went. It was, to that point, the closest I’d come to a connection with Prince. When the opportunity passed, I found comfort in knowing I was in a phase of my life where these things might happen more often. Recent forays into the music industry boosted my confidence. Don’t worry, I thought, there’s plenty of time.
And then there wasn’t.
The idea of him being gone still makes my breath catch. His death wasn’t a house fire, it was Chernobyl, laying waste to an unknown future and leaving a toxic aura on everything left behind. I can’t watch his performances without seeing the damage happening to his hips and knees. I can’t read interviews with friends and bandmates without wondering how he ended up so alone. Even the songs are painful — have you listened to “Let’s Go Crazy” recently?
Will make everything go wrong
Pills and thrills and daffodils will kill
Hang tough children
Lord. Don’t even think about the elevator bringing us down.
I know we’ve reached an era in pop culture when communal grief is expected and presumably exaggerated, so I’ve spent the last year highly self-conscious about mourning an artist I never knew. But the truth is I’m still mourning because Prince knew me. His music resonated through every stage of my life — my childhood, my first love, my spiritual wanderings, my reality as a grown woman. His music was my home. I know it’s not gone, but now it will always be moving, slowly, further from reach.
Until April 21, 2016, Prince was a creative companion on my every journey, constantly generating something new that fit wherever I was going. I’ll always have memories, but it will be a lonelier road ahead.
👁 will miss him 4ever.