Prince interacts with his fans during the Purple Rain era. Photo credit: Paul Natkin

Prince’s Greatest Legacy Isn’t His Music: It’s His Fans

Prince’s fan base is known for its loyalty, diversity and devotion, something that’s on full display today, with the reissue of the soundtrack to Purple Rain. What’s not as known is how much the loss of Prince affected the daily lives of these fans.

This week, we asked our Facebook group (created for our recently released Prince biography, The Rise of Prince: 1958–1988), to share how their lives had changed since Prince died. I imagined receiving responses such as: “I started exploring his back catalog”; “I finally went to concerts by Sheila E., The Time and Jesse Johnson”; or a lament such as, “I never miss a concert by my favorite artists anymore.”

As it turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong — or more superficial. What fans shared were profound stories of lives reinvented, acts of charity performed and feats of personal growth so enormous that they would make self-help gurus look unevolved.

I recognized myself in their stories. Like many fans, whether casual, lapsed or hardcore, the past year has found me consumed with Prince. Three weeks after my family moved from Chicago to Chanhassen, Minnesota, Prince died. We lived only a few miles from Paisley Park, but I had arrived too late to see Prince at his legendary compound. (The cry of “but I just got here!” wasn’t my first reaction to his death — although it may have been my second). Despite the fact that I was a wife and mom of two boys who had just moved to a new state, and a full-time director of communications for a company in New York, something inside me kicked in. I knew I had to do something. Then, I got lucky and found Alex Hahn, my co-author and author of Possessed, considered the definitive biography of Prince. Until I met Alex, I never knew I had it in me to work full-time and co-author a book while trying to figure out how things worked in my new state — but somehow, egged on by some force beyond me, and abetted by caffeine, I did.

Today, more than a year and one published book later, I’m equal parts perplexed and awed by my reaction to Prince’s death and the aftermath. I’ve always been a behind-the-scenes person and never wanted to be out front, but I stepped up to take a public role with Prince fan groups and the media. My 14-year-old son didn’t have any problem explaining it. He said to tell people that when Prince died, he said, “Laura, it’s your turn. Get up on stage!”

I’m only one of many who since April 21, 2016 have felt encouraged (or pushed, or shoved) by Prince to achieve their fullest potential. Here, in their own words, are the stories Prince fans whose lives are forever changed.

(Laura Tiebert is the co-author of The Rise of Prince: 1958–1988. The book is available on Amazon or at Electric Fetus in Minneapolis).

Rachel Kayla: From doom and gloom to acts of love for one another

(In the months after Prince died), the 21st of each month would hit me like a ton of bricks. In February, I decided that I couldn’t keep doing that. So, I started a new tradition …. Love 4 One Another (a Prince song) has become my mantra in life. I try to let it guide everything I do because I really do believe more love in the world would probably help with some of these problems. Beginning in February, I started doing random acts of kindness and/or charity on the 21st of each month in Prince’s memory. I feel like he did so much for the world along those lines that we need to work to carry that on. The first month, I bought breakfast for a homeless guy on a street corner and it led to an inspiring conversation with a jobless vet who really wants to contribute to his country. Another month, I donated supplies to a local cat shelter. I’ve gotten a few people in one of my Facebook groups to join me and we share our stories in the group. Now, instead of feeling doom and gloom on the 21st, we feel giddy and excited. We can’t wait to do something for someone else. I think Prince would really dig that.

Christine Trejo-Monson: A healer newly dedicated to helping those struggling with opioids

I have been a nurse for 28 years and two and a half years ago made a career change and am currently almost done studying Traditional Chinese Medicine. Acupuncture could have helped Prince. I wish I could have helped him with his pain, and addiction to opioids.

This is now my calling in life. I feel that Prince is guiding me in some beautiful way and giving me the courage to reach out to others who I would not have had the courage prior to 4/21. I have met key people in more than coincidental ways to help me from artwork and logos, to people who know how to negotiate contracts for leases, all guiding me along my way to opening my own practice within the next year …. This is a way that I want to give back. I hope and pray I can help prevent someone from dying from opioid addiction and help with their suffering.

Beth Regrut: Recovering from grief by putting one foot in front of the other

I can barely say it now, but (after Prince’s death) I didn’t move from my home unless by absolute necessity. My teen and my husband both begged me to get help, but I was hopelessly immobilized. I spent days and nights finding every never-seen video, reading threads, writing, and processing every “what if” imaginable. As an amateur singer and performer, I think I had an immense understanding of the absolute genius … As the days waned and I felt no better, I started to focus not on his music, but on his life’s journey. He had started his career writing songs with lyrics that pushed the edge; his music was so forward thinking and sexually charged ahead of its time that listeners were drawn like a moth to a flame … Future albums included openly a spiritual message. Future concerts removed the sexuality. He seemed, from an outsider’s perspective, to be trying to be a better man — no cussing, better relationships, etc. He evolved, he reinvented, he continued to grow, and personally he rose. Today marked day 68 of my rise; I am up, I am celebrating his life. I started my morning with a four-mile hike dance/walking to my exclusive Prince playlist. After, I stopped, got quiet, and very still, and I prayed. After all, this is how he’d want us to live.

Deena Gilbert Dyer: Learning to treasure oneself above all else

Prince was a beacon of hope and light to me growing up. I am an only child with a single mom, and I had health issues. Kids at school made fun of me, started rumors about me, and I felt very alone and isolated. Listening to Prince felt like I had a friend, a similar soul, and a constant companion. Through nine surgeries, many, many procedures, times of extreme pain or sickness, his words would uplift, give me strength, help the pain, make me smile, and help me heal. Prince became a part of me, just as much as my eye color, my freckles or my breathing. Since the time I was 11, he was there, showing me I was never alone, showing me that God is always the way, and eventually showing me that being me is the best, most unique and phenomenal part of life.

Since Prince has been gone, I have gotten stronger in trying to be authentic to me, and to stop trying to please so many at my expense. I have found comfort in complete strangers, who somehow feel like they were in my story all along …. I still feel disbelief that he is gone, and sadness for all the great things he could’ve accomplished, and the generations that might not get how special he was. Prince has once again taught me something; everyone is human, we are all flawed, but we should celebrate who we are fully, because `life is just a party and parties weren’t meant to last.’”

Lisa Mahon Wechtenhiser: An intuitive who’s guiding others to reach their fullest potential

On the day Prince left, he came and talked with me. I sent him away because I just could not deal with it. A year later, I channel his energy for others to help them step into their fullest potential … What I’ve learned by talking to so many people over the past year is that most (if not all) of them have connected with him from the other side in one way or another. So many are truly guided by his presence even if it’s just to feel comforted … People who didn’t pay much attention while he was here … are often overcome with emotion and still, a year later, aren’t sure what’s going on. What he’s shared with me is he’s had soul agreements … with these people. Some, like me, are meant to take his work out in a bigger way, and some are meant to just use it for their own personal growth. But he’s around in a big way.

Tami Neubauer Foster: A Paisley Park tour guide working to honor Prince’s life

This past April, I was lucky enough to get a job at Paisley Park as a tour guide. I needed a part-time gig to help replace child support that I wasn’t getting for my daughter any more. I swear it happened so perfectly that Prince had a hand in it. One day, during my training, I was feeling very overwhelmed and doubting myself, and not sure I would be able to memorize the huge script for the tours. I wandered into the “Sign O’ The Times” room at Paisley Park … Immediately after walking in there, I felt Prince in there with me. I started crying. I felt him saying to me, “You can do this! And you can do it well!” I felt his encouragement and belief in me, even if I didn’t feel it myself. The next day I went back and nailed it. I did it perfectly. I started leading tours alone the next day.

I try my best to honor his name and his legacy every day that I work at Paisley Park … He deserves only the best, because that’s what he always gave to all of us. I also learned that I can do more than I think I can. I just have to set my mind to it — not be intimidated. Thank you, Prince!