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“Sometimes it Snows in April”

Thursday evening I realized that you couldn’t sing at my wedding, and I didn’t think about whether I could afford it, and it was then, that I realized the finality in the terrible news that you were gone. Prince Rogers Nelson 1958 – 2016, gone way too soon, and well before your time.

I am still not accepting this. Prince was never meant to be this world’s “weekend lover, (he was supposed to) be some kind of friend, it’s such a shame our friendship had to end.” “Times are (definitely) changing,” But I can’t reach for something new.Thursday evening I realized that you couldn’t sing at my wedding, and I didn’t think about whether I could afford it, and it was then, that I realized the finality in the terrible news that you were gone. Prince Rogers Nelson 1958 – 2016, gone way too soon, and well before your time.

Today the feelings are still raw…at times I can listen to his music, and other I have to turn off any Prince song that comes on. It was 1984 when I first remember a Prince song. I know that I had heard his music, but as a music virgin of 8 years, I was in awe of the 45 my mother purchased of “When Doves Cry.” I would spend hours in my parents vast basement listening on their turntable and component set. Sonically amazing, and sexually charged…for a child that had no ideas of what these concepts were. I knew what the feeling of “the butterflies all tied up” by the little girl I from the school I went to a year prior…Genene. The transitions throughout the song, trapped me at that point. It would be years before I finally saw Purple Rain, but the album was the soundtrack to my childhood and adolescence. Listening to Prince in youth would release a myriad of emotions: happiness, sadness, longing…there were many times as an innocent child I would blush listening to his music.

When I started having “thoughts” about the 2nd grader I liked…it was inspired by Prince. Purple by no means is one of my top colors, but when I got into grunge in the early 90’s the first plaid shirt that I purchased was purple. Prince’s music always was a constant, whether it be playing by choice or it being played on the radio, spanning all years of my music development. I remember my childhood friend and I chuckling when radio was unaware, and he said “bullshit” in the song “Housequake.” When I was enthralled with Gun’s & Roses, or when the Golden Era of Hip-Hop was taking place in the late 80’s and early to mid 90’s I was listening to Prince’s catalogue. To listen to him make a guitar cry, his reinvention of his own work at a traditional concert, and definitely at his Microphone and a Piano tour this year. His influence was in meeting girls, the cockiness, and the high opinion of self…or playing THAT song, that was needed at the time.

I remember borrowing the 4 record vinyl of Sign “O” The Times, and playing the entire album while reading each songs lyrics, trying to memorize everything. The juxtaposition of the title track and its record of the state of the world, to “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker.” I had not thought of Prince in the realm of social conscientiousness prior to the release of that album, and it was that try alone, that endeared me to his
music further. The way that he could make a song like “If I Was Your Girlfriend” and you wouldn’t think twice about singing it was an unmatched talent. There was nothing like the crack of that vinyl. I remember being home sick, and convincing my Dad to get himself the Prince “Love Symbol” album that had just released.

“Joy In Repetition”
In 1993 I finally had the chance to see Prince live. I was a senior in high school, and was sick and left school early. In an age that predates “smart phones” and simply everyone having mobile devices, and the advent of the Internet was not upon us, we had to find out information from our local record stores, like Turtles or Tower Records, radio, show bill etc. It escapes me how I found out that Prince was performing a free show in Atlanta on the roof of Turtle’s Rhythm & Views record store. The events of the day aligned…I had stopped by Tower Records to grab Nas’s Illmatic, which had released that day, and having used that to gauge my “sickness” level, I made the journey to see Prince. I was in utter awe watching him perform, standing there in my Catholic school uniform and trench coat. Since then, I have seen him across the country, in clubs at afterparty performances that were more robust than the arena show. This year, I was fortunate to see him again…three times actually. In the stars aligning I was able to share in the experience with my girlfriend in Oakland, and then seeing his last two performances Thursday April 14th in Atlanta at the Fabulous Fox. I cannot explain the emotion he exhibited in his performance, that was eerie, and unlike any Prince performance that I had witnessed in my life. I initially was only going to see the first show, and after that experience I walked to find dinner only to run into a couple who had seen the same show and bought standing room only to return to the second performance. Knowing what my decision was, I texted my girlfriend so that she could reinforce it, and I went to see Prince again that night. Unfortunately, leaving those shows I felt, but would not verbalize, that I “knew” this night would be the last time that I saw Prince perform. Writing this, “Purple Rain” started playing…and the knowing that I will never hear him perform this again stings deeply, and makes me aware of how final this is.

Musically, Prince never fit into a category for me, he was all his own. If I wanted to listen to a love song, I would throw on R&B, or Prince. If I wanted to rock out, I’d choose some metal, or Prince. Prince, like Michael Jackson, was his own category, and what you experienced listening to the music, is beyond the comprehension that my words can express.

“How can you just leave me standing?”
With a text I lost an integral part my childhood and upbringing. I had to pause, arrange my thoughts, contact two that I know would either have more information…or whom I needed to make aware. I was away for a planned weekend of music and fun. It was a rough series of events, and though I appreciate the regard, the constant calls and texts, and Facebook messages really made the moment more painful as I tried to reconcile Prince’s death at 57 when I had just seen him.

Recently my best friend and I had a conversation regarding music and relationships with people, while in New York. We conversed on how music plays into the path of your life, and different songs and artists evoke such emotion, especially when experiences and events are tied to them. I also mentioned how Prince was mine. Meaning that artists and songs now, or during the recent past fit many of my new experiences, but my Prince experiences had long since been created. My girlfriend and I share a deep love for Prince…she may actually exceed me, if possible, however my experiences, and what his music means is associated with life before we met. Songs like “Adore,” and “The Beautiful Ones,” could seamlessly be used to describe her (and her love of Prince would make it fitting), however when I hear those songs, they echo my development and past. My Prince experiences sitting in an empty basement in East Point, while my family was upstairs. It is completing my Prince collection on BMG or Columbia House. It is listening to “👁 H8 U,” when it actually applied at the song was released. Yet, we were able to share in the Prince experience twice, most notably when Prince performed for 3 hours, and presented her with every song she wanted to hear…it was special to see her in her moment with an artist that I feel was mine…and she feels is hers. To compound events that happen when at a Prince experience, an usher asked, “is that your girl, man she is beautiful,” and shook my hand.  I said I’m a lucky man.  He replied: you’re not lucky, you’re blessed.  There’s no such thing as luck, that is something special that God created.” Where else would this have happened outside of music and Prince?

“Take Me With U”
Coachella unfortunately had the shroud of Prince’s passing hovering able it this weekend 2. For what it’s worth, it allowed us to remember that artists that blessed us for those thirty-something odd years. With interpolated Prince tributes, artists allowed us to celebrate the being who had blessed our lives with his work, and dedication. DJ’s
let us sweat and dance out our sorrows, having our own moments, and just remembering Prince Rogers Nelson. And Coachella’s Yuma tent dance party was our savior.

Did I know Prince Rogers Nelson…yes. My life, and upbringing included him as a very integral part, especially being a person who’s love of music is a way of life. Why am I writing this? Because he was an import part of me, and one of the few artists I would pay what I did to see him this year.

What have I learned from this…loss, I just have to be honest. Love, this resonates more with me today…we sometimes see people die, and think that we have to hold those we love closer, but with someone like this who has almost been a part of my life like family, and a part of my socialization, growth, and upbringing, I learned that I can’t wait on the things I want and people I love, life is short, and it’s time for us to move forward together. It didn’t take Prince to learn that, but he reinforced it.

Rest in Peace, sweet Prince.
The manuscript Blue Lines is the fictional coming of age narrative of a young California woman Key Yemaya Walker, and her 2 year growing journey through school, love, and life period piece, written by Kenneth Suffern, Jr., taking place at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill between the years of 1997 – 1998. Loosely based on true events, and experiences during that time, told through the eyes and voice of the main female protagonist, a freshman first attending the school.