The night before my son was born, I couldn’t sleep; I was terrified of having a planned C-section and becoming a mom for the first time. I climbed out of bed, waddled into my lounge, and began watching Purple Rain. Relief washed over me. I used to always tell myself, “I’ll always have Prince.”
I’d just dropped my son off at cricket practice when I got a text from a friend asking if I’d heard the news. I started openly sobbing and raced home to have the unthinkable confirmed. Kind friends texted and called, knowing how devastated I would be.
An hour later, at my local bar, the owner looked at me like I had two heads and unsympathetically muttered, “I don’t get it — how people are affected by celebrities.”
But you see, he wasn’t just a celebrity to me: he was my hero; his music, the soundtrack to my entire life.
Rewind back to 1984 when I first heard the opening of “Let’s Go Crazy,” that was me — hooked. Because true hero worship begins in those teen years, doesn’t it? You pick your band, your singer, your “team,” and that’s it. Hooked for life. Unshakable loyalty to the bitter end. Those tortured years filled with endless growing pains are made marginally easier simply by playing their music — the stylus getting stuck in a groove, the vinyl warping with over-use. You know every word, every note — have poured over the inside sleeve to memorize all the B-sides. Their names are scrawled on your notebooks, their posters adorn your walls. Nothing comes close to the years when you have the time and the allowance to worship so religiously, to devote yourself so entirely to one hero.
Prince didn’t make it easy for me, though. I was trudging up a mountain in 1987 on a school trip when I heard he had cancelled his Sign o’ the Times Tour at Wembley Stadium in London — the concert I was flying over to that weekend. Then in 1990 during his Nude Tour, he cancelled on me again. But finally, I saw him in 1992, then four more times, most recently last February at one of his “secret” gigs. That was the fun thing about Prince: he always kept you guessing, wanting more — popping up when you least expected him at some tiny, sweaty venue in a corner of London.
As an 11-year-old, I watched Purple Rain until the VHS tape wore out; at 12 I bought Around the World in a Day at HMV on a trip to London’s busy Oxford Street, only discovering his back catalog and the wondrous Dirty Mind album at age 14. I saved my allowance to buy arguably the best album he ever produced, Sign o’ the Times, in 1987, raced to buy Diamond and Pearls in my first year at college in 1991, air-guitared to “Let’s Go Crazy” at my wedding in 2004, and played “Purple Rain” the day both my kids were born. No matter how tough life got, how unbearable or sad or frustrating, he was with me, every step of the way.
And I wasn’t alone in this.
Twitter and Facebook opened up the opportunity to interact with other die-hard fans, which became all the more important when he showed up in London in 2014 doing a round of secret, last-minute concerts. My days and nights were spent tweeting and chatting to those who were in the know, until finally, that June I got to see his Hit and Run Tour at a tiny venue in Camden, London. I was three from the front, able to see every joyous expression on his face. And let me tell you, he looked like he was having as much fun as we were.
This was the first time I’d ever gone to a concert alone, but I wasn’t worried, as Prince fans are a generous, warm bunch who delight in meeting other Purple fanatics. True enough, I was offered a flask of gin and tonic by a brother and sister there, and we hung out for the entire concert. In fact, we still speak to this day. They’d never seen his Royal Purpleness play before, and they were blown away.
How could you not be?
Because, more than anything, Prince loved to perform and no one could hold a candle to him in that arena. His musical genius was unparalleled, with his albums all “produced, composed, arranged, and performed by Prince.” He was completely unique, pouring out a torrent of music that barely had time to be compressed to vinyl. We can only hope that “The Vault” in his Paisley Park studios holds a wealth of great music we will one day hear.
For 32 years I loved him. Any fan out there will today be feeling like me: distraught at the news of his untimely death, unsure how to process our grief. We always thought we’d see him play again, waiting for his Piano and Microphone Tour to hit our U.K. shores. Prince, the energetic king of funk, who could electrify not one, but two audiences in a night for endless hours, surely could not be dead?
I saw a quote on Twitter that said, “Thinking about how we mourn artists we’ve never met. We don’t cry because we knew them, we cry because they helped us know ourselves.” Truer words have never been spoken. I’m grateful that I was alive to hear him play, that he brought me so much joy, and that no matter what happens in my life, even though he is now gone, I will always have his music.
“Sometimes … it snows in April.” RIP Prince.More On