Music + Movies + Books


Prince -
Photograph © Robert Whitman, 1977

Sometimes it snows in April…

About five years ago, I wrote a post upon seeing Prince perform in concert for the first time after waiting for many, many years. This is part of what I wrote:

I’d like to take a minute to thank my mother for letting me listen to the music I wanted to when I was a kid. And for being cool with me having posters of a half-naked man plastered all over my bedroom. Oh, and for letting me paint ALL of my furniture purple and black. (No, really. I honestly did that.) The mid-’80s were the heyday of the PMRC and their “Filthy Fifteen” (the top two of which were written by Prince—though I could never really understand their fixation on “Darling Nikki”; I mean, he’s written plenty of much dirtier stuff), and the prevailing attitude was that we were all going to be driven to Hell by the likes of Sheena Easton and Cyndi Lauper, and only Tipper Gore could save us. (Thank goodness for Frank Zappa, ever the voice of reason.) Frankly, I can’t imagine my childhood being Prince-free. Those would have been some quiet and unfunky years.

Prince was my first big musical obsession; the first artist that got me interested in the idea of collecting, of seeking out rarities, of swapping bootlegs, and of looking for more than what was readily available. I also had a hardcore crush on Prince that put my earlier childhood crushes (namely Kermit the Frog and Michael Jackson) to shame. I know guys don’t always get why the ladies like Prince so much, but the man is 98 pounds of fiiiiiine. Then and now. He’s a freaky alien, for sure, but aren’t all of the best musicians?

This morning, Evan texted me asking if I was OK, and mentioning Prince. I didn’t understand what he was talking about, and then I remembered reading that Prince had been ill recently…and then I Googled “Prince”…and then I knew. 

I mostly avoided the internet yesterday, and kept the radio and television silent. I thought about how I fell apart when Michael Jackson died in 2009. I thought about David Bowie. I thought about what it means to be an icon. I listened to Sign o’ the Times and belted out every word.

It’s rare to have a day pass in my life where Prince doesn’t come up in conversation. His musical badassery. His height. His vanity cane. His flowing caftans. His lack of underwear. His undeniable sex appeal. His purpleness. Prince is a part of my lexicon. He’s been a part of my life since I was a little kid.

Here’s something else I wrote about Prince:

Watching Prince play guitar is a lot like watching Michael Jackson dance. It seems so totally effortless, like the sound is just naturally coming out him and there’s nothing he can do to stop it. I’m not one of those people who gets all crazy about guitar solos and stuff like that, and maybe that’s why I’ve always loved Prince’s style. He’s just doing his thing up there, all natural and fluid and full of emotion. The guitar is an extension of him. Magic. No matter how many times I’ve watched him perform live in movies and on TV, nothing can compare to being 20 feet away and seeing it all happen right in front of me.

That night is still with me, totally fresh.

I’m not ready to take in all of the tributes and articles and reactions to Prince’s death yet. It’s hard for me to even grasp the fact that he could die in the first place. He seemed immortal. He looked half his age. He moved half his age. And he was a giant. I’m going to miss him.

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  • Reply Danielle April 22, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    I remember you writing about him a few years ago so sought out your site this afternoon to see if you’d posted about him. What a spirit in that man!

  • Reply Lizzie Modern April 22, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    Well said. Sorry his passing is so hard for you. He’s left such a huge imprint on people that love him, and that’s something that’s really special and unique. We will never have another Prince, or Bowie, or Michael, but we’ll always have their amazing music and art to continue to enjoy and be inspired by.

  • Reply Elise April 22, 2016 at 3:18 pm

    What a lovely essay. I’m sorry for your heartbreak. It’s horrid when someone dies suddenly, in the prime of life. Especially someone as ageless and immensely talented as Prince. Our town (Minneapolis) is in mourning. I drive by the building in your photo above every day. Now, when I do, I’ll picture Prince there.

  • Reply Kimberly Marsden April 22, 2016 at 3:42 pm

    Prince’s songs were so musically rich that he seemed to be working with instruments nobody else owns. – The New Yorker

  • Reply lisa April 22, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    I do miss your more regular posts. You’re such an interesting voice. When I heard the news last night I thought “Anna’s going to post on D16 about this loss”. I always appreciate your perspective…and I do appreciate your thoughts about this music icon. I was aware of his music growing up, but never saw him in concert or followed him closely. My concert regret is not ponying up for the When Hell Freezes Over Tour – and that boat has sailed now too.

  • Reply Connie April 22, 2016 at 5:20 pm

    I agree with everything you said and more. For me, prince wasn’t about childhood and teenage years. I didn’t follow musicians then or now as an adult. In fact, I’m a heretic here: I can’t appreciate the musician innovations as much as you do. Instead, for me, prince is about someone who was so himself, so original to himself, that he still leaves people uncomfortable and unknowing on how to describe him. People describe him politely as odd. Eccentric is the word. Others simply say he was an artist, that he was a legend because he was financially successful and recognizable. We’re asking his closest friends what he was like, if he was coherent and sane. If he was aware of the impressions he made onto others. If he was spacey. Or “aware of it all.” For me, the very fact that prince makes people grapple for words to describe him points out how cerebral we would all like to be, how smart we would like to see ourselves in our perceptions of others and the world in the time of present. I have a feeling that in the years to come, people will cite prince for his fashion, gender bending defiance, etc etc…whatever context at the moment that makes sense because we have to look at someone for starting it all. But I have a feeling prince wouldn’t care about his role in history or his impact. It was the joy in music and how life seemed to always interest him enough to want to write about it…how much pleasure he learned to get from just a craft. That to me is what I think about when I think about him.

  • Reply Fiona April 22, 2016 at 6:59 pm

    He was like the Platonic ideal of a man. Masculinity and femininity, lust and religiosity, the virtuosity, the weirdly, wildly gifted insight and compassion in his lyrics. His feminism was as fluid as his guitar playing. He took back his stolen music first from record companies then the internet, erasing his own name as a piece of high performance art. He’ll live on as a household name for the next millennium. I can’t even talk properly about what he meant because it’s too personal. His style, his style, his style. There’s a respect for the audience there, isn’t there. His voiiiice. As for sexy, the second I saw him was the beginning of my adulthood, in a good way.

    • Alex April 23, 2016 at 7:09 am

      I went t leave a comment and started reading the other comments – Fiona, your writing is magnificent! Do you have any online content, a blog or something? 🙂

  • Reply CC April 22, 2016 at 8:58 pm

    I am still in denial. I saw him perform less than 2 months ago. So bursting with life and personality and humour and for a man equal in age to my Dad… Magnetic.
    He was tiny sitting at the grand piano. He was wearing sneakers with LEDs in the soles of his shoes. He shredded that piano like he shreds the guitar and somehow danced and filled the stage. The only source of sound and movement. It left us all thinking we haven’t even scratched the surface of this mans talent.

    I can’t believe he has gone. Prince and Bowie were the sounds of my childhood too. My mother hated both of them because she thought they weren’t how men should be. But she was wrong. That’s their appeal. They’re authenticity to self. So. Damn. Sexy.

    Sigh. I miss them both.

  • Reply julie April 22, 2016 at 10:43 pm

    That was beautiful and the comments are so eloquent, I’m not. This is hard to process. I’m a Minnesotan and feel grateful to have seen him so many times in venues ranging from tiny to huge, he was always amazing. I live in the Bay Area now and just saw him, for the first time in years, in Oakland on his Piano and a Microphone tour. It was wonderful. He was sexy, playful, thoughtful, sexy (you can never say that too much) and seemingly ageless – or more simply he was Prince. It didn’t seem like we’d ever lose him, certainly not now.

    I’m missing Minneapolis so much and am proud of how the city and First Ave put on what my brother reports was a beautiful, joyous all night dance party for him last night. Images from that (and similar events around the country) are pretty much the only things I can look at on social media right now. One of my favorite quotes from the many Minnesota musicians being interviewed comes from Paul Westerberg of the Replacements, a band I also loved that came up at about the same time, speaking about himself and other local musicians “We were playing with toy trucks, and he was like Mario Andretti”.

    A Minneapolis radio station is playing his music alphabetically from A-W for the next 26 hours so I’m streaming that. There may also be some dancing.

  • Reply Sam April 23, 2016 at 12:28 am

    I’m still in shock. What a legend. A true artist. Jackson, Bowie and now him. So sad. I will forever cherish his talent and his influence to all artists. Another legend gone. So sad. Such heartbreak.

  • Reply Alex April 23, 2016 at 7:12 am

    I wasn’t a huge fan, but so appreciated his musicianship and sheer badassness! A beautiful tribute, Anna.

  • Reply lisa anne April 24, 2016 at 1:21 am

    love eternal

  • Reply Janet April 24, 2016 at 2:42 am

    I’ve been reading your blog for years and still remember your Prince post. I think it’s likely one of the only times I’ve commented, but when I heard the news I thought oh no, Anna. Thank you for your comments. Obviously we don’t know each other but oddly enough I’ve been waiting for your reaction. I feel like now I can cry. He was a major part of my life as well.

  • Reply maria April 24, 2016 at 9:30 pm

    you and everyone here have said it brilliantly- and I am still without words. he and his music was and is such a huge part of my life. I will miss him terribly. <3

  • Reply Fe April 25, 2016 at 2:10 am

    Wow…… A moving tribute written from a broken heart xxxxx

  • Reply Snoo April 25, 2016 at 4:52 am

    I’m just going to miss him for the rest of my life. He’s a part of me.

  • Reply Erin April 26, 2016 at 4:17 pm

    So glad you wrote this, Anna – I agree that part of what’s so shocking about his death (and Bowie’s too) is that he seemed like an otherworldly being who transcended mortality. I remain so inspired by Prince’s mastery of his craft – that level of dedication to your artistry is so rare and something I greatly respect… Just one of the many things I will continue to look up to him for.

  • Reply Jemma April 29, 2016 at 7:30 am

    Hope you are feeling ok. Yesterday was the first day for me that it felt OK to listen to music that wasn’t his. And today was the first day I didn’t wake up with one of his songs in my head, although I did dream this morning that we were going to some tribute thing at another fan’s house but he turned out to just be a creepy weirdo. I’ve never been so affected by someone famous dying, and probably never will be again because he was my only real musical obsession with roots going deep. He was So part of the fabric of life, always there, always himself. Put an album on I hadn’t listened to in maybe 15 years and it felt good to have all the lyrics just pour out of my brain! It has been sad yet wonderful listening this last week – emotionally slayed by Sometimes it snows in April one minute, buoyed back up by Lets go Crazy the next. Just thought I would leave a comment as I know others here feel the same. Not sure I know anyone else who does, apart from my mum!

  • Reply thelady April 29, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    Doesn’t make sense to me that he died so young. Never had a drug or alcohol problem. Looked super healthy and active. Saw him in concert May 2015 and he stood the entire 2+ hours. He only took a 5 minute break then came right back out. He looked and sounded great. I found out when my best friend called me at work crying. So many people love him and he is deserving of our love and so much more.

    • Victoria Rose April 30, 2016 at 3:36 am

      I really love your quote that Prince deserves our love and so much more it made me cry. I love Prince so very much he has always been my everything and it’s so comforting to know others feel the same way I do about him. I remember growing up sometimes feeling like I was the only person I knew who was crazy about him and then I would come across someone else who felt the same as me. If I could be granted with a wish, I would wish that Prince did not die that the events that led to his death didn’t happen that I could turn back the clock of time. I would go back to that day he got sick on the plane and change all the events that followed that may have influenced his passing. I think of personal regrets I may have had in my life and I can say none of them do I regret more or wish so strongly didn’t happen as the death of Prince I am forever regretful for losing him. I never saw him dying I never thought death would touch him and if it did he would be an old old man. I have been touched and affected by this man. Throughout the day I still can’t get out of my head or shake off his songs that roll around my head when I awake.
      One thing his death has taught me is to go after my dream of being an artist go after it like my life depended on it, go after it with avenges cause that’s how he went after his artistry. Prince I love and adore you now and forever more, rest in eternal peace you are dearly missed.

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