His Name Was Prince… (Part 1)

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I didn’t always love him. In fact, at first I hated him…despised him…detested him. Why? Because my first and always music love and loyalty was pledged and devoted to Michael Jackson. When Prince first came out he was Michael’s direct competition and, therefore, my declared enemy.

I will never forget the time when my family betrayed me by having the audacity to watch Purple Rain (on VHS) in our living room. (If you knew my parents, you know this was a big deal.) I was livid! I REFUSED to step foot in our dining room, which connected to the living room while HE was on the television screen and THAT movie was on. I remember standing at the edge of our kitchen leading to the dining room and living room and yelling at the top of my lungs with tears in my eyes, “You cannot watch this movie! WE don’t like Prince!!! WE love Michael!!!!!!” As my protests went unheard, in tears I cried, “You guys aren’t loyal!!!” I never let my feet cross over into the other room because I felt it would make me a traitor.

But that was then…

I didn’t always love him. In fact, at first I hated him…despised him…detested him.

But that was then…

After some time, I came to appreciate and be mesmerized by the talent, stage presence and genius that Prince possessed. Soon I was fully drinking the grape kool-aid and consumed every bit of music that I could get my hands on. This usually meant sneaking and listening to my older brothers’ Prince albums when they weren’t around. I missed the naughty Prince years completely with the booty-out pants, risque stage shows, songs and lyrics. Hey, I was a kid so that didn’t matter anyway. But I had a lot of catching up to do: Controversy, 1999, Purple Rain, Around The World In A Day…

I remember when the Parade album came out. I would literally sit in our rumpus room and play Sometimes It Snows In April over and over and over and over again. We are talking about a LP on a turntable. That’s dedication! If it was raining outside, all the better. I was just a preteen then and didn’t even fully understand what that song meant. I just knew that it spoke to my soul.

The next album that came was Sign O’ The Times, which included my all time favorite Prince song, Adore! But it was all of the music and the hits (in addition to Michael Jackson and other favored artists) that provided the soundtrack to my youth and served as an outlet and understanding haven for my joys, my sorrows, my angst, my pain, my loves…my life.

Pop Life, Sign O’ The Times, Starfish and Coffee, 7, Alphabet Street, Raspberry Berry, Thieves In The Temple and too many others to name. Then came the symbol years wondering, “What am I supposed to call him again?!!” It didn’t matter because The Most Beautiful Girl In The World.

It would be some more years before I saw Prince perform live. That would usher in a whole new phase and level of admiration for the skills and musical brilliance of this man once again called Prince. On March 29, 2004 I saw the opening night of the Musicology tour at the Staples Center in Los Angeles with a friend. Although it was a tour promoting the newly released Musicology CD, which we got free copies of upon entry into the venue, he mostly played the classics and well known hits, which was perfectly fine with me! He played some of my absolute faves in addition to putting on one of the most incredible concerts I had seen in my life. As perfect as the recordings are, Prince live is just completely beyond being able to wrap your words around to describe.

But it was the closing number that night that proved to me that Prince, like Michael, was not of this world. Hearing Prince perform Purple Rain live shifted me spiritually. It’s one of the most beautiful music experiences that I imagine one could have, especially when he got to the guitar solo in the middle and finished with the refrain of  “Yooo-Hoooooooooo….Yooo-Hoooooooooooo…Yooo-Hoooo-Hooooooooooooooo…” It was breathtaking and magical.

My friend and I would go on to drive down to San Diego later in the Musicology tour to see Prince again.

After that, I was blessed to see Prince perform live four other times.Those times would be at the Welcome To America tour at The Forum in Inglewood, CA also known as Prince’s 21-Nite Stand. Prince came to Inglewood to do a series of shows “for the people” and only charged $25 for tickets! He could have easily charged ten, twenty or thirty times that and still packed the house to the rafter for every show, as he did. But he wanted it to be accessible for fans, for families, for music lovers. I wish I had attended all 13 of the shows he did, but the four I did make were out of this world.

During that stretch Prince had a smorgasbord of talented opening acts and guests playing: Mint Condition (my favorite band! Seeing Mint and Prince together was truly special), Jasmine Sullivan, Esperanza Spalding, Sheila E, Chaka Khan, Janelle Monae, Amel Larrieux. In addition, since this location is the haven for all things Hollywood and celebrity countless celebrities were in the audience every night. Halle Berry, Craig Robinson and Susan Sarandon were dancing on stage with Prince on nights I was there. I heard tales of Whitney and Bobbi Kristina and a plethora of other A-listers in the crowd on nights I wasn’t. It was a city-wide party with Prince as our dynamic and gracious host.

But even more so, Prince proved to me yet again that at 52 years old (at the time) he was probably the most dynamic, playful, masterful, musically proficient artist out on the scene and there were no signs of him slowing down any time soon.

 It was not until literally the end of this extended tour stop that I learned my friend Donielle had choreographed these shows for Prince. Whaaaaaaaaaaaat??!!!! She was a talented dancer in her own right who had worked with music artists such as LL Cool J, Madonna, Janet Jackson, and the great one Michael Jackson (among so many others) in the past and had worked with Prince’s backup dancers Maya and Nandy, known as the Twinz, for the 21-Nite Stand.

I don’t even fully remember how the topic initially came up between us, but after that revelation from Donielle she blessed me by making an introduction to the Twinz and helping me interview them and her about the 21 Nite Stand at the Forum and working with the Purple One himself. That interview was a great moment, but for me the best was yet to come…

 Prince was literally right in my sight line and then walked right up towards me, stopped and paused not three feet away from me!  I froze and looked at him and he looked at me dead in my eyes!!

For more on Donielle and the Twinz, click here and here.