Truth be told, music has a much stronger hold on me than geek culture. While I love all things geek/nerdy/afrogeek/astroblack, music is how I experienced love. Growing up in an immediate household that was nothing but abuse and the absence of love, music was my portal to some place safer. My mom was a horrible mother, but she built upon a stellar record collection. A collection that she’d let me listen to without being beaten. After our year of frozen homelessness, we got an apartment where the previous tenant left a sizable record collection. Among the Chaka Khan and Rufus, Mandrill, Chuck Mangione, The Wailers, Miles Davis, and Santana albums were Prince’s For You and Dirty Mind. Despite the racy content, my mother and I listened to those albums until they were warped and scratched beyond all hopes of rescuing. We loved it because it sounded so different compared to anything else we listened to — which was mostly reggae and jazz. But it wasn’t until 1999 dropped in ’82 that I had to come to terms with the idea that Prince was going to be one of the foundation stones of my pop cultural biography.
Prince, David Bowie, the 2-Tone movement, Punk, and Hip-Hop shaped me. They shaped how I saw and moved through our shared world. The culture and the music that came from these various cultures acted as both cartography and blueprint. But Prince was the high priest of it all. After 1999 came Purple Rain. Dude had an album and a movie. Seeing Purple Rain in the theater gave me a window into a world where creativity was paramount, and sex wasn’t a bad thing, but something to be celebrated. That movie gave me stirrings I had no words for.
He was a master social disruptor. From thigh highs and thongs, to Paris hijinks, to rocking with Muppets, he forced us to question art, music, gender, sexuality, the public face we present to the public, the secular and the holy. All of life’s ups and downs can be addressed through Shakespeare, Nina Simone’s Little Girl Blue, The Twilight Zone and Prince’s albums from 1999 to Sign o’ the Times.
Prince was a superhero. Have you seen his aliases?
We were with him from Batman through the name change, to Musicology, to his reemergence, to his settling in his rightful place as a genius, an icon, and an invaluable part of music cultural history.
Losing Phife, David Bowie, and now Prince in the same year is devastating. Not because of an unhealthy relationship to pop stars, but because art matters. It matters differently to each of us, but it matters. But out of all forms of art, music, I feel, matters the most. It can speak for you when you’re tongue tied. It can describe what you’re feeling when you can’t get your mind right to identify it. It can get you out of bed, dancing across the floor, shaking the blues from your fingertips and swaying hips. It can help you find the tears that don’t come when you need them to.
With Prince’s death, we’ve lost more than a musician. We’ve lost a singular artistic voice (in thought and deed) that cannot be replaced or duplicated. Prince was The Artist of the twentieth century and the fierce creative elder statesmen of the twenty-first. He was the preacher and the prostitute. Our crotchety uncle and your flawless shade giving auntie. He wanted us to find Lake Minnetonka and bathe in those freezing waters, just so he could laugh. But most of all, like Bowie, he wanted us to find our freak.
We loved him in all of his arrogant and contradictory glory.
We are gathered here today
2 get through this thing called Life…”