My hand covered my mouth yesterday afternoon as I read the breaking-news headline that Prince was dead at 57. Alone at my computer, I imagined a purple rain of tears among his fans. I had a secret crush on him in the early ‘80s. His clothes reminded me of Jimi Hendrix. His guitar playing electrified, and his lyrics were hot. We both liked sexy music, Prince and I, and something about his androgyny appealed to me.
Ten years after Prince won an Oscar at the 1984 Academy Awards for Best Original Song Score for that year’s Purple Rain, my son Harry got his dress-up box. Fashion was always important to Prince, just as it was for then four-year-old Harry. Harry told me in first grade that girls were lucky because they got to wear “whatever they want and play sports.” I had promised Harry that as an adult he could wear anything he wanted. I told him about Prince, among other flamboyantly dressed celebrities. And when style-conscious Harry chose head-to-toe purple as his outfit choice for parties and special occasions, again I thought of Prince.
“A strong spirit transcends rules.” ~Prince
Watching the MSNBC special “Purple Reign” last night and reading online during commercials, I learned much about Prince that I’d never known. And liked him even more.
In a clip from a 2009 PBS interview with Tavis Smiley, Prince remembered being teased a lot in school as a child. As a result, he withdrew and taught himself how to play the piano. Then rather than teasing, “It became ‘wow,’ look at what he can do,” Prince said. “People giving you support is motivating.”And with that support he believed he could do anything. He said that early on in his career he compensated for the past bullying “by being as flashy as I could and as noisy as I could.”
Prince wore heels every day. He had a female persona named Camille and recorded album as Camille. Prince had the courage to be different. Just like Harry does now.
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