This is part of a multi-part tribute to Prince. See the rest of the parts here, and check back in the coming days for more interviews!
Nearly three weeks after he died, I am still having a hard time believing Prince is gone. I think about him a lot, still. I made a 15 song Prince mix the day after he died and though I am now skipping some songs, I still put it on at least once every day. That may seem strange, but If I had to pick just one song to be able to listen to for the rest of my life, "Controversy" is a strong contender.
I am still very sad, as sad as I've ever been about the death of someone I didn't personally know. Yet, in a strange way this has been an incredibly uplifting experience. It started with the two all-night dance parties I attended at First Avenue the weekend after he died. I wrote about the experience for the Current, so I won't say much more about it here. It is safe to assume Prince would have been proud of what happened at First Avenue that weekend, and I have never had an experience like that one in Minneapolis.
My first memory of Prince is dancing around the living room to "Let's Go Crazy" and "Delirious" when I was 4 or 5 years old. I had heard the big hits, but I didn't delve deep into his catalog until I was in my 20s. I got obsessed with funk music thanks to Parliament/Funkadelic and then I found my way back home. Over the following years my friends Drew and Eli introduced me to a lot of Prince I never knew. I used to have house parties and I had a 10 song Michael Jackson mix and a 10 song Prince mix and those always got played at least once.
I finally saw Prince live in October 2009 at Paisley Park. I have seen hundreds of concerts, and that was easily the best I've ever seen. He went on right at 11 as promised, and he proceeded to tear through a 37 song set over the next 3 hours. As soon as one song ended, another started. He and the band played many covers, including several by The Time, The Jackson 5 (it was his first local show after Michael Jackson died) and Sly and The Family Stone. Here is the setlist.
When I first walked in I noticed a well dressed man in a white suit with a big white hat in a VIP area. It turned out to be Larry Graham, who joined Prince on stage for many of the covers. Prince was very playful and funny all night, he had a true stage presence. Say what you will about his musical output in the later years, but he was without question the best live musician I have ever seen, and he was that good right up until the end.
The only other time I saw him was at The Dakota, which has a capacity of about 400. He played 6 shows in 3 nights, I went to the final show. He debuted his new band 3rdeyegirl that night, and though I preferred the more experienced band and setlist of the Paisley Park show, being in that intimate of a setting was a once in a lifetime experience. I danced very.....closely with a woman who was at least 20 years older than me. Prince truly could bring people together like no one else. I reviewed the concert for City Pages, if you want to read more about this show.
I won't lie, I took Prince for granted over the past few years. His parties at Paisley Park started to become very frequent but also a toss-up on what they would actually be. I should have gone to more, but I am glad to have been to the two shows I did see. Even though I am a huge fan, I would get annoyed when pretty much every band that came through town mentioned or covered Prince, but it makes sense that an outsider feels the need to bring him up. He is a huge part of Minneapolis, and we are a huge part of his legacy. We fed off him and he fed off us.
As I said above, my experience since his death has been strangely uplifting. I have seen tributes to Prince in every corner of MInneapolis: a decal of his symbol in a shop window in North Minneapolis, a back lit letter P in the window of the Walker that is purple instead of yellow like the other letters, and many more. He was ours, and it has been really incredible to see Minneapolis come together like this.
Beyond that, I have been on a creative tear like never before since I woke up from that final all-night party at First Avenue on Saturday 4/23. I signed up for this website the next night and started asking people for interviews right away. I have been working on this site and other creative pursuits basically every day since then, save a few days I took off to celebrate my birthday. I go to work all day during the week and then I come home and work on something creative. I have never felt this good, this excited, or this proud of myself. I like to think I caught a little bit of Prince's soul on his way out.
On top of all that, last week on my birthday I had some revelations about what I am supposed to do with my life. I believe I figured out why the funk chose me, and what everything I have done in my life so far has been leading up to. I can't share any details with you right now because it's way too early, but I will say, it is Prince related and it is about bringing people together the way that Prince did.
Minneapolis is an extremely segregated city. I do not have the answers on how to solve the income gap, the education gap, or the health gap. I do believe that I can bring a diverse crowd together, and that spending time together with people we normally wouldn't is the first step towards closing those gaps. The crowds at the all-night dance parties at First Avenue were the most diverse I have ever seen in Minneapolis. I have had experiences like that in Detroit, but never here. I refuse to accept that that was the only time, or even that we can only get together and do it once a year. Music is something to be embraced and shared, not to be ashamed of.
The day Michael Jackson died, I went to sing karaoke to pay my respects. In the next room over, some punks who had a DJ night were playing nothing but Michael Jackson. It was a beautiful example of how much of an impact a single artist can have on the world. Some of my favorite Prince tributes came from not so obvious places. Bob Mould's eulogy was very moving and his tribute the next night at First Avenue was a great reminder of just how far Prince's reach went.
Prince will be missed, but his music will live on forever. I know I am far from the only one who is feeling a huge amount of inspiration right now, I have heard several people say the same. Minneapolis and Prince will go hand in hand for a long, long time. I am very proud to call Minneapolis home for many reasons, but Prince is number 1. So long for now Mr. Rogers Nelson, thank you for the eternal inspiration, and may the funk be with you.