When I first heard there was a death at Paisley Park, my heart immediately sank. I instinctively knew it was Prince, but didn’t want to believe it. When it was confirmed that he had indeed passed away, I had to take a moment and attempt to let it sink in. It still hasn’t fully.
I grew up in a musical household. We were exposed to soul and jazz at an early age, learning to harmonize in the car because, sometimes, the radio was broken. As a child, I probably knew more about Phoebe Snow than other kids on the playground, but I was good with that. And then one day, my father brought home a record and showed it to my older sister. He told her to read the credits where she saw that The Artist, Prince, was responsible for playing each instrument and singing each lyric on the album. She was hooked. As a little sister, I was just excited to follow along in her new fondness.
I was first introduced to Prince through the movie, Purple Rain. I really didn’t know what was going on, but I knew that I liked the music scenes. I laughed at the antics of Morris and Jerome and loved to watch Prince. He was electric on stage. As kids, we’d reenact the concert scenes where I was Lisa, playing the ironing board as a keyboard, my sister was Wendy jamming on her broom/guitar, and my cousin (who’s really more like my big brother) was Prince, rocking out on the mop. We’d often just put on the record and jam, like we were really doing something, singing and “playing” away.
As I got older, I started to notice how Prince’s lyrics often had Christian themes. I Would Die 4 U literally blew my mind with how he talked about love and redemption. …but on the other side of the album was Darling Nikki which remains one of my karaoke standbys. But even right after Darling Nikki was the backwards song that talked about eschatology. As a kid, I was both confused and intrigued.
Prince was able to be openly Christian and sex positive. He often sang about sex and sexuality from a perspective of pleasure in a world where those two topics don’t often meet. Although I come from a family where we still have open conversations about sex and sexuality, I think Prince helped me realize that you don’t have to abandon religion to appreciate sex. Dare I say that Prince’s influence enabled me to be the “Christian Sex Maven”? I would have probably still become a sex therapist, but without Prince’s music, the process would not have been as fluid.
Prince made it cool for me to ascribe to Christian beliefs and be my flawed, dynamic, talented self. His influence on my work and approach is far-reaching. From my desire to play several instruments and score music in high school to my interest in sexuality, he opened my eyes to a new world where I as a black girl could defy the expectations of others and just be myself.
Since Prince transitioned, I decided to actively avoid the song, Sometimes It Snows in April. I knew that once I heard the first chord, tears would probably fall. However, I wasn’t expecting to cry when I heard Adore on April 22nd. It’s one of my favorite songs for many reasons and I think it made me realize how much Prince means to me. I grew up listening to his music and can mark different triumphs and tribulations in my life by Prince albums. And now, the fact that he’s gone from this plane makes me incredibly sad that we’re no longer breathing the same air or seeing the same sky. However, I’m eternally grateful for his influence on my life and work and will hope to live to see the dawn.