R.I.P. to a Beautiful Man (on Prince and how he changed my outlook on music, gender roles, and the Artiste)

I heard the news earlier today at work. The coworkers and I were getting through a heavy load of donations (we’re part of non-profit thrift store that’s partnered with a local shelter for domestic abuse victims) when someone came up from the front of the store and was like, “did you hear about Prince dying?”

Everyone turned to her, stopping whatever we were doing. The manager, who’s really google-savvy, immediately went to her phone, and, sure enough though regretfully, his death had been confirmed only a few minutes ago.

Of course, this became the bustle of talk for about 20 minutes. From possible causes of death to the always-brought-up “celebrity death trifecta” since famous wrestler (and all-around great, perservering human) Chyna had died only a day ago.

All the while this talk was going on, I felt like tearing up. It was weird.

Prince was an innovator in many ways. His music took huge ass steps in fusing these essential ideas from various sides of popular music such as 80s synthwave, glam rock, and R&B to make this ever-evolving sound that was completely his own! He led me to liking a lot of non-R&B 80s music (and in a way, music that wasn’t hip hop or gospel) before I even realized I liked it!

But to focus more on his very stylistic, almost androgynous representation, it takes me back to the first time I’d really seen him. I think I was around 7. There was a Prince movie marathon happening on one of the cable channels, and they were showing Purple Rain, The Graffitti Bridge, and Under the Cherry Moon.

It was like a kind of culture shock to me.

For one, the music in these films, which if you know these movies, you know they’re basically about Prince,  was nothing I had ever heard a black person play. I mean, yeah, I had heard Post-Thriller  Michael Jackson songs by then, but Prince’s work was so…different, for lack of a better phrase.

And more to the point, I found Prince to be, well, pretty. Like, what I would’ve probably called girly pretty back then. He had on all of these outrageously flamboyant outfits and suits  with such flares and designs I had never seen. AND OH MAN HIS HAIR! You can’t tell me you’ve never thought fondly of that dude’s styles of luscious curls, perms, and that tied-up head rag, regardless of your sex and preferences.

Really, he was the first dude who challenged my idea of gender roles. This fluidity he had between what I believed to simply be two mutually exclusive sides were suddenly clashed and warped into the form of this  light-skinned dude who seemed and felt so above mortal people.

But yeah, I think having that experience at such a young age (and mind you, I’m a 90s kid, so I knew nothing of the metrosexuality of the 80s) paved the way for me an open-mindedness on the possible fluidity of gender and even issues of trangenderism  and honestly, just the idea of how an individual could visually identify himself/herself as. It’s not really something I could’ve learned from my Bible Belt area, especially during the 90s. I thank him for that at such an early age.

And even after his death, Prince has reminded me of the sanctity of music and holding the rights to your art. I’m  assuming you’ve tried to look up your favorite Prince songs like I did (Love me some “1999” and “Kiss”) and also wondering why I’ve only posted up live vids and songs that he’s featured on. Well, digitally speaking, you can’t find Prince’s music anywhere but on Jay-Z’s Tidal service, which you probably know prides itself on giving  the artist a decent cut of the pie in an age where piracy and the digital age seems to be killing the musician’s chance for real profit.

Actually, I wanna talk more deeply about this ’cause I’m really on the fence about that ever-going debate, so I’ll save it for another post. Maybe next week even. Until then, check out this article from the Daily Mail. Also, if you want, share your own memories how you fell in love with Prince I’d love to hear them!


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