After the shocking death of our dearly beloved Prince just last week, the world turned purple and people took to the streets and the internet to share a collective outpouring of grief. As I tried to find the words to express how I felt, I decided to round up some tributes from fellow bloggers, writers and creatives who were equally mourning the loss of a man for whom the word ‘icon’ doesn’t seem large enough.
What follows is a mix of nostalgic, emotional, empowering and hilarious encounters with Prince — whether via listening to his music, watching live performances, or meeting him in the flesh (yes, really)! Thank you to all who shared their contributions with me, and the biggest thanks to Prince for everything he gave us.
My Prince (Uju’s Story)
I first got to know about Prince Rogers Nelson through my big sister Nkiru who was OBSESSED. I liked his sound, the way his voice would go all deep one minute, then crazy screechy high the next. The strange effect he had on Nkiru fascinated me, but I was still too young to ‘get’ it. Then in 1984 on a trip to New York, we went to the cinema to watch Purple Rain (it was her second viewing). I was 10 years old and some of that movie ain’t fit for 10-year-old eyes (although, in bizarre timing, we watched it recently with the babes about a week before Prince died).
That was the beginning of everything for me. I bawled through the ‘woo hoo hoo hoos’ of Purple Rain. At the end of the movie everyone in the audience was up boogieing in the aisles. It was like going to my first Prince concert. I was utterly hooked.
I was a precocious reader with free access to my Dad’s library and some rather grown up fiction. But I never understood the phrase ‘he undressed me with his eyes’ until Prince, as we say in Naija vernacular, ‘nakeded’ me with his. Sure he did it through the camera, and later from the stage (Wembley Stadium ’93, Wembley Arena ’95), but I was naked for him all the same. Until the end of time… Adore was going to play me down the aisle (I never had a white wedding, but that song remains my Prince number one).
Some of my closest friendships were partly defined by our love for Prince. My sisters Nkiru, Nnenna and I watching Under the Cherry Moon over and over. My girl Ronke and I, literally floored by his music, Insatiable on repeat. Then uni and it wasn’t accidental that my flatmates Reem and Mona were fellow Prince minions. We could spend entire days completely immersed in his sound and video. Guys would tease us about our flat being a Prince shrine. Some dug his music but could never understand why we were so drawn to this ‘jumped up, effeminate, midget’. We’d just laugh it off because Prince had already taken us way BEYOND. And once Prince takes you there, you never go back. RIP, Your Badness.
Zarouhi Grumbar, blogger at Mama and More
‘When I was 17, Prince irrevocably became a part of my life. My best friend was obsessed with Prince, and we would write notes in class, using code names for each other and our friends taken from Prince lyrics. As I got older, the six degrees of separation grew smaller, and one of my closest friends became quite close to him professionally, so his demise was a huge blow. For me, I grew up as quite a goody two-shoes, until my late teens. Until then I was firmly in the Michael Jackson camp. Like anything in life, you come to things when you are ready – Prince, with his provocative facial expressions, suggestive grinding on stage and innuendo laden lyrics, at once scared and thrilled me. He spoke of secret desires, and dared you to explore dark corners within. He loved women, and rarely for the music industry, didn’t portray women in a misogynistic way. He was unashamedly sexual, celebrated women’s sexuality and was always resolutely individual. There was something empowering about it, and I fell in love with him at the same time as I was finally ready to begin to accept and love myself. For that I am ever grateful.’
Nu Ntt, poet (Orange Butterfly)
‘I fell in love with his face first. I saw his poster in a friend’s music mag and he gave it to me. That was one of 2 posters I had up in my bedroom. The other was the lead singer from Bon Jovi.
Then I heard his music. And I met a boy who was obsessed with him who told me all about his genius. I fell even deeper in love with this man that was so beautiful.
He was short. But his everything was larger than life. I loved his version of crazy. I really liked how his name kept changing. The one thing we had in common.
When people said Michael was the King of Pop. I laughed. Prince was genius. It was more than the music, the instruments he could play. His charisma came through the screen and wrapped itself around your heart, it held you captive.
Like Michael he was a real life Peter Pan. People like that don’t just die. Like Michael, he died young.
The minute I heard he was dead I thought about 2 people who I used to talk ‘Prince’ with. That’s the thing about death, it draws people closer than love ever did. It glosses over absences & hurts.
The first man I ever had a crush on. I had good taste. Now he’s moved on, shed the flesh for a lighter incarnation. We breathe and we will die. To everyone of us that loved this amazing soul.’
Mellissa Williams, blogger at The Diary Of A Jewellery Lover
‘I think I heard When Doves Cry first, I must have been about 13. I just loved the song immediately – it has such a memorable intro and chorus. I ended up buying the album Purple Rain and watching the film over and over again. It was all a bit raunchy which made it ever more exciting when I was a teenager and although the film was awful, I think I felt a little in love with him then, like only a teenager can. Over the years I followed his career and bought his records like 1999 and Raspberry Beret but less so recently. When I heard of his death though it really affected me. I guess he was part of my youth, part of me in a small way. He was a true artistic genius. Gone way too young. RIP Prince Rogers Nelson.’
Emma Iannarilli, blogger at Fashion Mommy
‘I will not lie and say I was the world’s biggest Prince fan, when I was growing up he was too dangerous and sexy for me, I was a Duran Duran fan, and loved Madonna, as well as my aforementioned Bowie, but it is one of those things where your appreciation grows as you do. ‘Purple Rain’ is epic, try listening to it without the hairs on your arms standing up on end at its sheer beauty. ‘Raspberry Beret’ is just exhilarating and life affirming, ‘1999’ a favourite even as a child, it was the only song to dance to on New Year’s Eve 1998, ‘Sign O the Times’ which my dearly departed, beloved nan loved too, ‘U got the Look’ – who knew Sheena Easton could be so cool, ‘Little Red Corvette, another one that just soars and soars. Everyone a classic – do I really need to go on. Prince was a mixture of an 18th Century dandy and Jimi Hendrix, with feminine features that he was not afraid to enhance with make-up, jewellery and lashings of lace frills and collars. He was a dandy, a blingy magpie who loved to shimmer and shine, he knew just what a star should look like, and never failed to deliver.’
Encounters with Prince
Seyi Babatope, filmmaker
‘In 2005 I was working in LA as a production assistant, camera assistant and electrician. I get a call from a gaffer telling me I have this job, he sends me the call sheet for an address off Sunset Blvd. I drive there, see all these super fancy houses, numbers going up sequentially. At one house, the number’s changed and it’s 3121. I’m like ok, kinda weird. Gates are wide open, I walk in, it’s a gorgeous house. I call the gaffer, ‘Dude am I in the right place?’ ‘Yeah you’re at Prince’s house.’ Whaaaat?!
The gaffer comes, we walk in and everything’s purple, the elevator’s all purple, the (Love symbol) sign is everywhere and all you see are musical instruments. Turns out we’re making a movie that Prince is directing, but we don’t have a script or a clue. We show up and when he wakes up, he shoots whatever he wants, we just light it. We never know what we’re doing.
So Prince comes out and his flip flops are also high heeled, he’s wearing black bell bottoms and some kinda chiffon blouse. He says ‘hi’, his voice is so bass for a guy that looks so girlie. He walks past us with these identical twin girls from Australia, wherever he goes, they go. I’m like, this is super weird but I guess this is what it is to be a rock star. Prince goes to his equipment and plays every single instrument like he’s warming up. He jams for 15 minutes on drums, keyboards, harmonica etc… it was something to see. I’m like, this guy is pretty dope.
Our assignment went on for 5 days and we’re getting paid, but we have no clue what this is about (I never even got to see this movie by the way). There’s no television in the house. It was during NBA playoffs and we’re like, man, we can’t even watch the games. Although there really is a basketball court upstairs in the house!
On the super weirdest day, we get there and we’re rigging up lights everywhere. He opens another wing of the house that we haven’t seen. We’re waiting around and Sheila E walks by, then Quentin Tarantino walks by. Next Salma Hayek walks by and other celebrities and before we know it a huge party starts, like huge party!
The grand finale we had to go shoot a scene in his bedroom. Most people’s beds are rectangular, his bed was a big circle and behind it was a huge picture of Prince, and the symbol on purple sheets, candles everywhere. I’m like, ‘I’m holding a light panel in Prince’s bedroom!’ If only this had happened in the days when everyone was into camera phones, I’d have taken tons of selfies and got like a million followers on Instagram!
Afterwards one chick comes with a cheque book, signs cheques, and sends us off. He gives the sound man an embroidered Bible and we go home. Weirdest 5 days of my life. And nobody believed me too, I’d tell people that I’m working on this movie that Prince was directing and they’d be like, yeah right. I should have framed that freakin’ cheque. One time we shot him like 6 takes – it’s a house on the hills, all he did was open his window, look out and close it. We did 6 takes of that sh*t.
Whatever planet he’s on, he’s the emperor of the planet and he’s so cool. And his coolness is like he’s in a hurry to do nothing. The fact that I met him is something that really freaks me out. In LA you see a lot of celebrity, he’s not even a celebrity, he’s like a unicorn.’
Frances Turner, actress
‘I can’t deal and I’m lightweight in denial. The man was a GENIUS. I’m SOOOO grateful I got to witness his BRILLIANCE live and in living colour as many times as I was able to. Some highlights:
’02: “One Night Alone” concert at Avery Fisher Hall. Me and one of my besties, Robyn, getting there maaaad early to meet Eulas and Larry to sit outside in line (for HOURS) with the fan club to get seats in the first 15 rows AND see Prince soundcheck before the concert. They finally open the doors and everybody RUSHES in. This fool, Prince, is walking up and down the aisles all calm, like he’s not friggin’ Prince, with a mic saying “everybody settle down now”. Robyn – who loves Prince more than ANYONE i know – nearly ran into him trying to get seats as close to the front as possible. She stopped STUNNED and could only say “Oh my God!!” cos he was like right in front of her! But, we still needed some close seats so we kept running in total shock. Then, as folks were still filing in, this dude is inconspicuously sitting in the audience singing and sound checking “Joy In Repetition” (my FAVOURITE Prince song EVER). It was hilarious to watch people realize Prince was sitting in a row in front of them just chillin’ and singing.
Then after the concert, the after set in Times Square. EPIC. I remember Prince on piano and he brought out Alicia Keys (just on her debut album) to sing “How Come You Don’t Call Me”. I think we got home at 6 or 7am. It was literally like 18 hours of Prince that day. All worth it.
’04: NOLA. Superdome with Bevy. Prince on the mainstage at Essence Fest. EPIC! Prince’s drummer had just lost his baby daughter in an accident. The version of “Purple Rain” they did that night in her honor still brings me to tears when I think about it. Prince and each and every one of the folks on that stage (including Sheila E) gave every single piece of their heart.
Spring of ’11: LA. Fast forward a few dates into his 21 nights tour, I had made plans to hang out with a friend but I secretly pined for tickets to that night’s show. It was Stevie Wonder’s birthday and i just KNEW Prince was gonna bring Stevie out (which would make my head explode). But I didn’t have tix. THEN my homegirl, Janet, hits me up “what are you doing tonight?”. I reply “Supposed to hang out with a friend. what’s up?” She replies: “Prince”. Promptly cancelled my plans. Sure enough, he brought out Stevie! The entire Forum sang Happy Birthday to Stevie and then they played together. UGH. Epic.
Summer of ’13: I had gotten back to BK from LA a couple of nights before and still terribly jetlagged. It was about 11:00pm and I was on empty about to fall asleep. Sweats on. Hair wrapped. Done for the night. About 11:30pm, Robyn knocks on the door: “Just got word Prince is doing a set at City Winery at midnight. Girl. Sort yourself out. Uber is on the way.” After the silliest moment of hesitation, I pulled it together. Prince burned it down in a small venue, as per usual. Moral of the story: when Prince calls, you go.’
Sarah Arrow, blogger at Sark EMedia
‘I went to my first Prince concert in the late 80s, it was his Lovesexy tour. He insisted that no one could come unless they wore peach or black. Like many other fans, I complied. He was much younger than I imagined, and he gave a great performance (which many told me was spoiled by his tantrums!) What tantrums, he was performing and singing his heart out, I didn’t see a tantrum. A bit like a new mother doesn’t see the tantrums of her child, just a frustration that something isn’t right. He introduced me to Mavis and Chaka Khan. Then I saw him in 2001 in a smaller more intimate venue (The Hammersmith Apollo, a theatre-style layout rather than arena) and he was just divine. He played his heart and soul out and this time, he introduced me to Candy Dulfer. He was more subdued but the music was sublime, and then he invited all to a party afterwards. Seriously! 2,000 people! And he invited us to Soho to party with him. I would’ve loved to have gone.
The final time I saw him live was in 2007, and this time, he was in the O2 arena. His stage was his purple symbol and he sat at the piano and played. There was less dancing and no romping on the bed (from the first concert), and no party invitation. He was just delightful, and I never imagined it would be the last time I saw him live.’
Claudya Martinez, blogger at Unknown Mami. Read her post 57 Celebrity Twitter Reactions to the Death of Prince
‘ I’ve always felt like he was singing to me because he makes me feel understood, but once upon my lifetime he did sing to me. It was over a decade ago and Prince was playing a show in the Bay Area with The New Power Generation. I didn’t have tickets to that show, but Prince—master of playing after shows—played at a small venue in San Francisco after his big show and thanks to the perseverance of the man I was dating at the time, I managed to get a ticket. OMG!!! I was going to see Prince live in a small space! We were one of the first people inside the venue so we made our way toward the front to be close to the stage. Prince didn’t play any of his own songs. It was all Sly and the Family Stone songs and it was glorious. He was tiny and larger than life at the same time. At one point while he was playing guitar and singing, he looked RIGHT INTO MY EYES for four seconds. I know it was four seconds because I counted—one million one, one million two, one million three, one million four. By the time he looked away, I had a tear rolling down my right cheek. Four seconds may not seem like a long time, but let me tell you that Prince SAW me, he didn’t look through me, he didn’t look around me, he looked deliberately into my eyes and gave me four seconds of his undivided attention, he sang to me for four seconds, he acknowledged my existence for four seconds. When those four incredible seconds were over, I wondered if I had made the whole thing up. If I was perhaps delusional thinking that Prince would connect with me from the stage until the man I was there with grabbed my arm, shook me and said, “Oh my GOD, Prince was staring at you. He was looking at you!” Prince looked at me, you guys; he sang to me.’
Lessons from Prince
Bassey Ikpi, poet, BasseyWorld
‘I remember as a child, Michael was the good, innocent one and Prince was the bad boy. He was overtly sexual and brazen and ambiguous and naked or in his underwear most of the time. We were sold this image of good vs. bad (no pun). But in the wake of his death, these stories of his selflessness, sense of humour, playfulness, dedication to social justice, mentor to many, easy going, loving, laughing etc. All the things that we were told Michael was and we saw. I’m an MJ fan so I’m not taking anything away from him. But Prince was a nice guy. Period. He was a musical genius and legend and icon and inspiration but he was also just a nice, kind man. And he used his influence and power to help people and to encourage and support and did so quietly without fanfare or need for praise. He enjoyed life. He didn’t let fame make him miserable. He used it to make life better. He used his power to uplift his people. That’s amazing.
I’m trying to unpack this tremendous feeling of loss and beyond just mourning the death of someone whose art we enjoyed, I think the universe has lost a crucial fingerprint. This loss is heavy not because “we liked his songs” but because he was making moves in the world that shaped and shifted. I know it sounds like I’m giving him too much but I also feel like it’s not enough.’
Charlotte Kavanagh, musician
‘I borrowed a tape off of my friend and neighbour Lee Render, it was Soul 2 Soul Club Classics Vol 1, I put it in the tape machine the wrong way round and was exposed to what was to become a lifelong love affair, the album was Purple Rain, the artist Prince. I’d never heard anything quite like it, all I knew was that I needed more. Like any good addict, I hunted down a supplier, that person was a friend called Simon Hann, already neck deep in the purple realm, I begged him to let me borrow all of his Prince catalogue on vinyl, I remember he protested, rightfully so, this is Prince vinyl we’re talking about here! He gave in and what ensued was me, locked in my bedroom for as long as it took to devour every damn song he’d written.
I was told when I was around 20 by someone referencing my addiction that I would ‘grow out of it’. Complete nonsense, the older I got, the more I appreciated his unwavering self belief, never caring for the opinion of others, always trusting his instincts. It’s so easy with age to succumb to the easier path but I found immense kinship with his school of thought, I pretty much can’t work for anybody, I bang my own drum and speak my truth all the time to my empowerment and detriment but it’s the only way for me to function, he was fundamental in my development into adulthood. He was an artist in an industry blighted by sexism, misogyny yet right from the start, he was inclusive of female musicians, actively encouraging female talent into his musical world. Yes they dressed provocatively but so did he! He stood shoulder to shoulder with them, baiting them to be better than him, he desired strong, colourful, powerful women, never victims, the kind of woman I wanted to be and hope I am.
Prince spoke to the marginalised and the masses, his inclusion of strong women was the very reason I bought my first drum kit after witnessing the animalistic drumming skills of Sheila E in heels, I taught myself to play, in heels of course. I’m not even sure I’d be able to play in flats. The cruelest blow is that I was due to meet him in only a few weeks time, I’ll forever feel sad about this, came so close. If we can take anything from his passing aside from the obvious getting up, getting out and living, its embrace and respect our fellow mankind, kick the patriarchy in the place where it’s nuts should be, see the greatness in others and support and love each others talents, quirks and gifts, irrespective of sex, age, background, beliefs… it’s all too short and trust your instincts, you’re always right. Like millions across the world tonight, I will be howling his songs to the full moon and remembering, always. It’s gonna be a beautiful night.’
Julia Hook, blogger/brand strategist at Strategic Juju
‘Prince gave me permission to be authentic. I almost hate to use that word because it’s so watered down these days. But when it comes to Prince, it applies more than any word listed next to it in the thesaurus. Prince gave me permission to be authentic. To NOT try. To own exactly who I was. He taught me that my imperfections were lovely. That I was lovely.
And in a world where so many people put on and showed off, somehow his outrageous antics, outlandish costumes, outside-the-box lyrics just felt real to me. He was authentically “out there.” And so, I thought, was I.
Prince celebrated women. He lifted them up. He never shrank around a woman who showed up completely. On the contrary. He pulled her out. Put her on stage. Challenged her. Showcased her.
He gave so many women the chance to be fierce. And he gave me permission, when I was in my early 20’s and itching to set the world on fire:
This is it It’s time for you to go to the wire You will hit ‘Cause you got the burnin’ desire It’s your time You got the horn so why don’t you blow it You are fine You’re filthy cute and baby you know it…
And so this morning, with my 14-year-old son looking on and shaking his head, I danced like no one was watching. And I shook every bit of junk in my trunk with reckless abandon… because Prince? He told me to.’
Vidya Sury, blogger at Vidya Sury
‘Today, I want to look at my list of 50 Things I learned about Life and Blogging from Prince again. It makes a pretty good case for mindful living.
1. Be original
2. Be bold
3. Be true to yourself, your abilities
4. Be Yourself. There’s no one quite like you.
6. Showcase / appreciate others
7. Try new things
8. Be gutsy
9. Don’t be afraid to give away your idea. You still own it.
10. There is nothing to fear. Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real
Today, I wish I could hug my Mom and bawl my head off. She’d call me on the phone every time a Prince song played on MTV. Did she watch MTV, you might wonder. Yeah. She was cool like that. I’ll never forget her expression when she first listened to the lyrics of some of his songs… but she didn’t say a word.’
Mirka Moore, blogger at Fitness 4 Mamas
‘I’m so sad about Prince. Love his music, reminds me of my wild teenage years. I was planning to go to his concert, gutted as too late now. On Friday, I was crying when I saw this tribute to his 21 concerts at the O2!
Always have loved the colour purple and from now on will only associate with Prince.’
Charlotte Gray, blogger at Just Charlie
‘I’ve always been slightly dismissive of mass public outpourings of grief, I remained largely unmoved when Princess Diana died, I was a little sad when Kurt Cobain died and very sad when Bowie left us. But yesterday, yesterday was the worst. I can’t think of many people who don’t like Prince, whether Grebo, Goth or Grunger, Pop Fan, Soul Fan or Blues fan. Nearly everyone I know liked him. Many passionately, but among those who weren’t fans in some way, there can’t be many who didn’t at least appreciate his genius, or his skill, particularly instrumentally. He was a phenomenal artist.
Growing up, Prince’s singles were favourites in our house, Kiss, Girls & Boys, Paisley Park, Raspberry Beret, Lets Go Crazy, 1999, Purple Rain to name but a few, but it wasn’t until I reached my teens and I started discovering his albums that I truly started to appreciate his talent. His lyrics were so filthy I don’t know how I managed to listen to the albums without getting into trouble but listen I did. I don’t know how such a small man in high heels and lurex could have such sex appeal but he did, by the bucket load. Just wow. I have one particular memory of being in my friend’s bedroom, singing my heart out to Darling Nikki and the excruciating embarrassment as her older sister walked in and heard me singing
“I knew a girl named Nikki/ I guess you could say she was a sex fiend /I met her in a hotel lobby/M*sturbating with a magazine”. I can still feel my cheeks burn now!’
Tracey Snell at Face Up Beauty
‘Never before have I been so emotionally rocked by the loss of someone who I’ve never met but whose music has partially shaped the person I am, being such a presence throughout my teens, twenties and beyond. Talking about skincare and makeup today seems trivial, somehow. Yet here I am posting – life does go on. To Prince fans everywhere, let us continue to love and embrace his music – a rich legacy that reflects the huge talent that he was.’
Nnenna Onyewuchi, director of strategy at Yellow Brick Road
‘The beautiful ones have in fact been born. And we mourn their passing as a physical loss. It was not that we knew them. But that they knew us. Or, more accurately, through them we knew ourselves. They showed us us. They taught us how to celebrate US. In all our own strange and magical beauty. And so their loss is a loss of ourselves in a way. But we take heart in the truth that energy never dies. And the selves they helped us make will reflect them into eternity.’
R.I.P Prince Rogers Nelson (1958-2016)
(photo of tribute by north London street artist, Pegasus)
Rolling Stone, in memoriam http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/prince-nothing-compared-2-him
Awesomely Luvvie on Prince http://www.awesomelyluvvie.com/2016/04/prince-petty.html
Gorgeous memories from Dionne Farris and Tavis Smiley
Prince at Saturday Night Live 40th anniversary after party jam
D’Angelo tribute https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6uzBHhPEWpE
Jimmy Fallon on Prince (hilarious) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9iVXxFt1Wg
Kevin Smith on Prince (very funny) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8LhcParuzpc
Prince & Lenny Kravitz https://youtu.be/RC34ZcDiCag
Prince in 1987 concert http://liveforlivemusic.com/news/watch-prince-define-funk-in-this-outrageous-1987-concert-film/
Time Out’s guide to Prince tribute parties in London