ONLINE EXCLUSIVE BY HALLIE O’NEILL
I remember sitting in my family’s mini-van as a young girl, listening to Prince’s “Kiss” as it was often a favorite pick of my dad. Many Prince fans of my generation probably remember his music in a somewhat similar atmosphere. My siblings and I always giggled at his sultry squeals as he riffed over the chorus of the groovy hit. We made sure to loudly smack our lips at every little kissing noise in the song. He was insanely provocative, edgy and rhythmic. I can’t listen to his music without at least tapping my foot.
As a born and raised Minnesotan, I like to think that Prince and I have a special connection (okay, so I’ve driven by his recording studio once and that’s probably the closest I’ve ever gotten to him). But the mark he made on Minnesota’s metro area is undeniable and it makes me feel very proud of where I’m from. Most significantly, he spotlighted the music venue First Avenue when he filmed his movie “Purple Rain” in and around the popular location. First Avenue is where Prince first started playing his music and he continued to religiously support it throughout his entire career, whether onstage or by simply meshing into the crowd and enjoying local artists’ music. He completely trademarked the Minneapolis sound in the 1980s, truly placing the city on America’s music map.
Even after his name exploded into worldwide fame, Prince remained loyal to his home-state. Unlike other Minnesotan artists — Bob Dylan, Eddie Cochran, Judy Garland — he actually stayed there. In Chanhassen, a suburb of the Twin Cities, he built an entire recording complex named Paisley Park where he lived and made music. I recently watched one of his few interviews in which the interviewer asked him why he chose to stay in Minnesota. He joked that it’s cold enough up there that people won’t come bother him. It made me laugh, but there’s a lot of truth there. He was able to freely roam the city streets or browse the record collection at Electric Fetus as any normal Minnesotan would and the people around him respected that. With this lifestyle, he retained a rare humbleness that most superstars don’t have once fame affects them.
It’s surreal to hear about a pop icon’s death. Of course, I didn’t personally know Prince, but still, when I heard the words “You guys, Prince just died,” I couldn’t help but feel a bit hollowed out. It’s the same feeling everyone felt upon hearing about the deaths of David Bowie and Michael Jackson. It’s shocking in an indescribable way. This says so much about the breadth of music’s influence — it graces so many aspects of our culture, so subtly that we don’t even realize it. Certain songs become immensely important to us and the artists who create them become connections to something beautiful and untouchable. That was Prince for millions of people across the world.
Of course, the Minnesota-metro community absolutely adored him. Local radio station The Current played his music non-stop for the entire day and hoards of heartbroken fans arranged purple flowers and cards into a shrine underneath his star on First Avenue’s exterior brick wall. I can bet a lot of people sat in their rooms on April 22 with “Purple Rain” on repeat. Fittingly, it rained in the Twin Cities all day.
On the day of Prince’s death, Washington Post writer Alyssa Rosenberg tweeted, “A (very) brief Prince and Bowie thought: we’ve lost two artists who acted as reminders that there’s no one right way to be a man” (@AlyssaRosenberg). He challenged every kind of norm, pushed musical limits to their outermost extremes and gave a whole lot of people something wonderful to admire. There’s no one here quite like Prince — that dynamic piece of the music world won’t be filled again. But that’s okay. He left us his music and his legacy and we can still tell people to “act your age, not your shoe size” and feel just as sassy as Prince was. Minneapolis and First Avenue showed us exactly how to pay our respects to an artist like Prince; with an all-night dance party, just as he would’ve wanted.