“I’m not a woman
I’m not a man
I am something that you’ll never understand”
— Prince, “I Would Die for You”
His music was the soundtrack to my life. I discovered Prince when most of my peers did — after the movie Purple Rain was released in 1984 and the songs on the soundtrack became a permanent part of our everyday life.
As a senior in high school at age 18, I played “1999” every morning before school on the turntable in my bedroom. One morning I would play Side 1, which was comprised of “Little Red Corvette,” “1999” and “Delirious.” The next day, I would flip the album over and play the two songs on Side 2, “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” and “D.M.S.R.”
I never tired of those five songs, so I never made it to Side 3 or Side 4 of that double album.
I’m not sure what it was that drew me to Prince and his music. It didn’t sound like anything else I had ever heard. But there was something else. He was dirty and poetic. A cross between Shakespeare and a porn star. Something about that combination appealed to me as I started my journey into adulthood. He seemed to understand all those things I didn’t — sex, love, God, life — so I listened to his music in an effort to crack the code.
When I went off to college, I found a used record store and bought all of his old albums — “Prince,” “Dirty Mind,” “Controversy.” I studied them more than my text books.
My parents never taught me about the birds and bees, but Prince did.
He was my sex ed teacher.
The only reason I know the words to the Lord’s Prayer is because it’s in the middle of his song “Controversy.”
Prince was my Sunday school teacher, too.
He was my church.
He was my religion.
He was my Elvis.
He was my Beatles.
He showed me how to adore and appreciate women.
And he taught me how to be funky.
I know what you’re thinking. You, Middle-Age Butch, got funky? Tell us another tale. What I’ll tell you is there’s a fine line between funk and swagger. And any butch worth her boots has a little swagger in her. You just got to love yourself. That’s what Prince would have said.
I don’t think I realized why I was always so fascinated with the purple one until he dropped his name and became the symbol. The symbol was a perfect mix between male and female.
That’s the thing about Prince.
He transcended gender.
I always thought I was in love with the pretty purple boy with the high heel boots and the puffy blouses and tight little body. Back in the day, this in-the-closet lesbian always had a thing for pretty boys with high cheekbones and beautiful hair.
I wasn’t really in love with Prince. We would have made a strange couple.
But he did show me how to love myself.
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My all-time favorite Prince song is “Little Red Corvette.” What’s yours?