I was eight years old and living in smallsville Ontario when Purple Rain was released.
I was newly the child of a Broken Family™, making my way ANYWHERE that wasn’t home via a pair of roller skates that I picked up from a yard sale for 25¢, decked out in striped roller girl shorts, jelly bracelets, and feathery earrings like the one Mr T wore, but two.
Prince had been in the periphery of my musical repertoire for years beforehand, but Purple Rain was life.
It was the first album I’d fallen in love with since Sesame Street In Harmony.
“How can you like that faggotty-ass pervert?” – Pretty much every adult male member of my family. They may have meant “faggoty ass-pervert”. I’ll never know.
Purple Rain was rebellion.
“Can I go with J to visit her boyfriend?”
The answer was always “yes”.
I’m pretty sure the parental unit didn’t want me around any more than I wanted to be around.
J’s boyfriend had an amazing stereo system and Purple Rain.
Lyrically and melodically, it was balm for my seething, confused soul – allatonce melancholic and hopeful and powerful and…sexy (c’mon…”Darling Nikki” has nary a single-entendre, let alone any doubles).
Purple Rain made sense.
It wasn’t until I was a teen and had moved along from (but NEVER let go of) Purple Rain that I realized Prince wrote and sang about women’s sexuality with agency.
In Raspberry Beret, he wrote about having his world rocked losing his virginity to a woman who knew what the what was between the sheets and made no bones (heh…bones) about it:
“But I could tell when she kissed me
She knew how to get her kicks“
In Red Corvette he sings again about being with a woman with…*gasp*…experience:
“Cause I felt a little ill
When I saw all the pictures
Of the jockeys that were there before me.”
“Gett off” gave me permission to…well…get off with my slighter lovers because he was a slight fella who wrote:
“Honey, them hips is gone
That’s alright, I clock ’em that way
Remind me of something James used to say
“I like ’em fat”, “I like ’em proud”
“Ya gotta have a mother for me”
Now move your big ass ’round this way
So I can work on that zipper, baby
Tonight your a star and I’m the Big Dipper”
I just never worried about being sloppy seconds or 23rds or too big or too loud or too whatever because dudes like Prince Rogers Nelson were out there and I didn’t have to settle for that shit and I’ve been bloody-minded enough to find a…few…couple…dozen…or so…lovers on that wave.
He never came off with the same kind of fetishistic machismo a girl becomes accustomed to from dudes after the age of…oh…let’s say 13?
The machismo and fetishim were there, but they were his own and the same was honoured in his lyrical femme lovers.
He was just a dude who liked purple and ruffles and sparkly things, singing about and owning his own dudely feelings about boning, in purple, ruffly, sparkly things. And he was doing away with archaic gender norms and wearing head wraps and he was amazing.
He didn’t just inform my feelings about gender and sexual identity (and possibly fashion sense); Prince had some pretty solid insight about those weird, wonderful, insanity-inducing things that are relationships, romantic or not.
Listen to the entirety of the song Purple Rain or Nothing Compares 2 u or When You Were Mine. They can be applied to anyone.
I guess that’s what drew me to him when I was 8 and feeling pretty damned alone and broken. He made me feel not so alone and broken. He made it ok to feel alone and broken.
He made it ok to feel alone and broken and still deserving of a real, whole life.
He made me a person who ain’t ever gonna let the elevator drag her down.
I guess that’s why I have a Prince day almost every week.
I’m sad that I never got to see him, but I am oh so glad we were alive together.
I shan’t ever forget to punch a higher floor and go crazy.