Life Won’t Be So Bad in Paisley Park

Unsplash-purple flower

“Don’t you just love Prince?”

“More than life itself.”

Julia Roberts as Vivian and Richard Gere as Edward in Pretty Woman

That scene, where Julia Roberts is in the tub with headphones on, listening to “Kiss,” has been in my head ever since hearing the news that Prince died. Richard Gere’s response is tongue-in-cheek; but if taken at face value, (allowing for the inflation of exaggeration), it hints at the level of profound respect and admiration I have for Prince and all that he did.

I was twelve years old when I first connected the artist (now forever known as Prince) to his music. The song was “Controversy,” and I heard it on WAIL 105 FM New Orleans.

I loved the lyrics to “Controversy.” Do I believe in god, do I believe in me? / Some people want to die so they can be free / I said life is just a game, we’re all just the same

I remember my adolescent-self thinking: “Wow, this guy really thinks about things. He asks the same questions I do. Plus, the song’s pretty cool.”

So I was primed and ready to love just about everything he produced in that prolific five-year period that followed. But all along, I never lost that initial feeling I had with “Controversy.” I always felt like Prince could give a voice to things felt, perhaps universally, but so very rarely expressed with such grace.

And here’s another thing: I always felt—no, I knew—that he was absolutely, 100% authentic. That the performer was just an elevated expression of who he really was. He wasn’t pretending to be an eccentric genius—he really was an eccentric genius. Not to mention a consummate showman.

That might be the reason he was the one living celebrity I most wanted to meet. You know that question: “Name one famous person, still living, that you’d want to have a conversation with.” Now, I’m a fan of a lot of actors, and writers, and musicians, and a few scientists, too; but I don’t have a great desire to meet any of them in person. Part of that is because I’m an introvert; and the other (big) part is my suspicion that just because someone has an interesting idea, or produces interesting things, doesn’t automatically make them interesting to talk to.

But if I had ever met Prince, I feel pretty sure the exchange would have been authentic, and certainly interesting.

Now that I’ll never have that chance, all I have is my imagination. So, I imagine my meeting with Prince might have gone something like this:

I would’ve had the best intentions. I would’ve started with something like how I’d been an admirer since “Controversy,” and how even though I’d never been to Paisley Park, I really had been, because admission is easy, just say U believe and come 2 this place in your heart. And how I admired his fearlessness, how he poured so much of himself into his music, and how that gave me hope; hope that you really can overcome boundaries when you show that you’re fearless.

But it would’ve probably come out as something really lame, like: “I always loved ‘Raspberry Beret,’ because when it came out when I was fifteen, I’d sing my name instead.” And then I’d regretfully demonstrate: “She was an Annnne Mi-ala-ret, the kind you find in a second hand store.”

And if Prince had been feeling really generous, he might have asked, “Wait, what was your name?” And I would have lamely answered how my maiden name was Mialaret, and it’s French and the last two syllables rhyme with beret.

And if he was being SUPER generous, he might have chuckled and said that was sweet.

And that would’ve been that.

And I would feel much like I do now, so sorely disappointed at my inadequacy. And so sad that we’ve all lost such a fearless and bright soul.

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