I know what you’re thinking. What does an overweight 65 year-old grandmother, living in the exurbs of Phoenix possibly have to say about Prince? More than you would think, though nothing so significant that I’m going to get picked up by national wire services or anything. I can get pretty boring when I get lost in my memories, so feel free to stop here.
I haven’t always lived in Arizona – in fact, I’ve only been here for three years. The first 45 years of my life were spent in and around Minneapolis. Though I doubt I’ll ever return there to live, Minneapolis is home. And in Minneapolis, Prince was ours.
Not only did Prince hail from Minneapolis, he grew up in one of the poorer parts of town – just like me. Though seven years younger than I, he spent some time in schools that fed into the high school that I claim. Growing up, going to high school, in one of the most maligned parts of town wasn’t always easy. I remember being stiff-neck proud and defensive of my neighborhood, my school, and myself. There was a time in my sophomore year of high school that I went to a dance in the next community – just a little suburb on the other side of the North Minneapolis line. When one of those cute Robbinsdale boys finally talked to me and asked where I went to school, I told him “Minneapolis North.” He snuggled up with a sly look and said “oh! Where all the boys are on drugs and all the girls have red lights in their windows!” We definitely had a public image problem. It's only natural to feel a great deal for the person, the artist, who helped improve that image. Prince's touch.
My very first real office job, not long after leaving high school, was in the warehouse district, just one block away from the Greyhound Bus depot, which later became First Avenue. At the time, the bus line deposited an amazing array of people onto the streets near my office. Some of them, we were forced to step over or push past on the way in the door in the morning. I grew up on the North Side – I could handle it. Later, I was amazed that dirty, smelly, derelict building was re-vamped into what it is now… Again, Prince’s touch on the fabric of Minneapolis.
Prince’s music is not the music of my youth. Frankly, the biggest thing to come out of Minneapolis in my youth was The Trashmen, and “Surfin’ Bird.” I was already a young mother when Prince’s music hit the scene. Being a proper young mother, his music was confusing for me – joyful, sensual, moody, primal. How I loved the way it could make me feel, and how I hoped it wasn’t triggering that in my daughters! (And now that they are grown young women, how I hope it DID trigger those instincts!) You could turn it up loud and dance while doing housework (when everyone else was out of the house, of course)… you could car dance to it… you could have a good cleansing sob through it… you could use it to help you pull on your big girl panties and get on with life.
In the late 80s and early 90s, again working in downtown Minneapolis, you just knew that Prince was possible. For all of us, there was some sense of his touch on the community, never knowing who you could spot when out on a lunch break, because of the draw of the presence of Prince. I remember a time my favorite nail technician yawned her way through my fills. Seems that Janet Jackson was in town the night before and Prince had a pop-up concert/party in an empty warehouse and my nail technician was there. See, that’s the thing – nail technicians were invited. Prince was possible for all of us. Once again, that quiet touch that makes the fabric of Minneapolis.
Fast forward a decade or so, and my now adult son tells me that some of the guys from his high school class have been part of Prince’s security team. And when I tell him how I feel a little put-off that other cities are lighting up their bridges and their buildings with purple, he calms me down with the response, “Yes, he feels like ours, but be happy for the worldwide impact he had. You should know that, Mom.”
This morning I turned on the Today Show to get a little glut of memorials, and to shed a few more tears, and watched Matt Lauer interview L.A. Reid about Prince. Near the end of the interview, Matt says (with a slight shake of the head, and barely attempting to keep the skepticism from his voice) “but he never left Minneapolis.” Bless your fuzzy little head, Matt, I don’t know why that’s so hard to believe.
By being so much a part of the fabric of Minneapolis, Prince is a part of the fabric of all of us who have Minneapolis roots. I can feel the words come straight from my heart when I say with pride that there he is, a Minneapolis kid who “made good.” He is ours, will always be ours, but as good Minneapolitans, we’re proud to share.