In 1985 I went to the movies by myself for the first time. I was eleven years old. I had recently started to hang out by myself around the city. Take an extra long time getting home from school, go to McDonalds, eat a hamburger or chicken mc nuggets and leave with a vanilla sundae smothered by warm melted carmel. I would walk around Hauptwache in Frankfurt, sit on a park bench, watch pigeons, watch clouds, watch people. Going on excursions on my own felt exhilarating and grown up. Especially on that gray Frankfurt day when I went to see Purple Rain. I remember waiting in line to get my ticket — nervous they wouldn’t sell me one and a wave of adrenalin when they did. It was an afternoon show and the cinema was pretty empty. I was transfixed by Prince. I was in love with him. Every coy smirk, every guitar solo was for me alone. I studied his moves, his tantrums, his pain, his pleasure, his costume. A week later I went back to watch the movie again. It was even better not being in the blur of excitement, but being a more relaxed knowing voyeur. The movie sealed my love for Prince. I waited for his songs on the radio so I could record them onto my pink stereo tape deck. I memorized his words and played guitar solos between my legs. I knew he was a genius. I knew he was larger than life, fictional and costumed as if a futuristic romantic poet. And there was something utterly sexy and lonely about him that was intensely comforting. As if sexyness and loneliness could go together and they do. When my family and I moved to Chicago a year later, I felt like I walked straight into Prince’s songs. I started to properly understand the words I had mostly phonetically memorized. When “Sign o’ the Times” came out in 1987 I listened to it over and over and over. I remember when my friend James and I discovered we were both Prince fans. We started to listen together, he played me hard to find recordings, he played me his own versions. The image above is of a Prince mix tape he made for me in 1993. In college he became my boyfriend and our love was drenched in our love for Prince. He was a musician in the making and already writing beautiful songs. I wanted to become a poet, I didn’t have an inkling that I would become a musician. That wouldn’t happen until much later. Perhaps because it was a thing for geniuses. Prince confirmed this belief. I would be in love with him, screech along to his voice, and sing every word of “If I Was Your Girlfriend,” but I would stay a voyeur. In the early 2000s, living in Berlin, I stumbled into songwriting and into a community of musicians where genius wasn’t the driving force, although there certainly were geniuses. This environment nurtured my awkward attempts at songwriting and I grew into a lady singing songs. And even though you might not hear it in my music, Prince’s songs have deeply shaped my understanding of the journey a single song can take you on. Yesterday James called me from Chicago to tell me Prince died. I had just gotten off the U-Bahn in Mitte and was standing on Münzstrasse. I’m glad I heard this unreal news from him. He would be the one I would want to talk to. He understands. I can’t imagine my sense of song and dance without Prince. I’m in total love loss and gratitude.
“Sometimes it snows in April
Sometimes I feel so bad, so bad
Sometimes I wish that life was never ending,
But all good things, they say, never last”