‘The girl on the seesaw is laughing
For love is the color this place imparts…
Admission is easy, just say you believe
And come to this place in your heart
Paisley Park is in your heart…’
When I was in high school back in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, I spent my Saturdays working at a thrift shop. Arising early in the morning, I would catch the train down to the south side of the city, watching the sunrise onto the empty streets, sleepily listening to music on my Walkman. (Yes, a clunky yellow Walkman with a mix tape cassette inside, made from music I would record off the radio — which, if you are in your 30s is an experience you might also remember.) On these mix-tapes in between regrettable Alt rock and mopey goth dirges, there existed a lot of Prince — who, despite his new wave cred, managed to be played quite a bit on crappy 90s commercial radio. “Little Red Corvette”, “Lets Go Crazy”, “1999”, “When Doves Cry”, “Purple Rain”… These tracks would keep me company on those hazy, lonely Saturday mornings, as I headed to sort through peoples old clothes, books, shoes and knickknacks, always keeping my eyes peeled to obtain myself an illusive Raspberry beret — the kind you find at a second hand store.
Fast forward 20 years, and here I am living in Istanbul, mourning Princes death, remembering those days so long ago. I actually learned of Prince’s passing in the middle of a meeting here at Yabangee: Amidst discussing ideas for the next month, someone mentioned to me that I might want to write a tribute to Prince, as I had written one previously for David Bowie. Not yet aware that Prince had died, I slapped the shoulder of editor who said this, and quite literally had to stop myself from crying, lest a room full of people write me off as needlessly emotional. After the meeting though, over glasses of beer in Kurtuluş, others consoled and shared their admiration, as well as curiosity as to why exactly we mourn celebrity deaths when we ourselves never knew these people personally. I think, for myself, it’s not only that the world has lost a true musical genius, innovator and charismatic performer, but the knowledge that many of our nostalgic memories are truly over, and the person whose music was such a part of that particular era, is really gone. For a kid from a conservative oil town in Canada, Prince represented the greater world at large; a place of endless possibility where people could have weird haircuts and dress outrageously, be themselves as part of a tribe of eccentrics and trailblazers. Like Bowie, his influence on anyone who has ever felt out of place or misfit-like, is immeasurable, and he gave many people the world over, the courage to evolve into their authentic self. Philosopher Theodore Adorno once said, “For those without a home, writing becomes a place to live”, but the same can be said for music: Other people’s songs become the soundtrack to our life, and especially for us yabangee and travelers, these songs and performers can be one of the few constants in our perpetual movement and wanderlust.
In his remarkably prolific and decades-long career, Prince challenged gender norms, racial stereotyping, sexuality, and even the very idea of identity itself, during the period where he changed his name to a rather pretty yet unpronounceable symbol. The man was quite literally the embodiment of pop culture that could also be true Art, and possessed a passion and talent for music that others can barely touch. Known to be antagonistic towards the internet, and somewhat of an oddball reclusive, Prince concerts were infamous for their extreme security and rules against photography – yours truly was kicked out for this very offense, and thrown out on the sidewalk after attempting to sneak a few grainy photos years back. But in retrospect, that evening stands out more in my mind for the fact that I have no record of it, least of all the crazy after party where Prince sang funk songs on a tiny stage in a sushi restaurant at 5 AM (Because the only logical solution to being thrown out of a concert is to find your way into the afterparty). In our increasingly shallow social media driven world, Prince maybe knew something we didn’t — that reality is better experienced and appreciated raw and real, than through any Instagram filter or Snapchat.
Prince sold over 100 million records in his lifetime, which when you think about it, is staggering. This kid from Minneapolis, changed the landscape of modern music history. He was enigmatic and almost alien-like in his talent and prolific creativity. Tributes pour in from all corners of the globe and seem to agree on one thing: there will never be another Prince. More than sheer quantity was the quality of his music – celebratory of a certain joie de vivre and zest for life that was truly inspiring, and transcended across cultures.
Electric word life, it means forever and that’s a mighty long time — but I’m here to tell you, there’s something else…
Prince’s passing reminds us of the fact that life, at least on this earth, is finite, and to seize the day, enjoying every second of it: To honour our own unique talents, proceeding forward with joy and confidence, one electric purple heel at a time.
Rest in peace.