Today is Prince’s birthday. He would have been 62 years old.

Every year on this day I am reminded about this person that made such an indelible impact on my life. I know I am not alone in that sentiment. My experience, thoughts, and feelings may or may not be unique, but I do want to share them with you all today.

Those who know me well personally already know that Prince meant so much to me on a variety of levels. In some respects, the man raised me. When I was in fifth grade, my father went to work full time on the other side of the state, coming home only once a month for four days. It was explained to me that this was because he was going where the money was and it was needed for the family. I ended up realizing in retrospect that my parents had actually separated and he was living another life four hours away. My mother was left to “raise” me, though she wasn’t around much. She would be asleep in the mornings as I would get myself up and to school. And she would be gone out with friends when I would get home. She would get home late almost every night, so it would be up to me most days to feed myself, make sure homework was done, and get to bed. (Disclaimer: This is not in any way meant to disparage my parents in any way, who I know did what they felt was right at the time. I continue to love them both very much.)

I discovered Prince when I was 12-years old from hearing “1999” and “Little Red Corvette” on the radio. But I didn’t really get “into” him until two years later when “Purple Rain” was released. Both the film and soundtrack transformed me. My ears were struck by sonic compositions unlike anything I had ever heard before. From the opening organ of “Let’s Go Crazy” to the closing strings of “Purple Rain,” the music captivated me in so many ways.

Over the years I believe that I actually learned a lot from the exposure I had from Prince and his music, or perhaps he reinforced beliefs already within me. His bands and even the man himself was a multicultural and gender-mixed bag that all at once preached tolerance, acceptance, spirituality, and sexuality. Much of who I am and how I am stemmed from my nearly non-stop exposure to his music, videos, and concerts. I have never been a ‘man’s man’ in how I present and carry myself (I can admit that), and I believe much of that came from Prince. Whether it’s been growing my hair long, wearing earrings, wearing eyeliner, or dressing in clothes outside of typical t-shirts and jeans, I’ve never fit the stereotype of the ‘American male.’ Even my general attitude was molded in many ways by him…one part swagger, one part self-assured, one part humble…with the ability to mix and match those as needed for any particular situation. I think – no, I know – that his music, movies, and videos shaped me as an adolescent and has continued to play into me being the person I am even today.

The first concert I ever attended was in 1985 and was Prince at the Tacoma Dome for his “Purple Rain” tour. I remember having to walk through religious picket lines out in front of the Dome, “Christians” screaming how Prince was the work of the devil and holding signs exclaiming that he was the anti-Christ (you know what, though? “Until you’re crucified,” y’all, “I’ll live my life in taxi cabs”, thank you very much!). The concertgoers were a mishmash of men in suits and women in lingerie and camisoles. I long for those days! You don’t see that at concerts these days, that’s for sure.

After “Purple Rain,” the next time I saw him was in Worcester, Massachusetts, during the “Lovesexy” tour in 1988. Saw him two nights in a row with a third performance being a late night after-show where he honored a fellow college student of mine who was hit and killed by a drunk driver while waiting in line overnight for tickets to the Worcester shows. In 1992 I drove to San Francisco just to see him during the “Act I” tour which was during the “Love/Symbol Album” era. Saw him again in 1996 at the Gorge Amphitheater during the “Jam of the Year” tour – he came out onstage in one of his thick parkas and proclaimed, “It’s colder than a witch’s tit out here!” I almost touched his hand (probably six inches shy) when he reached out to the audience.

The next time I saw Prince live was at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle during the “One Nite Alone” tour. This was especially awesome because a handful of his “fam” got access to the pre-show soundcheck where he was super casual with the small crowd. During the show he tossed his hat out to the audience and I missed grabbing it – by, no joke, probably about six inches – as it flew just out of reach. If I had the wherewithal to just step up on my chair, that hat would have been mine!

In 2004, saw him at Key Arena in Seattle for two shows during the “Musicology” tour. The first show I was third row next to the stage, and on the second night I was front row. Uh-maze-ing. In 2006 I was able to catch him during his residency at the Rio Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas for a late night show. For some reason one of the highlights of the show for me was his rendition of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy.” Loved it.

The last time I saw him was in 2011, fittingly at the Tacoma Dome (where it all began) during his “Welcome 2 America” tour. This was especially awesome because I had my kids with me. I am so glad they were able to see him live at least the one time (even if they were too young to remember many details). It means so much to me that the last time I saw him live was with my kiddos. I will always remember that night.

Over the years I have collected all his studio albums, countless remixes on vinyl and CD, and numerous live and unofficial studio recordings. I have movies on DVD, and have a large amount of live concert DVD’s as well that have not been officially released. I have t-shirts, posters, pictures, colognes (no joke), standees, magazines, and books. While all the CD’s – about 200, I think – are available to grab at a moment’s notice, most of the memorabilia is packed away.

Prince has been everything I’ve said so far and so much more. Some of my oldest friendships were originally fostered due to our common interest in Prince. I have made friends both real and virtual through social media due to our Prince connection. I would not give up a single one of these friendships for anything. I hope that we all continue to stay in touch over the years. The physical person that was our common bond is now gone, but the spiritual persona is and always will be there.

To this day I am still processing his sudden and untimely death. People don’t always realize the dangers of legal drug use and how it can so easily lead to addiction and unintended abuse. I’ve read reports that stated Prince refused surgery due to his religious beliefs that could have relieved his pain. I don’t know if those reports are true or not, but if so…I just can’t formulate the right words to express how upsetting that is to me. None of it really matters at this point, though, as a genius is still gone. I’m still sad.

Prince, thank you for being a part of my life for the last 38 years. And for y’all… If you ever wanna understand me better, just watch some Prince.

Take care of yourselves, take care of your loved ones. Love yourself, love others, and love life. I wish you Heaven.

“The beautiful ones…you always seem to lose.”

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