22 April 2016

All Of My Hangups Are Gone

A few years ago, when the theatre I went on to co-found with my sister was but a nascent dream, Prince was all I could think about. I grew up with his music as an 80s baby, and in the 90s as a child and teen. What I mean is that I had spent my adolescence taking him for granted. 

Prince was always there, grinding away at this thing called life in as public a manner as he wanted at any given moment, periodically releasing songs and making statements that drew the world's attention. We had his vinyls in the house, sure, but mostly I was glued to MTV where his videos would frequently cause me to turn the volume down and sit close to the screen. I blithely considered Prince a part of my life but never really felt the need to get into his discography or personal history. When I attended a surprise concert he gave when I was in high school, I didn't even know any words to more than half of the songs.

That summer before the theatre became a reality was the peak of my six year obsession with His Royal Purpleness. It started the first time I heard Erotic City. I was listening to his b-sides album and there it was with that creepy opening ting that belies the sexiness that unfolds.

I dove deep.

As I surfaced for air I found myself reeling after a stint in Minneapolis. One of the only things that comforted me while I was living there was the knowledge that at any moment he might throw a party at Paisley Park, and that I might get the chance to attend. It never happened.

In my languid days searching for a job that year, I began thinking more about his betweenness. Mostly I'd read about him being a walking duality. The true Gemini. But I found his rejection of musical classification, of traditional notions of gender, of the strict line between carnality and religious virtue, more muddy than stark. It fell in line a lot with how I view aspects of my own life, and the way I think about music, art, love, and spirituality.

I sat my sister down and told her we had to work Prince's music into whatever we did at our theatre. I found myself with 700 pages of his sheet music. I studied publishing and performance rights more than I ever thought I would in my lifetime. I scoured my resources and found contact information for the law firm managing his catalog. I wrote a formal request to for permission to perform his music as a part of a larger story.

He declined.

At first I was upset because I love him so much and how could he do this to a humble fan like me? But I came to respect his total authority over his exhaustive body of work. He only trusted himself to spread his message how he saw fit. He was a genius and how could any of us even come close to anything other than distant adoration? We were never worthy of getting too close, of taking all of him, of using him as we wished.

Prince metered out what we could handle and what we did with that was our business but we never owned it or him. We were fortunate to glimpse, fortunate to dance. Fortunate that we were alive alongside him, if only briefly.

I feel blessed to have been told no because that's more than I deserved. He already gifted us all these sounds. All his talent. All this music.