When I lived in St. Paul, Minnesota, in the early 2000s, working as a reporter, friends from elsewhere gave me pity and grief. They wondered how I could live in a place so famous for its freezing weather and fly fishing.
Well, pretty easily.
I loved the Twin Cities. And I reminded them of the state’s most famous resident, to whom regular folks like me actually had access: Prince.
That turned the Minnesota naysayers purple with envy.
Prince lived in a Minneapolis suburb and his DIY spirit permeated the local art and music scene. More than that, he often opened his Paisley Park complex on weekends for after-parties, sans alcohol. You found out via word of mouth. Ahem, social media and smartphones didn’t exist back then.
The first time I made the pilgrimage, my friends and I drove out, exhausted, at about 1 a.m. A huge white house illuminated with purple lights magically appeared. It was like manna from heaven.
That night, Prince regaled the crowd of 100 with his presence. A DJ was playing unreleased music.
No one bothered him. A big no-no. Groupies and super fans had no place at Paisley. Still, hanging out in an annex of Prince’s home felt totally normal.
One of my biggest regrets in life, which came later that summer, was watching him perform at Paisley Park with my friend Nikki and not joining him on stage. It was so late and we were so tired, and we remained as stationary as the couch we were parked on when he asked ladies to come up on stage with him.
Prince welcomed babies and old people with walkers to Paisley Park. You wouldn’t ever make a song request, though, especially not from the “Purple Rain” album.
I have plenty more Prince stories, such as watching his hair blow without a wind machine as he crooned “Joy in Repetition” and the time I posed in front of the car used in the “Sexy M.F.” video on one of his birthday weekends.
I am reminiscing about Prince because this month marks five years since his unexpected death. Since then, people have ruefully remarked that our country hasn’t been the same because of an ensuing torrent of beloved celebrity deaths and political upheaval. But this five-year anniversary also marks another milestone for me. My daughter’s due date was the day Prince died. She actually came along a few days sooner, but those early days and months of motherhood were, for me, intertwined with Prince, grieving and joyful.
I tried to get the hang of breastfeeding by pumping to “The Beautiful Ones” and “Computer Blue.” As I held my new baby, I didn’t weep for one of my favorite singers but exposed her to his music. I changed the name of the song “My Name is Prince” to her “My Name is Skye,” my daughter’s nickname, and sang to her, “and I am funky, the one and only.”
To this day, I still sing “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker’’ as a lullaby. Yes, I know it is probably inappropriate for her to know all the words, but the melody puts her to sleep.
The summer after Skye was born, and only months after Prince’s death, the movie “Purple Rain” played at Millennium Park to a crowd of thousands. I met up with a group of friends and Skye wore a Prince symbol onesie and purple poofy ruffled skirt that my friend Heather had bought her. I always considered Prince a feminist, but that 1984 movie is rife with sexism. The crowd booed every sexist scene.
But at the end of the movie, as the sun set, all of us — the whole crowd — sang “Purple Rain.” It was healing and beautiful.
Springtime is usually unmerciful in Chicago. We feel the sunshine, hear birds chirping and smell the freshly cut grass, but then winter comes back with a vengeance. So if a blanket of white returns this month, I’ll play Prince’s “Sometimes It Snows in April” and tell myself it’s an omnipotent message from the Purple One.
Sun-Times columnist Natalie Moore is also a reporter for WBEZ.org.
Send letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.