By all accounts, I was a late bloomer. Someone whose idea of sensuality was shaped in layered ways by strong female musicians – Chrissie Hynde, Etta James, Janis Joplin, PJ Harvey, Patti Smith – from my childhood through adolescence, but not fully expressed in my own life until college.
Those were also the people I looked to when I performed, twisting my hips, growling and singing at clubs around Los Angeles starting in high school, and later, post college, as a sweaty, black eyeliner and neon polyester dress wearing dancer in the revival 1960s Mod scene in L.A. and New York.
Venue as bedroom. Audience as lover. Climax = song. Those singers still fill my spirit when I play now with my band, performing a mix of rock, Americana, blues and soul.
Prince – whose death just a week ago at age 57 continues to feel unreal – is the only man who similarly inspired me when it came to the expression of pure, musical, sexual freedom, a freedom both nuanced, open hearted and, yes, layered. The day he died, and days later, the floodgates of memory tore open for everyone I knew. Driving around L.A., I blared his music in my car, one of many doing the same.
The day Prince dies I find out this way: I’m supposed to do a radio interview in the morning and instead the interviewer texts, “Can’t do interview until I know what’s happened to Prince.” With a clutching stomach I write back, “What happened to Prince?” and she tells me and like everyone else I enter the social media vortex of first denial, then grief.
Later that day I sit in a café and try to write. I’ve written in this café for years but now it’s emptier than I’ve ever seen it. I check my Facebook feed hourly, it’s a glut of shock and sadness. No one can believe it; no one can bear to believe it. I wonder if the café’s empty because everyone has stayed home to mourn. The staff is somber too. They play “Raspberry Beret” and I hold it together. They play “Kiss” and I cry into my coffee even as I wonder why I am mourning someone I did not actually know.
Then I think, of course I did know him. Like everyone else, I met him in the space between him creating the music and us hearing that music. In that place some gorgeous alchemy happened, and in the specific way of the beloved artist he was known to us; he was loved by us.
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