I don’t normally get choked up about celebrity deaths. When Michael Jackson died, I felt a bit sad about it, as I loved him when I was a kid and I remember dancing around my grandmother’s house to “Black or White”. David Bowie’s death earlier this year was depressing because no one even knew he was sick and he had been suffering in silence.
When I woke up the other morning and saw my news feed full of articles about Prince, I was shocked. This one hits.
Like me, Prince was born in Minnesota. He went to Minneapolis Central High School and played in a band called 94 East (which is the name of a major highway in Minneapolis). Purple Rain was based on Prince’s own life and shot at First Avenue, which to this day, is a popular music venue decorated with stars and the names of famous acts who played there. He built his house, Paisley Park, in Chanhassen, Minnesota, right outside of Minneapolis, where he regularly threw parties and impromptu concerts for fans, and he could be seen around town (many people who live in the area can recall seeing him out and about, walking down the street or riding his bike).
Shortly before he died, Prince went to indie music store Electric Fetus to celebrate Record Store Day and threw a party for fans at his house, playing a few songs on his piano and insisting he felt fine, saying “Wait a few days before you waste any prayers.”
I have been to First Avenue many times. I know people who have worked there. I’ve shopped at Electric Fetus and walked the same Minneapolis streets that Prince has. Though my family has since moved to the suburbs outside Minneapolis (I’m from a ‘burb called Brooklyn Park), we have our roots there; it’s where my first ancestors to come to America settled down.
Prince was an icon. His androgynous style showed that there was more than one way to be a man. He was a musical genius and blended together R&B, funk, soul and pop to create his own sound, and was called the pioneer of Minneapolis sound. He was so wonderfully weird and made being confident and comfortable with yourself look effortless.
And yet, he stayed in his hometown.
Sure, he travelled all over, and definitely had long periods away from home. But he’s different from Bob Dylan (who grew up in Hibbing, Minnesota) or Judy Garland (Grand Rapids, Minnesota). They may have been born there, but they left. Prince could have gone anywhere in the world, but he chose to stay at home. He’s such a part of our cultural landscape that no one could have ever imagined home without him.
I’ve been away from home for a few years, and I will be for a long time. Hell, who knows where I will settle down? Minnesota is becoming less my home every day. The more I get the hang of life in Hong Kong, the less I feel like I can relate to where I grew up. Losing Prince is just another part of home that’s lost for me.