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DEARLY BELOVED

I first became aware of Prince sometime in 1980, with the release of his third album, Dirty Mind. The cover image of an androgynous, scantily clad dude was slightly baffling to a suburban 16-year-old, even one steeped in glam rock. The salacious song titles were of more than passing interest, given aforementioned teen’s hormonal overload. But that music … Prince tossed James Brown funk, Hendrix guitar heroism and new-wave gloss in a skillet and cranked up the heat. It was danceable, rocking, fashion-forward and revolutionary.

He was serious about recognizing our collective good times as spiritual nourishment. That was his greatest gift to us.

But little did I imagine, forever ago, how much it would all mean to me. Forever.

1999 came out just after I started college, and was essentially the soundtrack of freedom—in almost every regard—as I found my tribe. When it was released, “party like it’s 1999” was a futuristic manifesto, celebration in the face of apocalypse.

We did not stop partying like it was 1999 in 2000.

Prince’s message was sex positivity, inclusion, joy, self-definition and compassion. Dionysian revelry and Appolonian reflection. For my tribe there was no, is no, meaningful gathering on the dancefloor without His Purpleness. It’s no accident he took on the cadences of the preacher during the playful but deep intro to “Let’s Go Crazy.” He was serious about recognizing our collective good times as spiritual nourishment. That was his greatest gift to us.

With the man gone, the multi-faceted many he touched go to his recordings for solace. For some of us, that music is our church.

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