This week thousands are celebrating at the first Paisley Park celebration to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the death of world icon – Prince Rogers Nelson.
Although I am not attending due to family obligations, I am grateful for my recent VIP tour of Paisley Park on Opening Day, October 6 and happy to share some of those memories and more of my Prince journey in photos.
It felt exactly the same, but missing the most important component – Prince. Or so I thought.
At the beginning of that tour of Paisley Park, one of the first stops was at a miniature replica of Paisley Park encased in the center of the naturally lit atrium. That beautiful replica turned out to be a specially crafted urn with Prince’s remains.
Paisley Park was not missing him after all…
As I walked through the colorful, warm studio, home and now-museum of the icon, I recalled the day the world was struck with the unexpected, horrific news.
April 21, 2016 started like any other day. I got the kids off to school, headed in to the office. I had a meeting in Conyers, Ga. late that morning so I headed out, had a good meeting and instead of making that trek from Conyers – which can be a 30 minute drive back to Midtown Atlanta – I decided to stop by a co-worker’s client’s new restaurant, Coaxum’s.
As I walked in, I liked the jazzy vibe of the place. I got a seat at a nice, cozy booth and a menu. I started to admire the cool mural of musicians painted on the walls.
Since it was my first time there, I took my time looking through the menu, so the waiter set a glass of water down for me as I looked through the enticing options. I finally selected my lunch and started scrolling through my phone as I waited to get my meal. My scrolls included reviewing the photos I had taken and posted from the Prince – Piano and Microphone Tour I had the honor of attending seven days before.
That is when I got the first call; it was my friend and co-worker Franz, asking me “Did something happen to Prince?”
I told him “Yeah, last week after the show. But he’s good now.”
I assumed that past incident was what he was referring to. We hang up and I start scrolling through work e-mails, then to Facebook, then I get another call.
It’s Franz again. This time he solemnly says, “Hey, did you hear?”
This time, I get a lump in my throat. I’m not sure what he’s about to say, but I didn’t think it was about Prince.
I settled that with the last call, so it can’t be about him…
Again, or so I thought. Franz continues: “We just announced that Prince died…”
Silence. Then I loudly say, “What, what?!”
“Yeah, we’re reporting it on the station now…”
The rest was like an out-of-body experience. I sat there repeating “What? What?! WHAT?!”
I tracked down the nearest waiter and asked that they cancel my order. “I’m sorry, I just got some bad news and I have to go. I’ll leave a tip.”
The waiter said it was no problem so I bolt out of my seat, trying to beat the tears from dropping while there. The host at the front was puzzled as I was leaving abruptly.
“Is everything OK?” he asked.
I simply replied – with my eyes welling up and about to overflow with suspended tears – “Prince just died and I have to leave, sir.”
I walked hurriedly to my car and turned on V-103. As soon as I got in, tears gushed out like Niagara Falls.
I was listening to my co-worker Kurt on the air sharing his memories with Ramona DeBreaux, and then my phone went bananas.
I immediately called my dear “OG” Prince friends. Robyn was first. She has been my best friend since I was two-years old-and we both fell in love with Prince’s musicianship as little girls.
But she was in meetings at work and could not get to my calls. Then I called Tonya, who picked up. She is another childhood friend and Prince fan and we had just attended his 7 p.m. Prince – Piano and a Microphone show.
We were both crying in disbelief. She actually worked for him as a dancer at Glam Slam. It felt like a nightmare, as if it was not real. I sat in the restaurant parking lot for ten minutes and then made my way into the city.
I put on my sunglasses to hide the steady stream of tears and headed down I-20 West back to the station. The whole time talking to my sister, my mother, friends, co-workers – my oldest daughter’s teacher allowed her to call to “check on me” during class.
Each song we played cut deeper and deeper into the mournful wound that formed hearing the news.
There are those notable events where it is common for people to ask, “Where were you when…” For me, it includes the World Trade Center/9-11 tragedy in NYC, the blackout in NYC that occurred while I was working in the city, the OJ Simpson verdict, the death of Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston – and finding out about Prince’s death is right up there for me.
I finally made it back into the office. I had no energy. The details were slowly coming in. It was on every radio station, news network, and social media. It was everywhere.
How can it be true that one of the world’s musical heroes was dead?
I will not go on about the speculation and latest released information from the investigation of his death. We all got something and we all will have our time to transition on.
And although we all mourned (and still mourn) his sudden, unexpected death, he actually often spoke of his death being a day of celebration. As a Jehovah’s Witness, he no longer celebrated birthdays; and he would often correct people by telling them they only have one birth day and that is the day we were born.
He looked forward to “the other side.” “Way Back Home” – a cutting, intimate, transparent song from the “Art Official Age” CD is one of my favorites. In a reflective prose form he transparently shares how he is trying to find his “way back home.”
I interpret “home” to be his eternal resting place. Upon hearing about his death, all I could hear were the poignant, beautifully written lyrics to this precious masterpiece of song and smile knowing he found it.
In a unique correlation to scripture, when Prince died he gave life abundantly to others. By this, his passing has rebirthed his onetime collaborators on record and onstage The Revolution, Jesse Johnson, Andre Cymone, his first wife Mayte Garcia, Mr. and Mrs. Joshua and Hannah Welton. (Joshua co-produced much of Prince’s last work and Hannah was the crazy dope drummer of 3rdeyegirl and so many others .)
They all represent fruit from his root, yet all are standalone beasts in their own right – no more hiding behind his purple veil. Sheila E. came to Atlanta last year and a large portion of her amazing show was a tribute to her friend and love, Prince. She is keeping him alive and birthing his music to new fans at her shows.
His death has sparked intrigue in younger music enthusiasts. He was ahead of his time with his history-making efforts to change the trajectory of the music industry. He created the blueprint on how artists can have ownership of their masters, start their own independent labels and not be a “slave” to the industry.
He blazed a purple path for many artists to follow. His death has given life to the rebirth of vinyl, “wrecka stows” and the art of live instrumentation.
He also has become the face of humble philanthropy. He has set the bar high for others to follow and has birthed a new standard of giving back to the community and the world without fanfare and expectation. He was a sower and because of his seed, many reaped, and continue to reap a brighter future. (Please check out Jen Heck’s phenomenal piece produced, in conjunction with his dear friend and collaborator – Van Jones on the philanthropic Prince.)
As a true Prince appreciator since 8 or 9 years old – yes, that young – I’ve got a treasure-chest of memorabilia, collector’s CDs, albums, B-sides, Black Star and Right On Magazine’s and posters, authentic promotional items, concert memories, you name it.
I am grateful for all the artistry he shared with us, and hopefully there’s much more new music to come from his infamous “vault.” It is hard to find authentic, talented artists like Prince these days, but I know they are out there.
I am so glad his spirit lives. It really lives… And sharing a few pictures from over the years is an honor. Like many fans, I have a Prince evolution starting as a teenage fanatic, young adult fanatic, to growing up into a grown woman, mother and appreciator whom, even prior to his death, had introduced his music to my three daughters (of which the 7-year-old is the biggest Prince fan – her fave Prince songs are “When Doves Cry” and “The Gold Standard.”)
Today, let’s celebrate his life, his music, his genius, his gift to us and to new life that will spring forth and carry on his tradition of excellence.