When my managing editor, Ruth Manuel-Logan, asked me to write a piece on Prince Rogers Nelson, I surprisingly, became overwhelmed with emotion. This Detroit homegirl was a super fan of Prince’s music long before the film, Purple Rain. Prince was so welcomed in my city; he had a devoted purple legion there before the rest of the world discovered him. Although Prince was born in Minneapolis, he was a Detroit boy at heart, and we embraced him. How can I express my intense love for a unparalleled musical genius I did not know personally but who touched my very soul?
My fondest memory of Prince is riding down Detroit’s Woodward Ave. with my bestie, Millie Simms. She owned a spanking new 1984 champagne colored Pontiac Firebird. We would drive around town with the windows rolled down while blasting from her car’s cassette deck Prince’s, When You Were Mine…
I gave you all of my money
Time after time
You done me wrong
It was just like a dream
You let all my friends come over and meet
And you were so strange
You didn’t have the decency to change the sheets
I used to let you wear all my clothes
You were so fine (so fine)
Maybe that’s the reason
That you’re going with another guy
I don’t care (don’t care)
Cuz I love you, baby, that’s no lie
I love you more than I did
My earliest introduction to his music was through the local radio station, WJLB. The station had an incredible DJ who went by the name of “The Electrifying Mojo,” he would play the records of oftentimes, unknown musical talents whom he felt had the potential to make their mark in the industry. I credit Mojo with putting Prince on the Motor City musical map! The purely talented performer began making a buzz in Detroit with music that featured profound musical sophistication and harmonic complexity, not to mention, lyrics that were sexually charged.
Prince was born in Minneapolis on June 7, 1958 to African American parents–Mattie Dellaana, and John Lewis Nelson. John was a plastic molder by day and by night, a jazz musician/songwriter. Mattie was a jazz singer. He had one younger sibling Tyka Nelson and half-brothers, John Lewis Nelson and Alfred Nelson. The Nelsons, who maintained a volatile relationship, divorced when Prince was age 10.
High school was not the best of times for Prince because he was constantly bullied because of his diminutive size. He excelled at sports and very competitive in ping-pong and basketball despite his 5’2” stature when fully grown. It was there that he met future fellow bandmembers Andre Cymone, and Jimmy Jam.
All of the rigorous dancing in high heels over the years had apparently taken its toll on Prince who suffered from major hip damage. It was rumored that he needed major hip replacement surgery, but refused to have it done. The fateful decision would lead him into a deadly addiction with painkillers. On April 21, 2016 at the age of 57, Prince was found unresponsive in an elevator at his Paisley Park home, he later died at a hospital. Prince’s untimely passing shocked the world over. Folks were at a loss for words and had difficulty processing, digesting and accepting Prince’s death.