Purple Reign: Remembering Prince’s Sweet Strangeness and Electric Sexuality

A year ago, I was in a half-empty dive bar in Echo Park having a beer with my boyfriend when I found out Prince had died. The bartender was scrolling through his phone and all of a sudden let out a gasp and said, to no one in particular: “Holy shit. Prince is dead.” The next few hours are a blur of that strange and unexpected impulse you feel when an icon, a legend, someone truly larger than life, leaves this earth tragically early: shock and grief coupled with a desire to celebrate their life, their legacy, whatever it was about them that touched you like an electric current. The bartender immediately put on Purple Rain, told us the next round was on him, and everyone in that dark bar got up and danced, spinning and flailing their arms, holding onto each other with tears in their eyes, feeling his music with the intensity and tenderness that comes with knowing someone is gone. It was a strange and magical moment in time, a fitting tribute to an artist who was an unstoppable force of nature, who broke down barriers with the freedom of his sexuality and smoothness of his gender fluidity, who seduced us all with his joyful and insatiable creativity.

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Musically, Prince was a prodigy, a virtuoso, a richly talented singer, songwriter, and musician whose sound spanned decades and genres, infusing everything he touched with his cool confidence and unconventional vision, a golden Midas touch that was both tender and thrilling. He was a beacon of fearless individuality and raw sexuality, exploring a gender bending fluidity that was monumental and influential. He was equal parts poetic and provocative: his live performances oozed electrifying sexuality and smooth confidence, yet his songs spoke of a desire so deep it was painful.

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He often took young artists under his wing, jumpstarting their careers, and was an outspoken and unapologetic activist. Presenting at the 2015 Grammy’s, he introduced the Album of the Year award by saying: “Albums still matter. Albums, like books and black lives, still matter.” A year after his untimely death, Prince’s music and legacy live on in vivid color. He may have left the party early, but we’ll never stop dancing in his honor. Below, a few of our favorite quotes remembering the artist, icon, and legend known as Prince.

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“If someone asks you to dance like Prince, what will you do? Spin, possibly, and do the splits, if you’re able. But there won’t appear to be anything especially Prince-like about that. It’s mysterious. How can you dance and dance, in front of millions of people, for years, and still seem like a secret only I know? (And isn’t it the case that to be a Prince fan is to feel that Prince was your secret alone?)” – Zadie Smith

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“Prince is from the school of James Brown…but Prince got some Marvin Gaye and Jimi Hendrix and Sly in him, also, even Little Richard He’s a mixture of all those guys and Duke Ellington. He reminds me, in a way, of Charlie Chaplin…Prince’s music is pointing toward the future.” – Miles Davis

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“Few artists have influenced the sound and trajectory of popular music more distinctly, or touched quite so many people with their talent. As one of the most gifted and prolific musicians of our time, Prince did it all. Funk. R&B. Rock and roll. He was a virtuoso instrumentalist, a brilliant bandleader, and an electrifying performer … ‘A strong spirit transcends rules,’ Prince once said — and nobody’s spirit was stronger, bolder, or more creative.” – Barack Obama

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