I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t Prince’s biggest fan.
Ever since I caught wind of that wonderfully odd little man from Minneapolis back in 1978, when he released “For You,” featuring a wispy-looking guy with a big Afro on the cover, I was immediately taken.
The irresistible funk grooves were unlike anything I’d ever heard. I could only dream of the music that would endlessly pour forth.
There’s truly nothing like a Prince song; each has its own identity.
I loved his hits like “When Doves Cry,” “Little Red Corvette,” “I Would Die 4 U,” “Hot Thing,” “7,” “Pop Life,” “1999,” “Adore,” “Do Me Baby,” “Take Me With U,” “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Kiss.” But his goosebump-inducing B-sides and album cuts took me to another place — tunes like “She’s Always in My Hair,” “Computer Blue,” “Erotic City,” “Power Fantastic,” “Strange Relationship,” “Irresistible Bitch,” “Automatic,” “Lady Cab Driver,” “Anna Stesia,” “Tamborine,” “17 Days” and “God.”
More than his music and great albums like “Controversy” (1981), “1999” (1982), “Purple Rain” (1984), and “Sign o’ the Times” (1987), there was nothing like a live concert — the true Prince experience. A pair of unannounced Prince shows, secretly scheduled for April 18 at the Fox Theatre, weren’t meant to be. Sadly, he died at age 57 at his home on Thursday.
I first saw Prince in concert on his “1999” tour in 1983. He played the D.C. Armory in Washington, D.C., on Valentine’s night with the Time and Vanity 6. I’d end up seeing him 20 more times.
I camped out to catch the “Purple Rain” tour three times during my college days in 1984 at the Capital Centre in Landover, Md. It was the only time I’ve ever camped out for a concert.
Other times included watching him headline the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans in 2014 at the Superdome, as well as catching all three shows of a three-night stand in 2012 at Chicago’s United Center. One of the Chicago shows was with a best friend whose mother had just died. Prince sang a song that was performed at the memorial service, and that emotional moment was incredible.
A 1998 show in Collinsville at the Gateway Center two months after I moved to St. Louis was easily my loopiest experience with Prince, if only because it was at the Gateway Center in Collinsville.
My memories of Prince are endless. Some of St. Louis’ other music fans remember him fondly, too.
Justin Hoskin, a singer who performs Prince tributes locally, including one May 20 at the Rustic Goat • “The very first R-rated movie I saw was ‘Purple Rain.’ After seeing the movie, I had designed myself a ruffled shirt and sewn buttons on my pajamas, and I would perform that album in my basement. It’s the first album I learned word for word and the only album I know fully.”
Nappy DJ Needles, DJ/producer whose annual Prince party at Blank Space is June 11 • “I don’t know if I have a favorite memory. But I’m a huge fan and admirer of his work and how he went about it. He was all-encompassing about it. I was just talking to my mom, and we were listening to DJ Kut (of Old School 95.5) play ‘Scandalous.’ She was admiring how he was able to take such raunchy situations, but it wouldn’t come off as raunchy. It was still raunchy, but it wasn’t nasty or disgusting. It was presented in a way where you weren’t squirming listening to it with your mom.
And Prince was the creator of the side eye. He was always looking off to the side a lot.”
Sarah Samples, marketing and publicity coordinator for the Sheldon Concert Hall • “One of my favorite Prince memories was seeing him live in 2004 (at Scottrade Center, which then was the Savvis Center). I’ve always been a fan. My best friend and I always said we had to see him together. I was so impressed by him and his musicianship and the way he ran the concert. He took command of those incredible musicians. The band took a break and he sat in the middle of the stage playing his hits acoustically. I was in the bathroom. I heard ‘Raspberry Beret’ and we ran back to our seats.”
Veronica “Mousie” Hailey, promotions director for 100.3 the Beat • “I think about how I was first introduced to him. My cousin had a very interesting poster of him on her wall. It was just him in a bikini with no shirt on. I stared at it and stared at it for hours trying to figure out who he was and why he was dressed like that. Ever since, I was hooked on him.”
Jesse Raya, media director for the Pageant • “When I was in grade school I’d seen an advertisement for ‘For You’ (1978). I had heard ‘Soft and Wet’ on the radio. I just happened to run into a copy of it at an independent record store in Alton and played that album over and over again until the grooves were white.”
Monica Tyson, hairstylist/author • “My favorite Prince concert was when he was on tour with Najee, and he and Najee did this orchestrated music together. I don’t know what the songs were, but it was ethereal and magic. It put me in the mind of Mozart recreating a work of art. Another magical moment for me was when (producer/DJ/musician) Osunlade had a copy of the music he did with Miles Davis that was never released.”
Amy Burger, public relations professional and writer • “When I was 14 and a freshman in high school, my dad took me to see Prince on the ‘Purple Rain’ tour (1984) at the Checkerdome. I go to a lot of concerts, but all these years later it’s probably in the top three concerts I ever went to. To experience him live in the height of his absolute heyday, he was just bigger than life. The theatrics of it all, the music, the energy — it was all incredible.”
Dwight Carter, event producer • “Watching the movie ‘Purple Rain,’... I’ve seen it probably 20 times. I don’t know about the acting, but it showed he was a great performer. It showed how amazing a guitar player he was. I regret never seeing him live.”
Raqelle Wallace, retail associate • “I could feel in my bones he was coming to St. Louis to perform. I told people: 'I bet he’s coming. I just don’t know when or where.' I had my money ready. I took my Janet Jackson money and stashed it. I said, 'Whatever it takes, I’m coming.'”