When he dropped his name for a symbol, going by "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince", I thought to myself: "I wonder what it's like to be a concept, a spiritually androgynous sensual being ?"
Prince was the first inkling of that to me, and not only did he have a soul, didn't conform to a strict religious upbringing, but he still remained on good terms with The Almighty. It was because of Prince's blatant androgyny that in 4th grade I began wearing a cheap, 3 fake pearl mess of a clip earring, with a metal flower... at my Roman Catholic grade school. They didn't like me there much.
When I was born, I didn't grow up with Ziggy Stardust, or any culmination thereof. I was presented with Bowie in the "Let's Dance" album. That was Bowie's for me. Intellectual and intriguing, but he was through with creating personas for awhile.
Let's get one thing straight: Prince was not, and never will be (thank God) the black Bowie. It's my view that Bowie created persona after persona for his art, a task not to be taken lightly. Prince was always Prince, knew who and what he was, and remained true to himself: integrity. I cringe at the thought of some disastrous spin that the music industry might come up with: "The Black Bowie" as a take-away marketing ploy.
Prince, unlike Bowie, still appeals to me because he has a spirit, a soul unbound by labels, and saw no need to deny his sexuality in light of it. He played every instrument known to man, did so with a perfectionist's zeal. and yet was imbued with a strong, rooted center of humility before God.
Most of all ? He deeply moved me. All of the kids and a few Nuns called me a faggot daily, and then treated me like an abomination. When it was done, I felt a soul still inside, the part of me that they couldn't drive out. Hell fire and brimstone never was the best way to imbue anything in people, except for fear for the well-being of our souls.
That's what Prince meant to me. He was human; never discount it. His music was a starting-off point and a sanctuary. After all, some songs on "Purple Rain" were bleeped out every once in awhile by my mom. But hope lay in the fact that somebody like Prince existed.
He wasn't the only ray of light. I grew up with many 80's icons who stirred my passions, but Prince stirred the parts of me that the establishment's Catholicism couldn't drive out: My soul; my eccentric, budding identity; and my part in our common humanity. He reminded me that everybody deserves to be truly loved, by God and by those God presents to us on our journey. It was a round-about way to the truth... what my Dad would call the scenic route, but it got me here (miraculous thing that it is), and for that and your music, Prince... I thank you.