I wasn’t going to jump on the bandwagon that currently surrounds the death of Prince. But, everyone, especially here in Minnesota, seems to have a story to tell or something to say about it. I guess I do too, especially considering how shocked and saddened I was to hear the news.
I can’t say that I’ve ever been a super fan of Prince—I never owned any of his albums or went to his concerts, none of his music is in any of my playlists, I’ve never been to Paisley Park and I don’t feel as though he has influenced my musical taste, singing or writing style as an idol. However, I did go through a Prince phase as a kid where everything I owned had to be purple—those were the Purple Rain days. I was pretty young then, but I remember my mother allowing me to watch the movie, despite the “R” rating.
As time went on, I grew out of that phase and moved on to Madonna and then eventually into heavier and more alternative rock, but I was always familiar with Prince’s music and often knew the lyrics to many of his songs even though they were not in my personal rotation. And, I remember feeling proud that he hailed from my home state. It made the idea of being a successful musician, coming from the humble roots of Minneapolis nightclubs, seem more human, more attainable. It was the idea that a musician could develop a career here without permanently moving to West Coast and, I think, gave some validity to the depth of artistry we have in Minnesota. It is this thought that makes me realize that, despite the above, his music and artistry had a much farther reach and effect upon me than I ever fathomed.
Many Minnesotan’s have stories about hanging out with him or brushing into him in public, doing normal, everyday things. Prince sightings at local clubs were also quite common and the news often spread like wildfire among fans and through the local music scene (even if the musical genre was the complete opposite). I, too, have one of those stories. Mine begins January 18, 2013.
My husband and I went out to see B! at Dean’s Tavern. I stood two or three rows from the stage as they played and at some point, noticed an interesting looking man stand next to me. The rest of the crowd was in jeans and sweatshirts, some even wore bandanas on their heads—the look was more like a mashup between bikers and metalheads, yet here stood this guy, dressed to the nines (at least compared to everyone else). His wardrobe wasn’t overly flashy, but it was certainly appropriate for winter with a very fashionable sweater. A very tall, large man stood right behind him, moved when he moved and seemed to be keeping an eye on the anomaly standing shoulder-to-shoulder with me. I’m not even sure how exactly to describe it, but it just didn’t look like the typical exchange between friends standing next to or behind each other at a concert. He looked more like a bodyguard.
I looked back at my husband and gave him a subtle head nod to get his input on who he thought this dude standing next to me was. He leaned in and told me that it couldn’t possibly be Prince because he is shorter than me. However, I had given this man the once over and knew his shiny dress shoes had a bit of a heel on them. Since I had flats on, that would give him height over me and I’m only 5’ 5.” Again, I looked back at my husband to point this out and then surveyed the crowd to see if anyone else had taken notice. There were a few sideways glances but for the most part, everyone in that room gave him his space and left him alone.
I was surprised. If it was actually Prince, I would have expected people to mob him, but they didn’t—most everyone was focused on B! Halfway through a song, the man cut through the crowd to the front, reached up to the bassist and shook his hand. Then, as quickly as he appeared, he vanished.
I never did get a good, long, look at his face and so I can’t say for certain that it was really him. But I have to believe it was, because who else would get away with interrupting a musician in mid-song just to shake his hand? I later learned the bassist does, in fact, personally know Prince, so it made even more sense to me that it could have actually been him. I mean really, who would have the balls to interrupt a guitarist if they were just impersonating a celebrity?
The following day, between stories being swapped amongst friends and a few news outlets reporting that Prince had been sighted at some local venues that night, I heard he was apparently scouting for drummers (but, you know how the game of operator goes). Prince did, however, play the Dakota Jazz Club later that very same evening.
A few photographs did surface of that night with this man whom many dubbed as “Fake Prince,” claiming that it was not actually him and speculated that if he was scouting or even just checking out music for the heck of it, that he may have sent out look-alikes to throw off the press and avoid a mob so that he could just enjoy the show. But, again, you know how the game of operator is played. Regardless, it will forever remain the moment that I brushed shoulder-to-shoulder with Prince. I will never forget that night. Not ever!
The photo below is a picture my husband took of this elusive guy. The man with the hat is the guy that followed him around. I’m the blonde curls in the very corner edge of the pic. Sleep tight for me, I’m gone.