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Prince was pretty in pink, too.
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
On April 21, a nation of music lovers waxed nostalgic about a time or place when Prince Rogers Nelson shook their world. And as the conversation around the country and around the world unfolded, we asked listeners to share their memories of Prince, his music and the impact he had on their lives. The stories poured in, and we collected some of the most affecting tales below.
"I've been listening to Prince since I was in utero. One of my earliest memories is a bitter one: my mom left my brother and I with a relative while she and my aunts went to see Prince. I was angry and resented the fact that I was not allowed to go along. I pouted the entire night and refused to go to bed, simply because I wanted to be awake and still visibly furious when my mom returned from the concert. I was 4. Many people have religion; I have music. And in my church, Prince has always been, and will always be, my God. I received the news while at work today. My mother actually notified my boss when she was unable to get in contact with me, because she needed to be sure that I got the news from someone I love (preferably her). I'm truly at a loss, and I know I'm rambling, but Nothing Compares 2 U, Prince. I hope you are in a world of neverending happiness, where you can always see the sun, day or night. Your impact is immeasurable. Thank you for all you have contributed to my life." -- Crosby Franklin
"I remember walking to the record store with my wad of dollars and coins in the pocket of my jeans...hurrying my little legs along with such excitement! I HAD to get Purple Rain...I hoped it wasn't sold out...oh, what would I do???? I made it there, purchased my copy, and ran home to play it on the turntable in the basement. My dad was HORRIFIED when he heard 'Darling Nikki' playing, but I begged and pleaded to be able to keep my very first record I ever bought with my own money. He agreed. (And secretly grew to love the song "Purple Rain"...) Rest in Purple Paradise, you crazy, inspirational, talented, sexy man! Prince was like no other. How blessed we were to enjoy his talent." -- Heather Helmick
"When I listened to the All Songs Considered +1 podcast about Bob Boilen's book Your Song Changed My Life, I started thinking about the music that has been significant in my life — and there's been a lot. If I had to write a chapter for that book, what would it be about? After much deliberation I finally settled on Prince's album 1999. I distinctly remember using a $10 gift certificate I'd gotten for my 12th birthday to buy the cassette at Dillon Music in Kalamazoo, MI. I remember feeling nervous as I reached for the cassette on one of those rotating cassette towers; it felt a little naughty, and I knew I was probably too young to buy it. But I did it anyway, feeling almost as if I'd won a dare. Honestly, the first thing that drew me to Prince was the line, 'Mommy, why does everybody have a bomb?' Ever the activist, I was drawn to his matter-of-fact questioning of the arms race, even if it did inexplicably come at the end of a pretty funky song that to me was about partying despite — or perhaps because of — the impending apocalypse. Soon my friends and I were dissecting the lyrics as we sang along at the back of the bus, playing the cassette on one of those portable Panasonic tape recorders. One of my more precocious friends explained all the sex stuff the rest of us didn't understand. I loved that Prince was profound and dirty, sacred and profane, political and passionate. His was the first music I remember having an in-depth conversation about, as I tried to make an argument to my friend in support of his complexity. He was himself, unapologetically and uncompromisingly so, a model I desperately needed as a painfully shy preteen. And he could DANCE! And he sang about dancing! Two years later, Purple Rain was the soundtrack of my first relationship, and first breakup. My purple vinyl 'Purple Rain' 45 is still one of my prized possessions. He definitely helped me get through this thing called life." -- Eves Apple
"One of the many artists whose songs would qualify for Your Song Changed My Life — as a 7th grader in Oklahoma I probably first became aware of him through MTV ('1999,' 'Little Red Corvette'), maybe the radio? He was the first of many artists I became totally obsessed with — his talent/art, his personality, his perspectives, his race, and his sexual ambiguity made him irresistibly interesting and perplexing to a white, male adolescent in the center of the country in the suburbs. I wore my fandom on my sleeve from then until my late 20s (the '90s). I have no doubt that he opened my mind to a bigger world which led me to New York City and a life as a fan of music, as well as a much broader perspective on what is normal and good (in life and art). I saw him perform up close at the Palladium (and other medium size clubs), at Radio City, and Madison Square Garden. He was always amazing — his presence on stage is magnetic and entertaining regardless of the venue. I carry a little bit of him with me everyday (you'd never guess it), wishing I could be just a little bit more like him." -- Grambeau
"When I was a young teenaged girl, full of insecurities, doubting that I would ever be as gorgeous as what the 1980s considered to be gorgeous, not experienced at all, but aspiring to be...Prince's music called out to me. I internalized it to some degree. It made me dance! It made me feel what he and his band members were trying to communicate, through lyrics and melody. And MAN, could Prince groove! I felt he was singing to me, and my aspirations. And today, I too am a Sexy Motherf****er." -- Macy Kalmanson Widofsky
"One of my life's epic little experiences was being 20 back in 1991 and getting to see Prince in Paris with my sister who was 14. I saw a poster in the metro and freaked, begging my mom to let me take my sister to this diversion of our trip. That night at the auditorium everyone was chanting something that sounded like 'Prawns! Prawns!' before the show started. (Turned out it was "Prince" with a french accent.) His show that night blew our minds 10 times over. We danced our asses off with every other Parisian in that place. And on the train ride home, we watched a drunk Frenchman sing 'Purple Rain' to himself as he held himself up on a pole. I thank my mom and her adventurous spirit for encouraging us to go. It was an unforgettable night." -- India Nagy
"His gospel was the cadence of my youth, but one memory that especially stands out, a moment when I felt the true release and ecstasy of his music, occurred one New Year's Eve. I was an American traveling abroad, visiting my boyfriend at the time who was working in England. We went to a tiny local pub outside of London to celebrate New Year's. I was really feeling just how painfully young I was and a bit disoriented in my identity as an American. I'm pretty introverted and reserved usually, but that night as we rang in the new year, the DJ blasted Prince's '1999.' Everyone danced with utter and complete abandon. Oddly, it was one of the moments I felt proudest as an American. THIS is OUR music, I remember thinking; the revelation was absolutely joyous and I completely lost sight of myself." — Lala24
"I have many memories of Prince from high school, but there's one that especially sticks out to me this morning. I was 17 at the time, a junior in high school. My girlfriend was on the golf team, and occasionally I would act as her caddy when she practiced. We both loved Icees, so, after we finished up at the course, my girlfriend drove both of us to a convenience store. Prince's 'Kiss' came on the radio right as we pulled up to the gas station. My girlfriend immediately turned up the radio and parked. The two of us stayed in the car until the song ended, dancing and belting out every lyric. I remember the convenience store was busy at the time, and plenty of people passed by, staring or laughing, but we didn't care. The song faded out, we went inside and bought our drinks, and we never really talked about it after that. It was a simple moment, but it meant a lot to me." -- Sk8zilla
"August 14th, 2004: MCI Center in Washington DC. It was the Prince Musicology Tour. I went with my wife (then girlfriend) and her sister. They both had specially made t-shirts with Prince's face airbrushed on them. I thought they were nuts. We were seated on the floor in the second row from the front. We were then treated to what became THEE greatest concert I've ever seen. A little over halfway through the show, I think it was 'U Got the Look,' Prince starts to point out a handful of ladies in the crowd to get on stage and dance with him. Then.... .in SLOW MOTION... he turns our way.... with both index fingers, he points out my wife and her sister. I said to myself, 'it's been a wonderful 2 years with this woman, but i'll never see here again.' It was those DUMB SHIRTS. ONLY through the grace of God, she came back. I can always say that for a few short minutes, Prince took my girl..... with PRIDE." -- Robert Carter
"I'll never forget the first time I saw Prince on television. It was almost exactly 33 years ago. I was 15 years old. With my mom, grandma and little brother, I was visiting my aunt and uncle to celebrate my baby cousin's first birthday. At some point during the day I went off to my aunt and uncles' bedroom to lean against the foot of their bed and watch TV. I was delighted to discover they had MTV, something I didn't have at home. Then the video for 'Little Red Corvette' came on. To call this a life-changing event might be hyperbole, but I don't even remember who I went on my first date with, and I remember this. RIP Prince. There will never be another like you." -- Debamundo