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My Purple Rain: Love Story Notes for Prince Rogers Nelson

By Stephane Dunn | @DrStephaneDunn | with thanks to NewBlackMan (in Exile)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016.

True Story. Fifteen or sixteen and I am in love. Heart rushing,‘I would die for you’ kind of I’d spend every night ‘rapping ‘til the sun came up’ to you on the phone if Mama wouldn’t keep catching me kind of all encompassing first real deal love. I spend the weekend at my favorite cousin’s house and we go on a group date to the movies, really just my cousin - my ally and supporter of real true love, and the tall, handsome, gentle, smart poet-passionate boy my heart says I will love forever.

We walk the several blocks to the mall but something said along the way or not said by the boy I will love forever stirs my heart rate and my angst prone teen hormones, and I stomp ahead ignoring the beautiful boy’s pleas, his for real, I’m sorry. By the time we’re headed down the theatre aisle I’m whipped up into all out furious and refuse to sit with him. I say nothing to my cousin but she knows where her allegiance must lie and she sits with me while my boyfriend gets lost in rows out of sight with strangers.

The movie begins. Prince fills the screen so surreally mysterious yet intimate, black shiny hair, coltish eyes, in leather and purple magic and stacks and Apollonia picture pretty and there’s a love story and songs, soul teasing beautiful poems telling a story, unfolding, a little, Prince’s mysterious soul. I sit there beside my cousin instead of the beautiful also soulful boy who is beautiful like Prince and I half hold my breath, heart breaking for Prince and Apollonia, willing true love to live up to the purple magic.

By the time Prince is wailing with his soul out in that song, my cousin and I are clutching each other’s arms, tears rolling down our faces. And we just sit there like that, my heart hurting so bad thinking of my love sitting rows behind me, feeling pain, while Prince is making us cry singing “Purple Rain.” And just like a movie, when it’s over, I literally stand and practically run down that aisle around the few lingering strangers and outside and find the boy I’ll love forever heading down the street but he turns to me, tears in his eyes, and opens his arms, welcoming me still and I go.

True story. Me and my best friend in middle school listening to Prince on the sneak during babysitting two cousins of mine away from our devotedly church going, praying mothers who would’ve blessed us with olive oil and a belt if they’d heard us lip syncing to ‘Controversy’ or ‘Do Me Baby’ years and years before, honestly, either of us would experience anything of the sensual sexual merging with another Prince captured. But still he called to our burgeoning longing, our dreams of a love that would be as profound as he made it sound.

First two tears of college, I’m in a real live crossed lovers sort of drama, falling for this young man I don’t want to fall for while clinging to the boyfriend I have. One night, at one of those house parties in the basement of one of those popular people on campus, I’m not with the boyfriend and with sister-friends. The lights darken and the first notes of a song, Prince’s “Adore You” gets people quiet and pulling each other close.

Me and forbidden boy are almost directly across from each other, grinding couples and a little space between us and without asking one another we wind our way around the other bodies and meet in the center and dance, slowly, lost in the voice singing about feeling somebody so deep, he would give anything to her, do anything for her. True story.

A week ago sad about missing Prince at what I didn’t know would be his last concert in Atlanta, I put on my Prince cd, and introduce my six year old son to “Little Red Corvette” He likes it since it’s about a car, and he doesn’t mind dancing a little with Mommy even though I say a little gruffly, indignant, “Boy’ like how you gonna not know who when he asks, "Mommy who is Prince?”  MJ soundtrack to my young childhood. Prince soundtrack to my becoming grown. True story.


Writer and professor Stephane Dunn, PhD, is the director of the Cinema, Television, & Emerging Media Studies program at Morehouse College. She teaches film, creative writing, and literature. She is the author of the 2008 book, Baad Bitches & Sassy Supermamas: Black Power Action Films (U of Illinois Press). Follow her on Twitter: @DrStephaneDunn

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