How I Became an American Teen With Prince

I was out to lunch, celebrating a friend’s birthday, last week when I first found out about Prince’s death.  When my friend Cathy told me the breaking news on her phone, I told her it’s probably just a hoax, just one of those false rumors someone started, another Internet report of a  death of a certain celebrity who actually did not die.  After all, did we not somewhat fall prey to false reports of Macaulay Culkin’s death last year?  These things just spread like wildfire and go viral in just a matter of minutes.  The thought of Prince gone and not around to make music anymore just sounded so ludicrous to me.  Much to my dismay, the waitress at the restaurant decided to turn the TV on for us just to confirm the news, and sure enough, there it was, Prince was found dead in the elevator of his Paisley Park home.

I remember clearly the day I discovered Prince in high school.   Having just moved here from the Philippines, I wasn’t really sure who to listen to and what was cool.  Then, one day, a boy who liked me in school gave a me mix tape (remember those?) of Prince songs.  I can’t believe I kept that mix tape after all these years but I guess I just wanted to keep it as a token of my early years here and also as a souvenir of my budding romantic life back then.  After listening to Prince that first time, I was hooked.

I have almost 100 of Prince’s songs on my iPod.  As I listened to his music incessantly last week, I was transported back to different times in my life.  I Would Die 4 U brought me back to that one summer in Virginia Beach where I sang this song at the top of my lungs along with choreographed dance moves with a few cousins.  Purple Rain transported me back to my first kiss while A Door reminded me of my first boyfriend.   Yes, listening to Prince meant going down memory lane, unraveling one experience after another of that younger me.

Beyond his music, Prince helped me feel comfortable with my identity as an immigrant to this country.  Prior to the movie Purple Rain, there weren’t that many romantic movies that featured non-white actors, so seeing a bunch of dark-haired actors with skin color closer to mine made me think it’s cool to be different. It’s okay to be me, to look like me.

The deaths of Michael Jackson and David Bowie, two singers who were popular with my generation, did not impact me the same way as Prince’s death.  I suppose for me I just took for granted and thought that Prince with his bigger-than-life presence will always be around, perhaps creating that next song that will mark another memory for me.  Who will replace the void he leaves behind?


mixtaoe The mix tape that was given to me in high school.  Some of song titles make me cringe now.

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