Prince was a true genius, whose craft transcended all musical categories and inspired so many. His androgyny, both naughty and seductive, was somehow commercially viable; his fashion, quite cleverly his own, created a universe of his own; and his enigmatic character and prolific volume of work intimidated even those closest to him.
So, who was this fascinating creature? I spent 25 years getting to know him, following him around the world on many wild and sleepless adventures, documenting the powerful charisma that he embodied. I still do not claim to truly know him, but here is what I do know. He was well read on every subject he was interested in, and ready to have in-depth conversations about all that impassioned him. If you were able to capture his interest, willing to laugh and to learn without judgment, food, or sleep, he would charmingly engage. And when the conversation was over you would walk away feeling a euphoric kind of high, noting that not only was this an experience to remember but one you wanted to have again and again.
When the conversation was over, you would walk away feeling a euphoric kind of high.
On the flip side, there were times when this Gemini would say nothing at all, and in doing so he communicated even more directly than if he were actually speaking to you. Somehow, from the lack of conversation, he empowered you to take charge, to go beyond where the assignment left off. He was always a surprise!
In putting together this retrospective, which took close to two years to complete, I combed through my extensive archives, carefully making preliminary choices and printing thousands of photographs I had taken of Prince spanning the years from 1991 through 2016. I laid all of the photographs across the floor in my studio, and the journey began. With every series of photographs, I found myself lost in the reliving of my many experiences with Prince. The process and what I discovered have haunted me ever since.
Working on this book was like being thrust into a crazy time warp of exploration, not only of Prince but also of myself. I think many of us struggle to live in the moment—Prince lived in it every day of his life with uncompromised ease. And when you’re working alongside him, you learn to live life that way, too. There was not only no looking back, but there was no looking forward either; we existed in this momentary creative space in time, giving our all just to keep up with him, and not even realizing exactly how stretched we all were creatively, emotionally, and physically. The effect Prince has had on everyone he let share in his life’s process is unparalleled. I feel very confident that if you asked a dozen artists who worked closely with him, they would all say what I am saying now—he was and continues to be a force, a mentor, and an inspiration.
There was not only no looking back, but there was no looking forward either.
Without really being able to explain the “how,” Prince inspired all of us to be better than we ever thought we could be. He challenged us to our cores to see it through even if it seemed undoable—which it often did—to learn not to think, to just do, to find the humor in it all … and to give our egos some time off. Prince’s music, his unconventional approach to living life to the fullest, and the color purple live on in his honor, as his legacy continues to influence and inspire.
Randee St. Nicholas’s My Name Is Prince is out now from Amistad