By Maya Alfia
It can be hard to imagine what the world was like before you entered it. It seems impossible to grasp the culture of the years before you were born, how people acted, dressed, and what they liked; movies and vintage pictures can help, but you can’t understand the phenomena that came before you unless you ask someone who was truly there in those moments.
My dad was born in the late 1960’s, and was in his teenage years during Prince’s rise in the 1980’s. At the time, Michael Jackson had been solidified as an ideal popstar, and he became the standard for what every leading singer that was trying to “make it” should be like.
My dad was born and raised in Israel, and didn’t come to the U.S. until his 20’s, where he then married my mom. They are still together to this day, despite their conflicting opinions; while talking to my dad about Prince, my mom barged in and offered her thoughts: “Prince was no Michael Jackson”. My dad fought back with a “Prince and Michael Jackson were in different leagues”. So it goes.
When asked about his first thoughts on Prince — what he thought of him once he emerged on the music scene — my dad simply replied “I thought he was a skinny guy with good music”. He isn’t one to talk much, and I’m not sure what being skinny has to do with anything; but these are the real thoughts of someone who lived through Prince’s rise. He also noted that during his rise, a lot of people (the people around him, at least) didn’t like him much — it could have been due to the fact that Prince was one of the first men in music to bend genders, due to his use of makeup and the way he embraced femininity. People were baffled by the fact that boys could act feminine and still keep their masculinity. Also, Michael Jackson found his way into the conversation again — “some people thought he was trying to be him.” I guess there truly was no way to escape MJ in the 80’s.
Beyond my dad’s encounter with the people who didn’t like Prince, it seemed like he was eternally loved when he died. Maybe he had a rough start in the 80’s and emerged on top; “I’m not the president of the Prince fan club. People just started to embrace him and like his stuff”. Prince brought something totally new to the table, in terms of everything imaginable; the clothes, the style, the music, the message.
Through the rounds of rough questions, there was one question my dad was able to easily answer. His favorite song by the purple man? “Diamonds and Pearls“.
“If I could, I would give you the world / but all I can do is just offer you my love.” ✿