Long before my love of sports, I was an avid music lover. I have memories of how I fell in love with music. My first concert was at four years old (Stevie Wonder), first record and record player was at five (El DeBarge, Rhythm Of The Night) and my first musical love came into my life at six. His name was Prince Rogers Nelson.
in 1985, my parents rented a Purple Rain Betamax tape from Errol's video (I’m showing my age here). I remember the opening scene. The song: Let’s Go Crazy... There’s Prince, standing there front and center... with the smoke, the guitar and the music playing, as he talks over the chords, then proceeds to sing. When the song got into full swing, I remember how I felt -- It was fun and upbeat -- it made me want to get up and dance, and I did just that.
My parents let me watch the movie with them (not in its entirety. The “sex scene” with Apollonia, I had to leave the room). And by the end of it, I knew, at the tender age of six, that Prince Rogers Nelson was the musical love of my life.
Trying to put into words what Prince meant to me is hard. There are so many different ways that he’s impacted my life. I decided early on that I wanted to be an entertainer, a singer at least (I’m pretty good on the vocals, too). But Prince made me want to connect with music on a deeper level. I wanted to play the guitar (that ended quickly when I got a blister after strumming without a pick), I wanted to play the piano (that ended too, I didn’t have the concentration needed to excel). In middle school, I begged my mother to let me try out for Super Saturday, a weekend program in the Baltimore area for the gifted and talented. I was accepted. I wanted to learn how to read and to write music. I did and excelled. I wanted to be intertwined in music more than just melodies and lyrics. Prince introduced me to that.
Prince made my heart beat to his different instruments and arrangements. His singing voice impacted the depths of my soul, all the way to my bones. I’ve loved other artists over the years, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston to name a couple. But the musical rush I received from Prince was so strong, I even named my Chow Chow after him (he had a purple tongue, was there any other option?).
Prince strengthened a bond between a father and a daughter at an early age. My daddy would buy Prince albums and I would be sitting on his lap, listening to the new music. Prince taught me how to love music from every aspect possible.
While I’ve seen Prince live on a few occasions, it wasn’t until May 10, 2015, that forever changed my life. Baltimore was going through an uprising due to the death of Freddie Gray in police custody. So many artists talked the talk and said they were coming to do benefit concerts. The one who did? Prince. My mother and I went to the show, ended up getting tickets in the pit, where we were only feet away from the Purple One. The rest is history. One of the most magical nights I’ve ever experienced. The show gave me goosebumps, my bladder almost got the best of me and I felt full, full of love. He had blessed a city in dire need of an energy shift and made us forget about what was happening among us. I will forever be grateful for that.
On April 21, 2016, a huge piece of my musical soul died when Prince departed this earth. MJ and Whitney had already left us seven and four years prior. And I always said that if Prince left before me I would be devastated. And I was -- I am. My first musical love left us for the afterlife, which he’s sung and talked about over and over again. I’m still in a denial that I will never see him on stage again, I’ll never get to feel the live music pumping in my heart, I’ll never get to hear his live vocals shoot through my soul, just one last time. That I’ll never get to hear him speak passionately about wanting to help black people be a force in this country, to rise and succeed in the Black Excellence that he knew we were capable of.
Nothing lasts forever, even though many of us thought Prince would defy those odds, life has shown us that even the most immortal isn’t exempt of their final destination. To say he’ll be missed is the biggest understatement ever. But instead of grieving in his death, I thank Prince Rogers Nelson for showing me how to love music. From the tempo to the bassline, to the voice and up to the dancing. Thank you, Prince. Thank you for showing me what soul music is like.
Syreeta Hubbard is the author of football blog www.theNFLchick.com and a sports commentator in the Baltimore, MD area. Hubbard has been a frequent voice covering the NFL with frequent radio and television appearances. Catch up with her on her website or follow her on Twitter.