By Jay Ray | @jayrayisthename
In 1980, Prince released his third album Dirty Mind. As the story was told, Prince, who had a full band, emerged from a frantic recording session one night where he’d recorded the much of the record including playing every instrument himself. The record is spectacularly messy, completely erotic and has a demo-like quality. It is considered his first masterpiece.
Several years later, I remember watching MTV late one night (I watched the station almost 24 hours a day after it came on air in 1981), and caught a glimpse of the video for the song “Dirty Mind.” I was older then, maybe 7 or 8 years old. I remember the feeling like I shouldn’t be watching the video. Here we had a Black man, wearing a trench coat, a speedo and high heel shoes dancing around while around singing the words “If you’ve got the time/I’ll give you some money/To buy a Dirty Mind.” My brain couldn’t process it. I was ashamed by just watching it.
I was "different," and not the good kind of different. How different wouldn’t become clear until later.
I eventually figured out that I had a feeling for boys as opposed to girls that was not only unacceptable to society, but potentially shameful to my family. I hid. I hurt. I found God. I buried myself in school, music and church through my middle school and much of my high school years. He eventually became a larger than life pop star, continuing to push the boundaries of artistry, sexuality and masculinity throughout my adolescence and into my adulthood. I never forgot the image - a man, in the speedo, dancing on stage in high heels.
There was always this underlying feeling that if he could do it so could I. Prince showed young Black queer boys in the 80s that our power was in our difference, not in our ability to conform.
His death is heartbreaking, but I have almost 40 albums and hundreds of songs to remind me that I can be great on my own terms. Thanks, Mr. Nelson.