I distinctly remember the first time I heard Prince. One day before 8th-grade drama class, Chris Wallace brought in her jambox, playing “Little Red Corvette.” That song was like nothing I’d ever heard before — the robotic drum sounds! the heavy breathing! — and upon contact with my ears, it opened up a hole in me that I hadn’t known even existed. Plus, the conversations about the artist were fascinating.
“I heard he actually had sex with somebody in the studio while he was recording that.”
“Bull. Nuh-uhh. He was having sex with the engineer’s girlfriend when–”
“No, with the ENGINEER! That guy’s a queer, man.”
“Pssh. He can’t be queer. He’s black!”
“He’s totally awesome, is what he is.”
“No, he’s not black. He’s, like, Puerto Rican or something.”
“Why can’t you be a queer if you’re black?”
“I love that 1999 song!”
“Have you seen his shoes? Dude wears heels. And scarves. He’s a chick.”
Oh my god, who was this horny-male-female-black-brown-gay-straight-cross-dressing genius they were gossiping about? And how was I going to get a look at him? We didn’t have cable! Mrs. Wagner came in and started class, but I couldn’t think about anything besides Prince — a state which remained constant from that moment until years later.