35 Years Ago

Posted on in On Our Radar by Rob Sidon

My Conversation with
Prince—the One I Always
Hoped to Revisit.


Prince died a few days ago—on Thursday. Weirdly, I woke up thinking about him on that very night, but just went back to sleep. The next morning when I received a call with the news, I wasn’t entirely surprised. “I was just thinking about him,” I said on the phone. The caller had recently seen Prince perform in Oakland and began to cry, saying, “It hasn’t sunk in for you yet.” And she was right.

Now it’s Sunday and I just returned from the morning dance where the instructor played a series of Prince songs that stopped me in my tracks—the memories and appreciation came flooding back. On the ride home, KPFA-FM played a commemorative a cappella medley that included a few bars from “Sometimes It Snows in April.” Then it really sunk in, and I was sobbing behind the wheel. I decided to write this little memoir about an unforgettable conversation I had with Prince in Paris on June 3, 1981, when we were both much younger and he was still unknown.

I remember the date because on June 3, I had been invited by Waring Hopkins, a young American art dealer in Paris, and Prince’s manager Steve Fargnoli to see Prince’s first Paris club show. Waring and Steve were childhood friends from Rhode Island, and were both very successful in their respective careers. I had never heard of Prince, but Steve had been singing his praises over dinner, and apparently was so convinced of Prince’s talent that he had smashed a chair in the offices of Warner Bros. Records to make his case.

Prince, who was 22 at the time, played a bawdy energetic show but I didn’t get it. After the show, everyone was hanging out and Prince asked me imploringly, in a soulful, shy, voice: “Did you like the show, Rob? Was I alright?” It’s hard to believe in retrospect how dismissive I was, but I actually brushed him off saying “Don’t worry about it Prince, you were great,” and I scooted off to be with the girl I was chasing that night.

What I didn’t know then was that later that year Prince would come out with Controversy, and that would be followed by 1999. After Purple Rain he became a superstar and the rest is history. I have been in awe for nearly 35 years.

This is our Creativity issue and all I can think about is how Prince was such a creative volcano. When I was younger I mused that Prince was the reincarnation of Mozart. My twenties were about uncovering my place in the world and trying to find answers in spirituality and I believed Prince was on the same wavelength. I read spirituality into his songs—at least some of them.

I also believed Prince would be alive for a long time and that I would get a chance to revisit our conversation—but alas, no. Sometimes it snows in April.

Rob Sidon is publisher and editor-in-chief of Common Ground.

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