When Minneapolis Went Purple

I have had the pleasure of living in two great American cities: Los Angeles and Minneapolis. As I’m writing this, I am at my desk in Minneapolis, having just returned from a trip to pay homage to a great artist and crucial part of my past.

Yesterday we learned our beloved musician, Prince, had passed away. Like some natural disaster, everywhere I go, it’s in the forefront of the people’s thoughts, and I’m reminded why the Twin Cities are so special. Within hours of his passing, wonderful musicians flew in for what turned out to be an all-night block party honoring our local god. The spirit of community permeated the massive gathering as thousands of people collected outside the infamous nightclub, First Avenue, to pay respects, say goodbye, sing the iconic “Purple Rain” in unison, and hold hands and reminisce.

Adding to that, every bridge and skyscraper in Minneapolis turned their lights purple that evening. Even Delta Airlines turned their cabin lights purple as planes landed at MSP.

Photo credit: MnDOT ‎@mndotnews





Settling in to the reality that he’s really gone, memories of a time when it felt like this was a safe, small town came flooding back. When I was in my twenties, I moved from L.A. to Minneapolis. By far, the most popular local musician was Prince and his band, The Revolution. My first real obsession was this musical genius. It wasn’t long before he claimed First Avenue as his castle and Minneapolis was his kingdom. Somehow we all volunteered to be his royal subjects every Friday and Saturday night and loved it.

No one had ever heard or seen anything like him before, and little did we know, we were a part of history in the making. Yes, we loved his music. But even more, we loved the way it wound around his poetry. This combination was, and still is, intoxicating.

A photo posted by ambervalletta (@ambervalletta) on

A photo posted by IMAN (@the_real_iman) on

His attire was flamboyant, at times androgynous and frequently purple (arguably, Prince owned purple back then). An entire youth population looked ridiculous trying to imitate this man’s style and could not have cared less.

We bore witness as our king acted out his pain and joy on stage. Sometimes he was naughty and sometimes he was nice, but always he was real and we felt very close to him.

As the world changed, he became “The artist formerly known as Prince,” transitioned from stage to his recording studio, Paisley Park, and became quite reclusive. Our little city became a landmark, and we crazy kids have all grown up. It can never be the same as when His Royal Baddness ruled. No, we can never go back to those days of Purple Majesty.

. . . But for one night we became a small town once again, went purple, and remembered.