Nearly 6 months later, Prince superfans still mourning
NEW YORK — Have you ever missed someone so much that even the thought of them made you burst into tears?
Now imagine that feeling drenched in purple rain.
Nearly six months after the shocking death of Prince, some superfans are still grieving hard, creating tearful memes, snapping up "I Still Miss Prince" T-shirts featuring a despondent Charlie Brown, sharing photos and seeking solace in an explosion of fresh concert videos and unreleased music on YouTube.
They see no end in sight to their sadness, especially with regular Prince developments in the news — details on the death investigation, his house being turned into a museum and Thursday's official tribute concert in his hometown of Minneapolis among them.
Maria Newport still cries regularly over the loss. She broke up with her boyfriend soon after Prince was found dead April 21. When she heard about it, "I just started wailing. Like, fetal position, in my bed."
As for the boyfriend, she said he didn't get it, in the raw moment or in the weeks that followed.
"He could not understand. He couldn't understand the pain," Newport said of the guy she had been seeing for about a year and thought she would marry. "He would say, 'This is the dumbest thing ever. Like, you've never met this man.'"
Ron Worthy, who lives in Brooklyn, runs a music-focused website, Soulhead.com, and recalls his first encounter with Prince's music, listening to the naughty "Soft and Wet" on the radio when he was a tender 7 years old. He knew it was about stuff grown folks do, but that and Prince's numerous other sex songs "basically gave you instructions on some level on how to be vulnerable with women, how to be a competent and giving and unselfish lover."
He said of the death, "I just walked around in a daze for weeks. I still cry when I hear certain songs like 'Breakdown' and 'Adore.'"
Jazz buff Cheryl Emerson, at 66, doesn't fit the traditional Prince demographic but she, too, is still profoundly saddened by the loss. She wouldn't let her Prince fan of a daughter, Rana Emerson, see the Oscar-winning "Purple Rain" at age 13 in San Antonio, Texas, shipping her off with her little brother to their grandparents' house so she and her husband could go alone opening weekend.
Emerson redeemed herself years later, when Rana — now 45 — was in her 20s. The two went to see Prince together twice, and Rana three more times on her own.
"My heart's still broken," the elder Emerson said. "Why? Why wasn't there someone there to prevent it, to help him, to see what he was doing, to give him advice?"
She was referring to Prince's accidental painkiller overdose at 57 after decades of residual pain from epic live performances that had him madly jumping off pianos, doing multiple splits and — to these fans — giving them everything he had.
Daughter Rana, who works as a higher education administrator in New York, is also still deeply affected by Prince's death but takes a little comfort in so many details that have surfaced about the enormity of his philanthropy.
"What I'm feeling, I know it's not going to pass anytime soon," she said.
While Prince's brilliance as a musician is what many fans may miss most, for his devoted followers, his loss means something more.
Cheryl Emerson appreciated what he meant for black people, his trailblazing ways, and in particular, his battles for artists' rights.
"We were proud that he was fighting the system when he was writing slave on his face and changed his name to the symbol and all of that," she explained. "He was doing these things for other people who would come along later. Not just himself."
Brooks Brown, a 44-year-old lesbian living in Albany, New York, recalls being drawn to the androgynous Prince when she was growing up in Alabama, appreciating him as someone to identify with.
"He was so gender fluid and kind of race fluid, too. I was like 11 and 12 and I felt that way a lot and felt that in him. He was so confident," said Brown, who is a web administrator for an education nonprofit.
"It's still coming in waves," Brown said of her sadness. "It just knocked the wind right out of me when he died."
She first saw Prince live in 2004. Worthy saw him several times. Newport had seen him just the one time, at his final show in Atlanta, but her friend, Margo Davis, a 40-year-old human resources manager, can barely count the number of Prince shows she enjoyed, including some of his famous after-parties and concerts all over the United States, in London and at Prince's Paisley Park just outside of Minneapolis.
Off the top of her head, she estimated more than 20. She has saved her ticket stubs. Every last one, including the one to Prince's last, intimate piano show in Atlanta with Newport, just a week before he died.
"It's a spiritual connection for me," Davis said. "I had to leave work when he passed. I still have days, like, it can't be real. It's still so hard. I couldn't listen to his music, I didn't turn on the TV or pay attention to any of the tributes. I'm finally able to listen, but in a very limited way."
Like Davis, Newport is also still having a hard time turning on Prince's music, but why does she think his death was different? Many icons have come and gone, after all.
"There was a depth of understanding that you got when listening to his music that just took you to another place," said Newport, along with other still-sad fans.
Newport and Davis check in with each other regularly on the Prince front.
"She'll send me a random text and say, you know, 'Today is just a bad one.' And I'm, like, I get it," Newport said, melting into tears. "I don't know how I'll come out from under this cloud."