“I don’t care where we go.
I don’t care what we do.
I don’t care, pretty baby,
Just take me with u.”
Ever since Prince first whisked Apollonia off on his motorcycle to get purified in the waters of Lake Minnetonka in the 1984 rock film Purple Rain, The Artist has been an unlikely source of travel inspiration. Not only was his music daring, provocative, and unlike anything else played on urban contemporary radio in the ’80s and ’90s, Prince pushed the boundaries of identity and cultural expectation in a way that I could relate to even before realizing it.
Prince—music incarnate—came to represent the absolute expansiveness of blackness by hailing from a geographic and cultural region not traditionally associated with black culture. But he also opened up the possibilities of language and experience to me well before I even understood what was happening. I was ten years old when the goofy but sumptuous Under the Cherry Moon first aired on cable TV. Ridiculous script and laughable acting aside, it’s the brilliant cinematography, exotic setting (Nice, n’est-ce pas?), and lush, phenomenal score that still makes me want to―just for a moment―run off and be a gigolo on the Riviera. Indeed, half of the songs on Parade, the film’s masterpiece of a companion album, feature the sensuous vowels of French, with “Vous êtes très belle” joining that other soulful French refrain, “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?,” on the list of half-baked French phrases that every American of a certain age knows.
But beyond the language, Prince made it okay to think differently, to desire a life beyond your own immediate borders, and to go after that life. In flamboyantly seducing every socialite and debutante on the Côte d’Azur, he made it okay to travel abroad and to live, unabashedly. And in heels, too.
Thank you, sweet Prince.
Let Prince take you on a trip to the Moon:
Image by Robert Whitman