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Thread started 01/10/17 6:57am

databank

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My article about Prince and resilience (in English this time)

Hi. It took me some time but I finally got around correcting the Google translation for this article I'd posted in French last October. So here it is ^^

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April 21, 2016, one of the greatest artists of our time has died. Everyone knows the passionate relationship I've had for twenty-seven years with the music of Prince. His death took me by surprise, as it did so many other fans I know. An extraordinary adventure was coming to an end for all of us. I have not written anything then and I wasn't going to write anything later on, because I'm not very good at eulogies. And there is something very intimate for me in the mourning process, something difficult to share, save with those who experience it themselves. So that weekend, I've stayed at home, chatting with other fans on the internet who shared my emotion, and revisiting the work of our musical hero. Music, and lyrics. We often forget, because of his immense composer and musical talents, that Prince was also an author. As aptly illustrated by the latest Nobel Prize, there is poetry in songs, and Prince was a remarkable poet: it is likely that over time we will rediscover his lyrics as well as the second part of his career, too often obscured by the first.

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But that's not what I wanted to talk about.

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Recently, I met a man, a French in China like me, that can be described without exaggeration as having been broken by life. A man past thirty who'll tell you without flinching that he will never accede to happiness, that he's depressed for life, that he'll never know what it was to have fun nor to "let go" and that he has no ambition to ever know. If you are trying to suggest that, perhaps, he can heal his wounds, to reinvent himself, to access a certain joy maybe, he'll send you to hell with determination. It's violent, to be facing someone as affirmative in damnation. One is tempted to say that this is a posture, but if it is one then it's is an inner posture, for himself, for it is not the image that this man wants to give to others but rather the image he has of himself. This man, we'll call George to preserve his anonymity, despises himself, thinks he sucks.

.

What happened ? What happened in George's life for it to be so? And this is where it gets interesting, to me at least. Georges was broken from childhood. I do not know all the details, but his history is not without resonances with mine. Georges experienced physical violence and psychological harassment on the part of his relatives. Georges was sexually abused. Georges knew the law of silence, from an adult world that refused to save him, or even to recognize his victim status. Georges knew social inadequacy at school, because for a child whose home is the place for such abnormal things, it is impossible to feel in tune with other children and they, in turn make you feel you're not one of them. Georges had depression at an age where children are concerned about cartoons and Panini albums. Georges has developed a solitary, somatic and sensitive personality. And then George came of age. Haunted by his demons, so badly equipped to face the society of men and the world of work, he managed to make his way, a path that eventually led him to China, where by the way it is not unusual to meet 'unsuitable' individuals reconverted to language teaching.

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What is interesting for me in George, as a case study, is that from a relatively common starting point -a devastated childhood- we reached a radically different point of arrival. We are both survivors. We have seen, lived, suffered horrible things. We had every reason to kill ourselves and nearly did. We had every reason to become insane and nearly did too. But despite the demons that haunted me, I have never given up the pursuit of happiness. It was even for me a kind of Holy Grail, when I was younger. I have never given up on having fun and letting go, because it was a necessary condition for my survival. I never accepted depression, this sword of Damocles that threatens me regularly, as being a part of me that I would have to accept, and not keep away. I like to listen to cheerful music loud in the morning, I like romantic pop songs, I like to go dancing to house music and I like to flirt with princesses, even if I do not necessarily want to take them home - it's just for plays. And above all: I love myself. I can sometimes get on my own nerves but that does not alter the fact that I am in love with myself, unconditionally. Oh, I have my demons, my shadows, of course! I have my limits, too: this is not because of a whim but because of a sense of reality that I do not want to have children. I have my problems too: to keep depression away, and those insomnias that make my life impossible. Indeed I will never know who I'd be if I had not experienced the horrors I have experienced. But maybe I could not enjoy myself because I would not know the preciousness of happiness. Maybe I would still have depression and sleep problems, and I would be anyway too individualistic to want to start a family. Who knows? Probably I would not have this violence, this anger in me that I must tame. But maybe because I would not have to try so hard to be gentle and kind, I'd be an asshole. You never know, in the end, what good and bad come from hard times.

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But that's not what I wanted to talk about.

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What struck me, meeting George, is a simple question: Why, with a similar past, have I become me and has he become him? Why am I still standing, with scars but still standing, and not him? This is the question of resilience, and it is a real issue. And then when I asked myself this question, the first thing that jumped to mind was "Prince." Prince came into my life when I was twelve years old, and not in his! No doubt, it makes you smile, and yet ...

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First, let's be clear: there is a multiplicity of factors. Resilience is believed to develop in traumatized children who had had the time to build a personality, sound and solid bases, in a healthy environment. It hit me the day I found that out, because I had always suspected my first six years, examplary of happiness, were responsible for my ability to survive the nightmare years that followed. I had known something else was possible, and I could hold on to the hope of finding that something else again. As a fallen princess in her dungeon, I could allow myself to dream of better days. One day my Prince will come. I do not know what it is for George, maybe he has experienced horror from early childhood on. It is also, without doubt, personality factors, genetic stuff: early on, I was a confident child, communicative, sometimes even arrogant. I have discovered shyness later, once broken. Maybe George was hereditarily predestined to a fragile personality. We will not know. I will not get into an empty enumeration of what, from birth to today, could have done that I have evolved in one direction and he in the other: this hypothetical exercise would have little interest. Let us admit that the foundations of personality are the result of many factors. Still, one thing is certain: there was Prince.

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To understand what I mean by that, we must discuss the content of the music and lyrics of Prince, and especially the way his works have entered my life at an early age. We must measure the huge impact the work of an artist can have on a fragile, influenceable teenager, a being in training. We must return to July 1989.

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In July 1989, I am twelve. I live alone with an ultra-violent, incestuous and manipulative woman, who makes my daily life hell. Over the previous six years, I have seen all that constituted my world fall apart - what am I saying, being torn to pieces with clubs. My family, in ruins. My parents divorced. My father, absent. My mother, crazy. My cats, dead. My school friends, lost almost every year, because we kept moving from one place to the next. Social status, to win back with great difficulty in every new school. Money, only my grandparents were left to give me any, my parents having gone down the social elevator superfast. Girls, they do not even look at me. My psyche, crumbling, on the edge of madness and morbidity. That's me at twelve years old, and it's already been about six years like this. It gets worse every year, actually. And I do not know when it will stop. Just that one day I'll be an adult and able to rebuild my life, but I wonder if, by then, there will remain enough to rebuild anything. I do not tell all that for pity. I do not want to be pitied, I made it back and I'm really proud! This is just to give the context. Probably the context of George, at twelve, was not so different. What saves me in the middle of all that is my imagination. I'm lucky, that's at least something, to have been born in an educated family, and even in the midst of that mess I'm still exposed to literature, cinema, music, comics... I found an refuge in American superhero comics, in scifi novels, horror films and, increasingly, in music, which I'm getting more and more into. One thing leads to another: being a comics fan in a batmaniac world, thanks to Tim Burton's movie, I venture into buying the Batman OST. It turns out that it is also a Prince album, and it will be my first. All along my fifth grade, this disc is gradually gaining ground as a bedside disk. The texts in English that I still fail to understand completely fascinate me with their sensuality and ambivalences. The music, meanwhile, transports me: I find here an energy that I found nowhere else (my musical universe is still very limited), a sort of trepidation, intensity that constantly merges darkness with joy. I will find more of this in August 1990 when I decide to buy two more albums, Graffiti Bridge and Purple Rain. The latter, especially, amazes me with the intensity that comes from it. I'm thirteen and I thke like a tornado in full face the desperate screams of The Beautiful Ones and Darling Nikki; the hysterical, hyper-danceable beats of Let's Go Crazy, Computer Blue and Baby, I'm A Star; the introspective lyrics of When Doves Cry and Purple Rain; the messianic delusions of I Would Die 4 U; the overflowing joy of Take Me With U and, again, Baby, I'm A Star... I am so amazed at this point that I decide to buy as soon as possible all the other Prince albums and, between September 1990 and June 1991 I discover nine additional records, each more crazy, more unusual than the other. I listen to it all the time: in my room loud, with headphones in bed (insomniac, already), with my walkman on the way to school, whenever possible. I eagerly devour the lyrics, on the booklets (and significantly improve my English by doing so). I broaden my horizons when confronted to songs like Housequake, whose structure corresponds to nothing known me: I do not understand this music and, refusing to admit defeat, I decide that I will understand and learn to appreciate. At fourteen, it's not that bad. And I realize that I have found an artist whose work moves me, talks to me, like no other before him.

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We must, as I said, to understand the impact that Prince's music had on this teenager, understand its nature. A feature of the work of Prince that suited me -and always does- especially is that darkness is permanently hidden in the heart of light. The music of Prince, as generally perceived, is dynamic: cheerful, dancey and sexy. What is interesting is that amidst all these good vibes, there is always a dissonance hidden somewhere. This can be a line in the text, usually it is a small musical passage towards the end of the song, suddenly a switch of chords that makes it sound somewhat tragic. And the reverse is true: there are always, in the saddest songs, slipped amid a surge of violence or emotional despair, a kind of life momentum here or there, sometimes maybe just a line of black humor (as there is also a lot of humor and self-mockery with Prince).

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And there's the intensity. There is, in Prince and perhaps even more in the young Prince I discover then, a constant intensity: everything is inordinarily passionate. Love is overromantic when it goes well, hyperdramatic when it goes wrong. Sex is transmuted into art, or even an access door to spirituality. Frustration is a call to revolution. Religious faith is a metaphysical trance. Any criticism of society is transformed immediately into a hippie pamphlet or a post-punk rebuff. Dance is a marathon. The arrangements are a kind of an escalation of tracks and micro musical events, as if silence was dangerous (think of the criticism by Salieri to Mozart: "there are too many notes"). It is not by chance that a generation of young Americans has recognized itself into Prince with Purple Rain: the Prince of these first ten years embodied to perfection the passion and excesses of adolescence, its emotional uncertainties and repressed idealism. Prince also embodied the contradiction of the pop culture of the 80s: the survival of the hippie ideals of our parents coexisted with the post-punk bitterness of our disappointed older brothers. Growing up in this cultural bath was something interesting for my generation.

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Me, at fourteen, my bedside movie is Pump up the volume: I feel like throwing it all away. And I have every reason to. Adults have promised me heaven then plunged me into hell and no one cares, even though the neighbors hear the screams until dawn. Even the principal of the college whose my neighbors are, incidentally, the in-laws (the bitch shouts at me when I skip classes much against my will, because my mother sleeps in drunkness and forgot to wake me up after a night of horror). I am told to do well in school, to ensure my future, but I wonder if my mother will not kill me before I reach fifteen, or if I will not kill myself to beat her at it. Prince comes like providence in the middle of it all: the emotional intensity in his music sends me back to mine and at the same time the joy, the hope expressed there connects me to my dream, my Holy Grail: being happy again one day.

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Months, years pass, and my relationship to the work of Prince becomes more complex as my thinking expands. In August 1991, I finally escape my mother, return to live with my father. A long healing process begins, which must transmute the ghost I -literally- have become into a normal teenager or, at least, a functional one. In 1991 and 1992, Prince releases Diamonds And Pearls and prince, two discs whose main theme is self-esteem, if not an ego-trip, and as with what had preceded, everything is expressed in excessive terms. This is not a rapper ego-trip, an agressive one. It is a seductive ego-trip, which aims to wet babes by showing respect for them, and refinement. It is also the ego-trip of a Black artist who says his pride in having risen above its peers in terms of boldness and creativity. I'm in my sixteenth years: the girls are obviously at the heart of my concerns, and art also because I've decided to become a writer and musician. The most daring Prince lyrics make my sex education, give me a step ahead of boys my age. And the idea of bold art made its way into my head. More importantly, perhaps, the idea of a self-love which not only would not be forgiven as is common in France when false modesty rules, but proclaimed, help me rebuild my pride. I was a victim, I am not guilty. I was ugly, I have the duty to beautify myself. Not only physically, but also spiritually, because the texts of Prince are tinged with a pervasive humanism. It is thanks to Prince that for the first time in my life, I ask myself the question of God, of the value of having a spirituality. A spirituality devoid of bigotry: Prince may be a christian, that does not stop him from advocating a liberated sexuality. At the same time, I discovered the many side-projects, these entire albums composed for others or published under pseudonyms, and the video shows, and music videos, and the B-sides and remixes scattered thru singles, and the songs given here and there to other artists, and the boots with tons of unreleased concerts and songs... It's a hide and seek game that begins for me, as for so many other fans before me: hours rummaging in record stores in search of a hidden gem, a treasure hunt to find the existence of a particular title hidden, sometimes uncredited, on the album of another. There is, for any fan of Prince, an inherent fascination with the enormity of the work. It's not as if it was enough to buy a dozen albums to have done the trick: the fifteen-year career by Prince is available to me, suddenly, and it's a source of constantly renewed discovery and pleasures, hundreds of compositions: a real adventure!

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In 1993, I'm sixteen, I am in high school and I begin, slowly, to get better. The reconstruction of my psyche is on track and thanks to circumstances too long to explain here, I find myself allowed to live on my own. Alone. Free. I do snap: I continue to go to class, I do not get stoned, I do my homework and I enjoy the freedom of finally taking my own life into my own hand! I eat and sleep at the time that suits me. I invite who I want when I want, I go out and return when I want and, above all, I have a quantity of almost unlimited solitude to take the time to look back at myself. I am free. It was at this time that I decided to change my name, if not legally -that is impossible in France- at least socially. The name change is not a teenage whim, it is a redefinition necessary for my recovery. The name they gave me is associated to a being so broken that I can not heal without killing it, then be reborn. The name they gave me, I can not associate it with the phrase "I am" because I can not call myself the name of this pathetic child, crushed by life, that I was before. I could have chosen to call myself an ordinary name. But as I have long been accustomed to eccentricity, I pick an eccentric name. Coincidently at the same time, Prince goes to war with his record company, the establishment that had made him the star he is. To mark the occasion, he changes his name to an unpronounceable symbol. The announcement, made in June 1993, came two or three months after I decided to change my name. The coincidence is uncanny. From that moment on, Prince's fate and mine begin to be -in my mind, at least- two parallel stories. The following year, Prince releases the title Endorphinmachine. It includes a verse that echoes our double resurrection and who since then has never ceased to inhabit my choice: "Every now and then there comes a time u must defend your right 2 die and live again, live again, live again." Reinvent yourself, always!

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I could also, but it would be tedious, enumerate the loads of Prince lyrics that, from that day to today, found their place in my psyche. There are many: I drew pearls of wisdom, ideas that resonated with me at some point and in many cases, brought answers to questions that I had.

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At the same time I discover the immensity of his work, I document myself and learn more about the past of my sensei's career: his passion for DIY, his rejection of conventions, his rebellion against the major record labels, his irrepressible need for freedom and independence, his attention to detail, his femininity, his feminism, his vegetarianism, his rejection of drugs, his incessant metaphysical questioning, his desire to protect his privacy from the media... Even in the eccentric world of artists and stars, Prince appears as an eccentric. Reached my twenties, I am imbued with this philosophy, convinced of the need to do things differently, both in terms of creating and career choices.

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Years pass and every year he releases one, two, five or six albums. Me, I go into this risky but always daring adventure that is my life. Mine. The one that was stolen that I have taken back. Prince was eighteen years older than me, but we somehow mature parallelly. Gradually, as his rage calms down and he gets wiser, so does mine and so do I. Gradually, as his work lose some of its passion and gains maturity, so does mine. Regularly, he releases a song with words that, strangely, echo a situation I'm going through. When I turn eagerly to Bill Laswell and experimental music in 2003, Prince releases N.E.W.S., his most atypical album. This is only one example among many others. What is certain is that Prince's music -with a lot by many other artists, certainly, but there is a consistency with Prince- becomes the soundtrack of my life. Every er in my life for the last twenty-seven years ago has a new Prince album playing in a loop in the background. At every important moment, at every turn. My memories are imbued not only by this soundtrack, but by the philosophy of the lyrics. So today it is a strange feeling to think that I'll have to go on without him. Hundreds of new titles will be published, drawn from his legendary vault, but the course of his journey -human and artistic- stopped abruptly last April. Mine, however, must continue. I have, fortunately, an inexhaustible source of music, text and royal souvenirs to remind me, when necessary, what I need to be reminded of.

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But that's not what I wanted to talk about. What I wanted to talk about, getting back to George, is what differentiates us in our resiliency. And what differentiates us is that I have had the good fortune, the precious luck of meeting the work of Prince at the age of twelve. What would have been my life without it? I cannot say more than I can say what my life would have been without the childhood that was mine. I can, however, without exaggeration, say that I would not be the man I am if Prince had not entered my life. My sexuality would be different. My relationship with my own identity and the society around me would be different. My artistic work would be different. My conception of art would be different. My spirituality would be different. My enthusiasm would be different. It is no exaggeration to wonder if I'd have been able to ever recover without the work of Prince to give me a taste of life, self-esteem, ambition and happiness. Because if I had to sum it all up, I would say, from For You in 1978 to Hitnrun Phase Two in 2015, if I had to condense the work of Prince in a single word it would be "vitality". Prince's music and his lyrics as filled with vibrant vitality. A vitality that reflects this man who slept four hours a night, made love four times a day and made music without a break the rest of the time. The kind of vitality that reflects a boundless passion for life, and for oneself. The kind of vitality that can only be the result of a complex psyche because, to enjoy at this point the mere fact of being alive, one must have known suffering, and Prince had. "I've got two sides, and they're Both friends" (My Name Is Prince, 1992).

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This article is not an article about Prince. It's not an article about me. And it's not an article about "Georges". In lack of a better definition, I think this is an article on the relationship that a human being can have with the artistic work of another human being, and how it can be lifesaving. Because among the things that George didn't have, that I did, there was Prince. Because Prince may have saved my life. And it's a life that deserved to be saved. And for that I will pay him tribute forever.

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"For all time I am with u, and u are with me" (Adore, 1987)

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I hope one day, George's Prince will come, too.

[Edited 1/10/17 7:44am]

A COMPREHENSIVE PRINCE DISCOGRAPHY (work in progress ^^): https://sites.google.com/...iscog/home
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Reply #1 posted 01/10/17 12:07pm

precioux

clapping

Bravo!

I never knew...databank! And yes, I read EVERY word. I thouroughly enjoyed this analysis per se and congradulate you on your life and love for it. You actually brought a tear to my eye. I hope more orgers read an post their admiration for your written work which you have lived.

Amazing!

Peace and Love yes

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Reply #2 posted 01/10/17 3:44pm

Skee123

Thank you for translating your remarkable journey. I read alot on here and silently empathize, sympathize, agree, disagree, laugh, cry. Your writing/life
was one of the most compelling. I must say I had to dry my eyes more than once so again thank you for your resilience. I'm certain it will not go unnoticed, you certainly illustrate in your journey through your actions hope for George, hope for many. So many lives touched/influenced by his artistry 💜
"✌ and b wild"
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Reply #3 posted 01/11/17 12:53am

NorthC

Wow, that's quite an amazing story, data. I guess we could say that Prince's music saved you from going completely crazy. I've also found comfort in his music when times were rough although my life has been nowhere near as rough as yours. And my childhood was pretty normal. And yes, I also improved my English with his lyrics. I wouldn't know what Insatiable meant if it wasn't for him.
And as for Georges, I can't say much about a man I've never met, but it seems like being depressed has become part of his personality as if he knows no other way of life. I think he can be healed, it's never too late for that, but...that's up to him...
Don't ever lose your dreams.
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Reply #4 posted 01/11/17 2:08am

FlyOnTheWall

Thank you for sharing your story. Wow. I hope it is widely read.

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Reply #5 posted 01/11/17 7:35am

dodger

That was a powerful read data, thanks for sharing. Not embarrassed to admit you got me a bit teary eyed

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Reply #6 posted 01/11/17 10:31pm

Bluu

Prince's music, and his ubiquitous presence in my life growing up, got me through dark times. I didn't experience anything so intense and severe in my childhood as you did, but enough for me to develop a deep and life-long bond with him. Because of Prince I did not feel alone growing up. He was singularly the only human being who could burn through my chronic depression, and reach me. I'll never forget what he meant to me, what his music did for me at a time when I was most vulnerable. Without him in the world, I don't know how I would have coped...if I could have coped at all.

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Thank you so much for sharing your story with us Databank. Not only is it exquisitely written, but the message is so powerful and important. It pains me that you and Georges were made to endure such horrific, inhumane treatment--and from those who were supposed to be 'family', no less. I'm glad you found Prince too...or maybe Prince found you. Point is, you connected. And love, at its essence, is connection. It is love that makes us resilient in the face of our adversities. For those of us, who know what it is to live in the dark, we developed the sensitivity to see the light in Prince, that guided many of us out of darkness and back into the world where life and love awaits.

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And we love you Databank.

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Reply #7 posted 01/11/17 10:56pm

rosylo

This needs to be read, shared. THANK YOU for opening your heart.

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Reply #8 posted 01/24/17 7:10pm

databank

avatar

Thanks y'all for reading and for your warm feedback hug

A COMPREHENSIVE PRINCE DISCOGRAPHY (work in progress ^^): https://sites.google.com/...iscog/home
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Reply #9 posted 01/24/17 7:17pm

databank

avatar

Just an anecdote for what it's worth. As I was finalizing the proofreading of the original, French version of the article before posting it, I was listening to SOTT. And as I was reading the very last lines, at that very exact moment came the very end of Adore "for all time I am with u and u r with me...", which brought me to add it as a conclusion to the aticle. I don't need to say this coincidence generated a very moving moment. Brought tears to my eyes.

A COMPREHENSIVE PRINCE DISCOGRAPHY (work in progress ^^): https://sites.google.com/...iscog/home
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Reply #10 posted 01/24/17 9:13pm

gandorb

I greatly appreciate you sharing your article with us. I was immensely moved by it;for you, Prince and the Georges in the world. I loved how you captured the duality of Prince's work as well, especially about how in his music the darkness is hidden by the heart of light. There is something about your essay that does the same. Thanks

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