In the months after his passing, when the grief was so strong, I started to see a certain phrase over and over again from those who worked with him, encountered him professionally or just circled his orbit in some creative way or another. “Because of him”, they would say, they were a better musician, a better performer, a better songwriter. A better dancer, painter, seamstress and on and on. It didn’t matter what talent you brought to the table. His level of support and mentoring for other artists, all creatives, especially women, was astounding. He wanted everyone to be great! Be strong, be proud. Make a difference. And I started to hear these words constantly, as if said directly to me. Don’t be afraid. You can do this. Don’t let others dictate who you are and what you want. Just do you. Love yourself enough to make up for those who don’t.
I felt his presence constantly. And when I found myself sinking or moving backwards, I would see him shaking his head no, saying, “uh uh” and I would snap out it and get back to work. In some crazy, cosmic way, I didn’t want to disappoint him by giving up. So I kept going. And I still am.
In December 2016 I made a last-minute decision to visit Paisley Park. I went alone, and I can’t tell you why, but I just had to go. It was so cold and quiet, and it snowed every one of the four days I was there. It was so beautiful, and I felt calm the minute my plane landed in Minnesota. My first Paisley Park experience went beyond anything I was prepared for though. It was powerful and highly emotional. I did a lot of crying for sure, but I also had profoundly beautiful moments that were like a healing balm on all my emotional wounds. For three nights, I was able to experience what Prince built. What he cultivated. This incredible, astonishing, creative space of joy and love. I was absolutely transformed, and it was there that the seeds of my new album Bloom were planted. I came back to NYC a different person.
Returning home invigorated, I poured myself back into the record. New songs were literally writing themselves, including an homage to Prince, entitled Because Of U.
Gail George is a singer songwriter living in New York City.