When Tania Rodriguez got dressed for work Thursday morning, she chose a purple blouse to wear with her jeans. She didn’t think much of it.
It wasn’t until after the 43-year-old learned that Prince, one of her favorite musicians, had died in his home in Chanhassen, Minnesota, that she realized the significance of her wardrobe choice; she had grown up watching and listening to his widely acclaimed album and rock musical Purple Rain.
“Prince and Michael Jackson were the soundtracks to my life,” she told BuzzFeed News Thursday night. “‘Purple Rain’ came out when I was 12, and people freaked out because it was so sexual.”
She recalled this memory in between dancing and belting out the lyrics to “Little Red Corvette” in the middle of the street, just outside director Spike Lee’s 40 Acres and a Mule studios in Brooklyn.
Lee had collaborated with Prince in 1992 when he directed the video for "Money Don’t Matter 2 Night," which was meant as a scathing critique of the American economic landscape, and featured footage of Donald Trump as a symbol of inequality.
Lee’s venue was one of several across the city that attracted crowds looking to remember the life of one of the most influential artists of all time.
The tribute had all the makings of a standard summer block party: balmy weather, and people across generations dressed and coiffed to the nines spilling over brownstone steps onto the street. Most people wore purple, as Lee requested, and their spirits were high despite the tragedy that brought them out in the first place.
The playlist was decidedly upbeat; hits like “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” “Little Red Corvette,” and “Raspberry Beret” were in heavy rotation, acting almost as catalysts should the realization of mourning cause the otherwise good cheer to falter. When the DJ played “Jungle Love,” a song for which Prince played the guitar, the crowd two-stepped and flailed their arms to the beat.
“I came tonight because the best way to celebrate Prince is to enjoy his music and not mourn him,” Jazzi Douglas told BuzzFeed News. “He was such a proprietor of self-expression. Why not? He wouldn't want us to cry. He would want us to dance.”
Douglas remembered listening to Prince songs with her roommates in her Los Angeles apartment complex, usually until dawn.
“One night someone called the police because we were too loud, but when they realized we were listening to Prince, they let us be,” she added.
Spin Marrero said that while many people maintained their skepticism over Prince’s death when the news first broke, she believed it immediately.
“It’s really in tune with what’s happening right now celestially,” she said, noting that five planets are in retrograde this month.
Some tribute-goers talked about how deeply the news of Prince’s death affected their day.
Allison Davis is the associate director of Brooklyn’s Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art. When her colleagues rushed into her office Thursday afternoon to tell her the news, she said all productivity came to a halt for the next four hours.
“Everyone just stopped,” she said. “One person refused to believe it was true, even after his publicist confirmed it.”
Her fondest Prince memory involved a concert in Oakland, California, in 2004. She wore lots of pearls, lots of purple. The parking lot was jam-packed on the way out, so she and her friend opened the sunroof of their car and started blasting the song “Darling Nikki.”
Jade Sealy, in town for a business trip, told BuzzFeed News that she had been crying on and off all day and struggled to hold her emotions together during business meetings.
But for the most part, the tribute was more “1999” than “Adore” as far as energy levels were concerned. Groups of friends synchronized body rolls to the DJ’s set, and couples rocked back and forth in embrace to the slower-tempo tracks.
Then the DJ played “Purple Rain."
The block lit up with the near-blinding brightness of smartphone flashlights as fans swung their makeshift lighters to the beat to pay their respects to a song many have called the greatest of our time.
Anastasia Konecky told BuzzFeed News that it felt cathartic to dance to Prince’s hits. When she was in second grade, her school bus driver often played Purple Rain when he made his routes.
The crowd, led by Lee, sang the lyrics to “Purple Rain” at the top of their lungs. By the time the song ended, people were seen wiping tears from their faces as they dispersed.
Kham Xiong, 24, got his nails done especially for the event.
“Everybody feels love," he said, "and that’s what it’s all about."
Tamerra Griffin is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based Nairobi, Kenya.
Contact Tamerra Griffin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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