Dearly beloved, we will gather at Essence Music Festival on July 4th to get down with this man named Prince. Electric word “Prince” — it means “genius” and that’s a mighty big title, but I’m here to tell you: nothing compares to the Purple One.
“I don’t have a favorite era. It’s like saying ‘Which is your favorite child.’ Different eras, different songs fit different parts of your life, so I can’t say I have a favorite.”
That’s Lisa Heisser, a true Prince superfan.
“I like the song ‘Do Me Baby’ because it’s the first one I ever heard, as a young girl, 15, on the radio — and I was shocked, and I thought, 'Oh my God.' And then I thought, 'Who is that? I’ve got to hear more.'”
Lisa’s husband Glenn Heisser totally agrees: “I was there from Soft And Wet in 1978," he says. "I heard that song and said it was awesome. Back then he was real freaky and real sexual and he’s changed — and I’ve changed! We kinda grew up together, and that’s why I love him so much.”
Prince may be the last real rock star — at least the last who knows the meaning of mystique. He’s been unfortunately successful at scrubbing his music almost entirely off of YouTube. For many years you couldn’t even get his music on iTunes. That’s only just about to change. Around the same time as the 2014 Essence Festival, Prince will finally release a digitally remastered deluxe edition of the Purple Rain soundtrack, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this summer.
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Lisa and Glenn Heisser were the first in line at a recent Prince-centric dance party hosted by New Orleans’ DJ Soul Sister at One Eyed Jacks in the French Quarter. Soul Sister has been spinning Prince’s records in her sets for the last 20 years. She recalls first falling in love with Prince’s music.
“I was around five or six or seven, and I had a 45 of Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad. I remember going to the Sears and seeing the 1999 album over and just staring at it. Then I bought the cassette and I was like 'Oh my gosh, this is pretty wild!' It was influential to me as a young child — really young to be listening to it.”
Soul Sister’s Prince party has taken various shapes over the years. Last year she hosted a screening of Purple Rain at the Prytania Theatre. This year’s party, on the eve of Prince’s 56th birthday on June 7, featured around 450 fans dancing to Prince music, watching his movies, and much, much more: “The Prince night lends itself to all kinds of extra energy, you know, with people dressing up with the fashion, and there was the Lets Go Crazy photo booth, and there were the purple cupcakes that were passed out at the stroke of Prince’s birthday at midnight," Soul Sister says. "And the 56th person in line, we treated them to a gift certificate to have pancakes.”
Soul Sister is of course very excited about Prince’s upcoming 4th of July show — the 20th anniversary of Essence Fest — which will see him backed by his rippin’ all-girl band 3rdEyeGirl. Soul Sister was decidedly floored by The Artist’s epic 2004 Essence Fest appearance.
“Like, you’ve seen the footage of the Beatles in the 60s and women are screaming and crying? That is how it was," she says. "It was men and women all losing their minds. So that’s how incredible his show is. And on top of that he had all these special guests. He’d be like, ‘Okay, here’s Maceo Parker! Here’s Chaka Kahn! Here’s Larry Graham! Here’s Wendy! Here’s Sheila E! It was one after the other!”
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As much as Soul Sister clearly loves Prince, Lisa and Glenn Heisser may have her beat — and not just because Glenn Heisser had 603 Prince songs on his iPhone at the time of our interview.
“Once we got married and all, our daughter we named Paisley Park — not for the recording studio, but for the song," says Lisa. "There’s a line in there that goes, 'The girl on the seesaw is laughing / for love is the color this place it imparts.'”
Lisa Heisser audibly gasps when I ask her why they did that.
“I dunno, no one else can even compete with him. They’re either one-hit-wonders, or they come and go, or they only have one genre — and he covers just about everything you can think of.”
These are all the reasons why I paid $100 apiece for two tickets to see Prince. I have never paid $100 for a ticket to anything, but I am fully confident I will get my money’s worth. I cannot speak for whomever bought front row tickets for over $2,500, but I’ll bet they’re not worried either.
This story has been revised to reflect the following correction:
"Soft and Wet", Prince's first single, came out in 1978, not 1968.