I came to know of Prince before I hit the double digits. My mother and grandmother are, arguably, some of his biggest fans, and played his music all of the time during my childhood. Seriously—I remember listening to “Kiss” at family parties, and wondering why my mother and grandmother were in love with a guy who appeared naked on a flower for one of his album covers. Back then I didn’t get Prince, but now I do—and I thank my grandmother for that.
Living with my grandmother throughout most of my adolescence, I learned a lot about Prince. Even now, we talk about how great of a musician he is and how he’s constantly redefining his sound. So, in honor of Prince, Purple Rain turning 30 years old, and my grandmother, I spoke with her about being Prince’s No. 1 fan, Purple Rain, and ruining “Darling Nikki” for me.
How old were you when you first heard Purple Rain?
Karon Watson: I was 31 when I first heard Purple Rain. At the time I was married and my husband and I had heard the album at the Sound Warehouse in El Paso, Texas. We were in there and I heard it and went, “Oh, I like this. Who is this?” And one of the employees there said it was Prince, and she went and got the album and showed it to me. I bought the album that day and after that, that was it—Prince was forever my love.
So Purple Rain was your introduction to Prince?
What was the first thing you thought when you saw the Purple Rain album cover?
The first thing I thought was, “Oh my God he is so cute! Look at those eyes!” That’s all I could say. And at the Sound Warehouse they had a standup poster of Prince, which they gave to my daughter, your mother. That thing scared me many a nights going into her room, thinking a man was standing over her bed and it’s Prince in his purple suit [laughs]. We kept that poster for a long time but eventually got rid of it.
What songs from Purple Rain stood out most to you?
“When Doves Cry.” That song reminds me of myself, because the words to that song are so true for my parents. I was the dove. I wanted my freedom but all I could do was cry. It took me back to my childhood and how my mother was never satisfied no matter what my father did, and there was nothing I could do to change it. Also “Darling Nikki” and “Baby I’m A Star.” I replaced Nikki with my daughter’s name, Meeka, which ruined the song for you [laughs]. I would sing “Baby I’m A Star” to two of my grandchildren when they were younger, and they would say “star” funny because they had a lisp [laughs].
What I see in Prince is nothing sexual. What I see in Prince is sheer genius.
If you could sing any song from Purple Rain to Prince, which song would it be?
“Take Me With You.” Just take me with you, Prince. And instead of singing, “Spend the night in your arms,” I would say, “Spend the night in your songs.” I would just love to listen to him play and be creative and sing and just let the music flow. What I see in Prince is nothing sexual. What I see in Prince is sheer genius. This man has so much music in his head—I mean he hears one note and takes it and makes a melody out of it. And it just baffles that a person can do something like that with anything. I probably could fart and Prince could make a song in the same key as my fart [laughs].
Would you say Purple Rain is your favorite album and if so, why?
Yes, because that’s what made me his number one fan. After Purple Rain I had to have everything he made, and even looked for songs that he wrote for other artists.
Do you remember when you first saw the Purple Rain movie?
I was at home. I’m not much of a movie person. But whenever I see that it’s on or about to come on, you better believe I’m watching it. I don’t know all of the dialogue but I have most of it down.
What would you say is your favorite scene from Purple Rain?
When he made that girl jump in the lake. That was hilarious. That’s the oldest trick in the book!
Have you ever seen Prince live?
Yes! I saw him in Las Cruces, New Mexico during his Purple Rain tour. We were up in the nosebleed section of the coliseum, so I had to use binoculars to see the stage. And when I saw him I was like, “Oh my God,” and when he started singing “Purple Rain,” the tears flowed. As soon as he hit the first chord I had goosebumps. By the time he was through with the song I was just one massive bump. It just touched me, and I promised myself that if I ever got the opportunity to see Prince perform again, I’m going to pay whatever I have to pay to sit in front. I’m his oldest number one fan.
How were the fans and the show?
His performance was awesome. Prince doesn’t perform unless he gives 120 percent. The fans were receptive but not as receptive as I would’ve liked for them to be. You have to be a true Prince fan to appreciate the magnificence of this man and his music. But as far as truly appreciating the genius that was onstage and giving you his words, his music, all of it—it was just awesome. The place was full; I think it was about 200 people short of a sellout show, if it wasn’t already sold out. Somebody opened up for the show, but I got there right before Prince went onstage. The encore was “Purple Rain.”
If Prince were to perform five songs just for you, which songs would you want them to be?
“When Doves Cry” first of all. After that, “Purple Rain,” “Diamonds and Pearls,” “Darling Nikki” and any of his jazz songs.
If you could ask Prince anything, what would it be?
I really can’t say because he’s been asked every question in the world. I would just say to him, “Tell me what you would like for me to know about Prince.” Because every question that has been thought of has been asked. I don’t think I could come up with a good question that hasn’t already been posed to him. So I would make that statement. I hope he reads this [laughs].