By: Renee Grant
It’s been a hard year for fans of the larger-than-life legend that was Prince. The outpouring of love for the incredible musician mingles with mourning, and even this week, details about his passing are still coming to light.
Last year, as the Grammy Awards prepared to honor the genius behind some of the best music of the 20th & 21st centuries, many were unimpressed with The Recording Academy’s choice to have Madonna perform the tribute to Prince. None may have been more vocal than Philly artist and party promoter extraordinaire Stacey Wilson, also known as flygirrl.
Wilson started a petition during last year’s uproar via Change.org calling for the Grammys to rethink their decision and to choose an artist more aligned with Prince’s music and sound. The petition went viral and Wilson was suddenly in the national spotlight as the call for a revamped tribute picked up steam and the story grew legs nationally.
When I asked Wilson last year what inspired her to push for a revamped Prince tribute she said, “I shared an article stating that Madonna was going to tribute Prince at the Billboard Music Awards. I commented, jokingly asking how we can make this stop. As everyone kept chiming in while agreeing, someone suggested I create a petition on Change.org… So, I thought, why not. I’ll make one for us… Never, ever really realizing what was about to happen.”
Her sentiments echoed that of other fans and that love for the artist runs deep.
“Prince is a musical genius. A musician, a writer, a singer, a performer, an actor and more. I just think she was a basic attempt at a tribute to such a legend. I’m not saying she isn’t a legend, that she isn’t an icon and hasn’t created great music. I’m also not saying she shouldn’t be involved. I do believe there are quite a few other artists that should be front and center before her name ever comes up though. Just because you are one of 3 pop icons from a certain era, doesn’t mean you’re the perfect choice. This is the first public tribute to him since he passed away. He deserves so much more.”
Who would have been her top choices for the homage? Wilson rattled off a list for a proper tribute, all would have been incredible to see. “I don’t even know if I could limit it to 2,” she says. “Where’s Wendy & Lisa, Sheila E, Morris Day, Janelle Monae, Esperanza Spalding, 3rd Eye Girl, D’Angelo, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Patti Labelle, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Maceo, Larry Graham and the list can go on. ALL before Madonna even crosses my mind. These are his affiliates. Not saying Madonna isn’t or hasn’t been at one point in time, but clearly most of these people should have at the very least, been involved.”
Obviously, Wilson is a huge fan of His Purple Majesty and says she’s been hooked on his music since she was eight years old. She produced Prince’s private after parties during a run of Philly shows during his Musicology tour. The story of those parties became infamous thanks to a “true Hollywood story” style video from Philly native Questlove‘s Okayplayer website.
“I had older siblings so I was able to listen to music I may not have heard had I not had them around me… My parents weren’t strict, either. Purple Rain was the first Prince album I owned but eventually was able to buy the ones that came prior (For You, Dirty Mind, Prince, Controversy, 1999)… Then of course, I was on top of getting each one after. I’ve never, ever looked back. Even the less popular albums, I found beauty in all of them. At the time, I don’t know why I was hooked, but later came to understand. He was just so romantic and mystical to me. I loved his lyrics, the arrangements, his videos, his movies, even how he wrote and used symbols. I often incorporated them into my drawings and doodles. He was just a unicorn in my universe. He still is.”
Marking the one-year anniversary of the fateful day the world lost an icon, Wilson will be holding her second party as a celebration of the music and life of someone who touched so many through sheer artistry. Many of Prince’s Philly fans will be there, dancing and remembering what the star meant to them. With so many still grieving the loss, the party is a kind of cathartic musical memorial.
If you are looking for a way to remember the amazing music, humor, and love that Prince brought to his fans while listening to incredible music in a sea of Prince fans, this is where you want to be on Friday night in Philadelphia. The event takes place at Johnny Brenda’s on April 21st. From 9PM to 2AM, DJ’s Mike Nyce, Cosmo Baker, and Lean Wit It will play hits from Prince and more while you browse tribute art by Flygirrl, Ameerah K Art, Anthony Carlos Molden, Oronde Kairi, and S.O.N A.R.T. Admission to the event is $10.