In late August, I pulled into the parking lot of Lakewinds Food Co-op in Chanhassen, a place that Prince shopped on occasion. (My brain is nothing if not a treasure trove of Prince-the-real-guy trivia). Once inside, the Lakewinds produce department was replete with Midwestern zucchini (always abundant if not overly abundant in peak summer), delicate lettuces and bunches of fuschia-colored dahlias, all labeled with “locally grown” tags.
One of the things that struck me most when we first moved to Minnesota was the locals’ love for this state. Having lived in Illinois for 19 years, I can vouch for the fact that people in Illinois are not anywhere near as enamored by their home state. Maybe that’s because a vast majority of Illinois governors seem to wind up in prison, certainly a demoralizing statistic. In Minnesota, however, there is a deep and abiding love for the land of 10,000 lakes. Maybe that’s because winter weather is unifying in an “it’s-us-against-this-blizzard” kind of way. From Duluth Backpacks to Faribault Wool blankets to Milkweed Books to Surly Brewing’s Furious IPA and the world-famous Electric Fetus “wrecka stow” (record store for the “Under the Cherry Moon” uninitiated), Minnesotans are dedicated to anything made in their state. When it comes to choosing music, for Minnesotans, listening to Prince is essentially buying local. It was music made nice and fresh just around the corner at Paisley Park.
I’ve always believed that one of the most seminal decisions in a career of unorthodox decisions was Prince’s commitment to staying in Minnesota after the success of “Purple Rain.” This belief was confirmed when I spent time over cocktails at the Hewing Hotel with Carmen Hoover, an academic who attended the University of Minnesota in the early 80s, worked at as the first female doorperson at First Avenue (and wound up in front of the stage the first time “Purple Rain” was played, on Aug. 3, 1983) and traveled with the Purple Rain tour. From her front-row seat to Prince’s rise to fame, she recalled that everyone in her circle who had watched Prince’s career progress from local hero to global superstar was surprised when he decided to stay in Minnesota post-1984 and “Purple Rain.” The obvious choice would have been to decamp to Los Angeles or New York or any other of the world’s cultural capital. But instead, Prince doubled down and built Paisley Park in suburban Chanhassen.
Most would not make a similar choice, and sometimes, the locals that supported that artist or athlete or product are left embittered by the experience. The downfall of the great Brett Favre, former Green Bay Packers quarterback (a person who is not Prince-like in any way but hear me out) is one such tale. Certainly, Green Bay made Brett Favre. Favre was the starting quarterback for every Packers game from 1992 to 2008 and bonded with the fans in a very special and unique way. When he waffled on whether to retire, the Packers traded him to the New York Jets. Bitterness ensued. Loyal Packers fans wondered why Favre couldn’t have gracefully retired when he was at the top of the game and held in reverence by Packers fans. Instead, it became complicated and Favre’s reputation among Packers fans is tarnished to this day.
Then yesterday, the New Yorker published an article by Dan Piepenbring, the writer who had been contracted to write Prince’s memoir only a month before his death in April 2016. In it, Piepenbring shared Prince’s thoughts on why he stayed in Minneapolis. Piepenbring quoted Prince as saying, “I stayed in Minneapolis because Minneapolis made me. You have to give back. My dad came to Minneapolis from Cotton Valley, Louisiana. He learned in the harshest conditions what it means to control wealth.”
Prince stayed in Minneapolis because Minneapolis made him. I love this.
This month, I’m going to follow Prince’s lead. I’m going to buy local products, listen to local musicians, cheer on local sports teams, eat locally grown foods and drink local wine (wish me luck with that one!). In September, let’s honor the place that makes us — the place where we live right now.