By Seal
May 3, 2016

Excerpted from TIME’s Prince: An Artist’s Life, a 96-page, fully illustrated commemorative edition. Available at retailers and at Amazon.com.

Herb Ritts—Trunk Archive

I can recall so clearly the night I met Prince. I was at a studio in Los Angeles, and he was recording there too, and I saw him walking down the corridor. He had gone out without his bodyguard—I guess he knew I would follow him. He was a master at manipulating a situation.

So I ran down after him, and it was just Prince and I, standing out on the street, and I told him how much of a fan I was and how much he changed my life. He was very cool. He said, “Oh, thank you.” He asked me what I was recording. He said he liked my song “Crazy.” And then, of course, about 10 minutes after we were talking, his bodyguard came rushing out, because he had “just realized” Prince was gone. Yeah, right. It was quite a big scene.

The last time I saw him was in the Netherlands, at a festival where we were both performing. The person I was with at the time had never seen him play before. I said to him, “You gotta see this. Trust me—you’ve never seen anything like this in your life. After he’s gone, when he stops doing this, it will never be repeated.”

Backstage, we watched Prince walk out to a rapturous reception, and then we were exposed to two hours of sublime musical genius. Everything he did—every single movement, every gesture, every step that he took, from the time he left that dressing room and walked onto the stage, was in absolute, total immaculate rhythm. And the band was in total rhythm with him. Nobody’s eyes left him. They were in perfect sync and perfect rhythm with everything. I have never seen anything like it, nor will I ever see anything like it again.

And then he looked over at me and said, “You wanna sing ‘Mountains’?” So I went out and sang with him. I probably screwed the whole thing up. Just to be on the same stage as him—it was a dream that I will take with me to my grave.

Prince wasn’t just an artist. Prince was a lifestyle. Prince was the person that everyone said was weird, and yet he was so committed to how different he was. He was so committed to his sexuality. He was so committed to his flamboyance. He made it OK for you to be you. He did it with unquestionable conviction. He was so masterful and so brilliant at it that he became a part of you.

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