Not that Prince hadn’t shown some signs of unease with his still-new superstardom. Alone, he’s been animated, funny and self-aware. But out in public, even walking into places as hospitable as Minneapolis’s First Avenue club, he would palpably stiffen at the first sign of a gawk, his face set in granite, his voice reduced to a mumble.

Now Prince seems more open and comfortable, less likely to slip into stridency. “You have a few choices when you’re in that position,” he says, remembering the first year after Purple Rain. “You can get all jacked up on yourself and curse everybody, or you can say this is the way life is and try to enjoy it. I’m still learning that lesson. I think I’ll always be learning that lesson. I think I’m a much nicer person now.”

This isn’t to say that Prince has turned into Dale Carnegie — he still has the hauteur of a star. But something has changed; his philosophy no longer seems to hinge on things like the size of one’s boot heels. “Cool means being able to hang with yourself,” he says. “All you have to ask yourself is ‘Is there anybody I’m afraid of? Is there anybody who if I walked into a room and saw, I’d get nervous?’ If not, then you’re cool.”

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