Prince superfan credits music icon with changing her life

What started out as a chance event for a young girl in China — hearing When Doves Cry on the radio at a time when Prince's music went largely unheard — changed the course of her life and led to a better future in Canada.

Siyi Fan says hearing When Doves Cry on the radio in China sparked big dreams

Siyi Fan, a Prince superfan, credits him with changing her life. Hearing his music for the first time spurred her to learn English and move to Canada. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

What started out as a chance event for a young girl in China — hearing When Doves Cry on the radio — changed the course of her life and led to a better future in Canada.

Siyi Fan, who calls herself a Prince "superfan," heard the song on a radio that was playing quietly in the background. At the time, Prince's music was rarely played in China.

"That was the first time I'd ever heard anything like that before," she said.

That brief encounter with the song made her realize that music existed beyond what she knew, music with bold lyrics that were politically charged or had strong emotional messages.

"It was very different from the way I grew up," Fan said. "The music I listened to would not be that bold. I had a shock and then I really wanted to explore more of his music, but [couldn't] because I couldn't access any records at the time."

That was when she had, as she puts it, "a very simple thought."

"At that time I just told myself, 'I have to learn English, I have to go somewhere else. I want to see him perform, I want to buy his records,'" she said.

Her enthusiasm led her to a job translating fan articles and other stories about Prince for a music magazine.

"It was really weird, because I feel that there's this personal connection that I know so much about the lyrics and how he composed the music, even though I never met him," Fan said. "But then a lot of you will have these similar feelings."

It was on Prince fan forums that she learned to read and write English. Fellow fans, including from Canada, encouraged her as she learned a new language and considered where in the world she might move.

"And 10 years later I came here," she said. "And I saw two of his concerts. I feel very grateful."

Fan, now 24 and a biology student at the University of Toronto, was at one of Prince's Toronto shows three weeks ago.

"It's a shock. Three weeks ago we were so hyped to go to the Sony Centre to see him perform," she said. "And then three weeks later, this. It's hard to believe."

She said she's still absorbing the news.

"I'm still in denial."

She thinks about how hearing a Prince song on the radio led Fan to learn a new language and move to North America.

"He pretty much opened up the world for me," she said. 

She also met her husband here. He, too, is a Prince fan, of course.

She hopes that one day more people in China will be able to hear his music. For now, she is taking the lessons from his life, and death, for her own.

"Life can be so surprising and unexpected sometimes," she said.

"It's just like Prince said. Life is a party, it wasn't meant to last anyway. You seize the chance, seize the day and have your happiness when you get the chance, before life slips away."