Susan Moonsie, the Rumored Muse Behind ‘When Doves Cry’
It has been claimed for decades that Moonsie and Prince Rogers Nelson were high school sweethearts; a difficult thing to conceive given the six-year age difference between the pair. Moonsie herself debunked the rumor in a 1983 interview with Jet magazine. According to the singer, she and Prince first met by chance in a local disco when she was sixteen. The teenager had been writing songs since she was twelve, and approached Prince (who was sipping orange juice) to show him some of her lyrical ideas. Prince dug the aspiring songwriter's work, so much so that years later the Moonsie-penned track "Drive Me Wild" would end up on Vanity 6's only album.
According to biographer Per Nilsen, Moonsie and Prince would become romantically intertwined sometime in 1980 and were perhaps even briefly engaged to be married in 1981. Moonsie and her ever-present stuffed animals (which were used to help enhance the singer's "Lolita" image), traveled and performed with Prince on his Dirty Mind Tour, during which she was known as Prince's girlfriend.
Susan and her sister Loreen would join with Jamie Shoop to complete the Hookers, a pre-Vanity 6 project spearheaded by Prince. The short-lived girl group would quickly morph into Vanity 6 once the Purple One met Denise Matthews (Vanity). As noted in the book Prince and the Purple Rain Era Studio Sessions: 1983 and 1984, Prince envisioned Vanity 6 as his version of the Supremes. It had already been established that Susan, though talented, was too shy to be the focal point of the group. Matthews would become the frontwoman, with Moonsie and Brenda Bennett (Prince's former wardrobe assistant), rounding out the trio.
This wouldn't be the only time that Moonsie missed an opportunity due to her timid nature. The singer's reluctance to be the center of attention also prevented her from taking on the lead female role in the film Purple Rain.
Unsurprisingly -- given his Lothario reputation -- Prince's affection for Matthews grew beyond music. The iconic rocker reportedly became romantic with the singer even while he remained in a relationship with Moonsie. This theme would continue in the ensuing years, as Prince kept Moonsie at arm's reach even as he pursued other women.
Following Matthews' departure in 1983, Vanity 6 became Apollonia 6, its name a reflection of new frontwoman Patricia Kotero, whom Prince had renamed Apollonia (her middle name). Kotero would also take over the female lead in the Purple Rain film, a role which quickly shone a spotlight on the new star. However, when it came to inspiration for Purple Rain's soundtrack, Prince's thoughts reportedly again turned to Moonsie.
The iconic musician had been challenged by Purple Rain's director to create a song for a particularly poignant montage in the film. According to Per Nilsen, Prince channeled the intense, on-again off-again courting that permeated his romantic relationship with Moonsie to create "When Doves Cry."
Though the track would prove timeless, the relationship between Prince and Moonsie would not. After years of a continually fluctuating romance, the two finally separated for good. Apollonia 6 dissolved in 1985, at which point Moonsie removed herself from Prince's orbit and left the limelight.
The singer would marry 45-year-old actor David Garfield in 1988, the couple staying together until Garfield's sudden death in 1994. So where is Susan Moonsie now?
Following her husband's passing, the former Prince protege and her two children moved to Trinidad, where she has family roots. The rather private Moonsie joined Instagram in 2019 but has never publicly commented on her relationship with Prince, though she has posted several images remembering her days in Vanity 6/Apollonia 6 fondly. In a 2018 social media post, former bandmate Kotero referred to Moonsie as a "sweet angel" and "honest woman" who was "always" there for Prince.
Despite shying away from the spotlight, Moonsie, without question, made a significant impact on the Purple One's career and was by his side professionally and personally during his early, explosively creative period. In addition to "When Doves Cry," Moonsie is rumored to have inspired Controversy's "Private Joy" and the unreleased song "She's Just A Baby." Beyond the realm of Prince, another band, Timex Social Club, would pay homage to Moonsie with their 1986 hit "Rumors." The track featured the following line: "Did you hear that one about Susan, some say she's just a tease. In a camisole, she's six feet tall. She'll knock you to your knees."