I was waiting for the elevator at work Thursday afternoon when I checked Twitter and saw the news. Prince was dead, found (in an elevator, in fact) at Paisley Park. Another brilliant performer, gone.
I was shocked. Yes, I had heard the news of the emergency landing of Prince’s plane a week earlier, but reports said he was battling the flu. It was a surprise to hear that the fifty-seven year old had died.
I took my lunch break shortly later, queuing up the Prince tracks I had synced to my phone. On that day, there were only four of them – that unacceptable lack of the Purple One has since been rectified with a retooling of my iTunes playlists. I walked my usual route, only starting to cry when “Purple Rain” rang through my headphones halfway through my break.
There have been so many wonderful Prince tributes in the days since he died, and you’ll find them with even the most cursory social media search. I can’t help but think of seven years ago, when Michael Jackson died. I can’t help but think of January, when David Bowie died. 2016 has been a horrible year of loss and someone reminded me that it’s only April. God. How much more of this do we have ahead of us?
I saw Prince live just once, twelve years ago, on his Musicology tour. I’m grateful for that night – watching Prince do Prince was like being taken to church. The audience hung on to his every note, his every word, and was brought to its feet early and often. I’m lucky to have been there that night. Hell, I’m lucky to have grown up in the eighties and nineties, to have had that time to nurture my love of music.
I cannot reconcile the fact that, the closer I get to forty, the more young adults there are on this planet who live in a completely different context than I do. There are teenagers and young twentysomethings who are unfamiliar with Prince. We live in the digital age, and, for the most part, Prince’s music is not on any of the streaming sites. Thank goodness that the music television channels (what an oxymoron) interrupted their programming on Thursday to play – gasp – music videos. (By the way, MTV, we all noticed when you played “Girls Ain’t Nothing But Trouble” by mistake. Whoops.) And how wonderful it is that Minnesota Public Radio is streaming Prince’s catalog in alphabetical order this weekend on The Current. If you are one of those young people who needs to be schooled, take advantage. And if you have the disposable income, go buy some of the man’s albums.
I think about the legendary artists that came out of the eighties. I wonder how Madonna feels, as one of the last of them. I wince at how old I sound when I think about how they don’t make them the same way anymore.
But clichés and my age aside, they really don’t make them like Prince anymore. His loss is felt by those who know that. His legacy is celebrated by many of us.