I’ve been on a news blackout since I learned Prince died. I haven’t read a thing, ignored social media; I’ve even avoided talking about it. I feel silly, but it seems personal somehow. I was a huge fan from Dirty Mind through about Diamonds and Pearls, but did sort of lose interest after that. That’s another reason why this all surprises me so much.
When I learned he died, I was sitting at my desk, just finishing about four hours of working on a large writing project. It’s been over a year in the making and I made my last edit before I would send it off to an editor and friend to read. It was a really wonderful moment. I felt confident and proud – and just plain happy that I’d reached this milestone in the project. I marked the final page, put the manuscript down, and basked in my little glory. Then flipped over my phone, which I had been ignoring, and there they were. Text after text: Prince is dead.
That’s not why this is personal, but the timing was something to be noted. I went then to the Internet news feeds, read a headline, and turned it off. I just couldn’t take it.
Prince grew up in my hometown. He’s five years older than me, but went to neighboring high school and even then there were tales of this kid across town who was a rock and roll genius, could play any instrument, guitar virtuoso and all the rest. And his name was really Prince. That was cool.
There were wonderful celebrations for Prince here. I couldn’t imagine going to any of them. I just needed to process this, and especially in the wake of Bowie’s death. Another of my heroes of youth – and adulthood. Toss in Harry Nilsson and we have three dead of about five. Maybe that’s why it feels personal?
Funny how we mourn celebrities. Generally we don’t know them, have never met them, and only do know them through their work and often very tailored image, but we do. We feel deep sadness. Are we mourning the stoppage of their work, that they will never create again, the passing of an era, or mourning ourselves?
In school, many years ago, I wrote a paper on Prince. (I apologize for the errors, I had to type it in from a printed doc.) It’s a sort of Jungian analysis of Prince. If you know Jung, you know Prince was ripe for it. It was a joyful experience. I even made a cassette of the music that I referred to for the professor, David Smith, who was extremely encouraging and even suggested the tape for him to listen to. Some years ago I put it on the web, wondering if Prince would call and say, “Take it down!” I wish he had.
I also made an online copy of it and then through night after drunken night, added links and pictures and so on. Weird stuff.
It’s personal because it actually does hurt when a celebrity dies, and especially one of your celebrities. These are real emotions, obviously. Complex emotions.
The world is a little less funky. We’ve lost an irreplaceable artist and incredible talent. And while we’ve lost Prince, the man, his music will live on and on and on.