A Prince of a Guy
Prince died a few weeks back but this will not be the story you hoped would be written. Simply put, he wasn’t family. What I mean is I was flabbergasted by all the Facebook posts of people saying “their world has ended,” “their hearts are broken,” and my favorite: “life is precious and fragile, we must all meet up again soon.”
Life has always been precious and fragile and we don’t need the death of Prince, Glenn Frey, David Bowie to remind us. Then I realized, I had it all wrong. Besides the ones who love spreading bad news and internalizing it and sounding as if they bear all the burdens of the world, the death of Prince is about mourning the past, not mainly the person.
Now, if you worked in the music industry and knew Prince and met him, your deep sense of loss could be understood. If you loved his music, your loss could be understood. This was about the extinguishing of a flame. Every generation goes through it. Since music and music videos have become the soundtracks of our lives, we use these milestones and passings to either mourn a time lost in our own lives or a mileage marker as to what we were doing when we first heard ‘Purple Rain,’ or what we thought when Prince became a symbol, dropping his name. We found out in death, this was a ploy to get back at the record companies who, as a rule, don’t treat artists very well.
For me, television and film were my mileage markers. Without sounding old, it was the sitcoms, the child stars, the dramatic actors, the films that gave me pause to remember and realize my own life was creeping up on me.
I was a folkie so I remember a lot of folk singers whose death made me think what rally I attended in the turbulent 60’s and 70’s or what girl in a peasant blouse caught my eye. It’s the same for Prince fans, just the times and causes have changed. The groundwork was laid decades before by artists who championed things like erasing poverty, granting equal rights, sometimes ending a war and it was their work that inspired every artist who did a benefit from Live Aid to ending LGBT discrimination. Someone once said of the Dixie Chicks when they came out against the Iraq War, “shut up and sing,” but like it or not, celebrities become role models and for every Housewife or Kardashian, there are dozens who take their music, their craft and their obligations seriously.
I don’t think I ever took a day off or sunk into an easy chair with all the lights turned off to mourn a notable’s loss, unless it was because of the work they did as a contributor to society or, as I noted, their careers took me back to a time, long gone. Hopefully, the media frenzy that has shined a spotlight on the ugly side of someone’s life will wane. I doubt it. After all, the old saying, “if it bleeds, it leads” dominates the news.
There’s also another saying, and bears some word shifting: “the evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.” The ‘evil’ in this case is being found dead on a toilet, killed in a DUI, shot by a jealous lover.
When the smoke clears, hopefully Prince’s good deeds will live after him as one could hope, but will also be the norm for those icons we remember.