I have been in a fog for the past day and a half. I’m still in shock. It doesn’t help that I was feeling emotional as it was, before I heard the news about Prince. My first reaction was disbelief. It certainly could NOT be true. He’s too young. After frantically searching for the snopes article saying it was yet another internet death hoax, it became obvious that it was true. I was devastated. Truly.
I didn’t know him personally. I had always wished I could meet him. I was never able to see him live in concert, though I had recently hoped to make it to one of his shows on his current tour. I don’t have any personal stories of running into Prince in a hotel lobby. Though I do have a story about trying to buy a Prince CD in a Walmart in a small Arkansas town in 2004! Let’s just say, people there are racist and I had NO idea they still had “black” and “white” lines at the Walmart in 2004 America! I made the mistake of going to the “black” line. So, when I came back in to exchange the CD because it didn’t play, NO ONE would wait on me! LAME, I KNOW!
Fans like to think they “know” their idols. They WANT to know them. They mesmerize us with their enthusiasm and inspiration. Prince’s music came into my life at a very formative time. I was 13 years old. My parents got divorced. I had my first kiss. I became a teenager. My brain was being formed with the music of Madonna, Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Prince, The Eagles and so many others. These musician/celebrities showed me how to be an individual. They showed me who I was! They showed me that I could follow my heart and live my dreams. Their music was an inspiration but it was also the soundtrack of my teenage years. A million memories are tied to every song.
I watched a video earlier today that was discussing the reasons why my generation, Generation X, had such a strong connection to Prince. They talked about Prince being the product of a broken home, like so many of Generation X. Our generation saw the largest number of divorces of any generation before it or since.
I’m sure everyone has their memories of where they first heard the song Purple Rain or 1999. That is the biggest connection we have to our favorite celebrities. There are memories connected to music, always. In fact, I’ve been told that the music we love at the age of 14 is the music that sticks with us forever. When the album Purple Rain came out, I was 14 years old. I have distinct memories of opening the album and listening to Let’s Go Crazy for the first time. I was blown away! I sat there with that lyric sheet and memorized every word. As a shy teenager, I had a secret dream of being a singer, I KNOW I’m not the only one!
All of my life, but especially as a teenager, music was the one thing that connected me with my dad. He loved music and collected records from the age of 16. By the time I was 14, he had over 30,000 records! I have a vivid memory of my dad introducing me to Prince’s older albums. Controversy is the one that really stuck out for me. The memory is my dad pulling out the poster that came inside the album and asking me if I thought Prince was gay. If you’ve never seen the poster, it was Prince standing in a shower with water running over him and wearing nothing but bikini bottoms. At first I was shocked to see a nearly naked man! At the time I was somewhat irritated with my dad and said, of course not dad! Of course, he may have been onto something. Prince was definitely not your average guy. He was never afraid of blurring the line between gender roles and I admired him for that as I got older. This was 4 years before I found out my dad was gay. No wonder, I thought years later.
My dad introduced me to so much music, most of my musical tastes and influence came from him. In short, the death of these celebrities from my childhood and especially teenage years, brings back all of those memories of growing up and listening to music with my dad. I suspect it’s the same for all the fans out there feeling sad with the losses of 2016. Watching MTV, Prince hair styles and fashion, learning all the words to the songs by following along with the lyrics on the record sleeve, it was all a generational thing, but Prince transcended generations! His career spanned 37 years and five decades! Though the man will be missed, his music will live on forever and with the music, his spirit will always be alive!
Whether we knew Prince (or David Bowie, or any other celebrity) personally, have a story of an encounter with him or just loved his music, we all have those shared memories of the music and how it touched our lives. That is the joy and sometimes sorrow, of music. It enriches us, it enriches our lives, it enriches the World and perhaps even the Universe.