Like so many of my friends who came of age in the 80’s I was floored by the news of Prince’s death. I had an insanely busy day to get through so I forced myself to tune out of social media and suspend my reaction until I got finished with an online interview I couldn’t miss. When it was over and I checked in again I had a text from my old high school boyfriend that simply read:
Prince is dead.
With an unexpected fury, I burst into tears and couldn’t stop. That text, Prince’s death… it was as if a light went out on my youth. I mean, I’m 47, I know I’m not young anymore but there is something about watching the artists of our younger years die that smashes us in the face with that fact. It is the stunning, shocking realization that our youth, our teenage years, our innocence is decades past us. The people we loved then, the people we were then are no more; at least not altogether in that special moment and place in time.
I am blessed to have friendships that have lasted 40 years plus. Friendships formed in my teenage years that are as deep as family. Today I reached out to the closest of them even though I had no idea what to say.
For all of us the music of our youth meant a lot, but Prince, there was no one like him. Apart from his insanely great musical ability, he stood for something in the 80’s – something that told us we all could be different. It’s difficult to recall now, but the 80’s, the greed-is-good-Gordon-Gecko-Ronald-Reagan-80’s – they weren’t a friendly place for people who were different. Gay people, people dating interracially, anyone who was in any way different… but Prince was different, and he was worshipped. More than that he was respected, because his genius was transcendent.
In my mind his greatest song will always be Purple Rain, but only because it had such a personal meaning to me. There were so many, many great songs – even songs on the B-side that were that special to others. This year has seen a torrent of greats leave too soon. Bowie was tough, but Prince? We’ll never lose another like him because there was no other like him.