My husband flipped on the television the other night and splashed all over the screen were the words, Prince dead at 57. I was stunned. Was I a huge Prince fan? No, I must say I was not. I certainly enjoyed listening to his music and watching his lively performances, but, admittedly, I never purchased any of his albums nor do I have any in my personal music collection. I once heard that in grammar school he had been nicknamed “Skippy”, and whenever I heard or saw him, it made me smile. Was it true? Who knows, but that bit of information will forever come to mind. Prince made me smile. So I wondered, all week, what was it about his death that stunned me. I have been asking myself that question every time I hear his name or his music, and I am hearing it a lot.
He was young by today’s standards of lifespan and I had heard nothing that indicated he was near the end of his life. That made it a surprise, but it did not account for the feeling I had. After seeing similar news reports about Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Glenn Frey and even George Martin he was another loss in a long list of memorable talents and I am certain that there will be many more as well. I know no one gets out alive.
Sir George Martin
I have lived a lifetime of being inundated with entertainment. My generation had more than radio and newspapers, we had television and then to make that even more interactive, we now have computers and the internet. We watched TV day and night as kids. Many of us still do. It informs, entertains, manipulates and pacifies. And through both sound and picture it makes us feel familiar with people we have never laid eyes on otherwise. We see their public and private lives and form opinions of who celebrities really are by what is fed to us. They become our friends and sometimes our foes. We bring them into our minds and, on occasion, our hearts and when they die we feel the loss with that perspective. But there is more.
A young Glenn Frey
The world watched Michael Jackson struggle with his looks and many aspects of his life. Did it seem something less of a surprise that he died young because that? Glenn Frey was older and a part of a generation, my generation, that is winding down. We know that many of the artists of our time will pass before long. But Prince was younger and in many ways the voice of another generation and he went as well.
Michael Jackson as I first saw him.
In my mind I think that instead of growing accustomed to the passing of the famous and those we know and love personally there comes a point, like the proverbial straw that broke that camel’s back, when we say not another one. I had never heard much at all about Prince’s personal life, or what struggles he may have had and that only made it more seem surprising. I am older than he was by a few years. In my lifetime I have seen the results of a fight for sexual freedom, censoring of profanity in music and then not, fights for the equality of sexes and races and legalization of marijuana. Some of the results have been positive and others much less. I suppose it is natural for those growing older to fade away. We had our time and we did many things with it. We enjoyed what I think may have been some of the greatest music every composed and then recorded, music that will live for many generations.
Prince was in a way, a kid to me. He stood on the shoulders of a history of R&B and Rock, sexual equality and cultured individuality. In my mind he was what the next age of folks could do with music. He could sing openly about sex and love and God and do it in a leopard bikini if he wished. He was not the only one, but he was one that made me smile. He took what the world and the media and the generation before him offered and he did it up nicely. To me he was almost like a child running around in their parent’s shoes, skipping and having fun. And that is why, I think, it hit me, and a bit of the next generation fell. Prince did what one ought to do, to take what the world has learned and make it his own. May every artist, from every generation, do such a thing and when they have done their very best may they rest in peace and be remembered with a smile.
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