It started off as an ordinary work day. I was at my desk this morning when a notification went off on my phone. Usually I have a passing glance at these things, but then I saw the shocking words displayed on my screen: “Music legend Prince, dead at 57”. After rushing to Google and confirming the devastating news, it immediately brought back memories of losing another icon. I found out about Michael Jackson’s death in a very similar fashion – I was at work, at my desk when one of my colleagues broke the news. Similar to this morning, I rushed to Google for confirmation. And just like that day nearly seven years ago, I felt the same profound sense of loss.
2016 has been rough for music fans. Only four months in and we’ve lost Natalie Cole, David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Maurice White and a number of others who have been so influential in music. Along with Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson, Prince’s music was very much a part of my life. I remember being a kid and repeatedly listening to my parents’ vinyl copy of 1999. I remember singing along to Diamonds and Pearls, which is still one of my favorite Prince songs. For a long time I played his Very Best Of CD in my car. There were also many dance classes, parties, and other events where his music wasn’t just playing in the background, but was being thoroughly enjoyed.
Prince was more than just a musical legend. He was an innovator who wasn’t afraid to chart his own path. His music could cross genres, from Funk and R&B to Rock and Pop. He wasn’t confined by rigid ideas of masculinity or femininity. He was unapologetically flamboyant, looked great in purple and performed deftly in tight pants and high heels. He was also socially conscious as well as a fierce advocate for artists’ rights, unafraid to criticize an industry he felt was exploiting him and his work. But Prince also had quite the sense of humor. He reportedly liked Dave Chappelle’s impression of him so much that he famously used a photo of Chappelle dressed as him on the cover of Breakfast Can Wait.
While I’m sad about his passing, I am grateful for the legacy he left the world. So thank you Prince. Thank you for Controversy. Thank you for 1999 and Purple Rain. Thank you for taking us to Alphabet St. and Erotic City. Thank you for Art Official Age and HITnRUN (Phases One & Two). Thank you for gathering us together and getting us through this thing called life.