Last Thursday, I was devastated at hearing the news of the passing of Prince Rogers Nelson. A co-worker interrupted a few of us conversing and laughing at lunch, and completely changed the tone in the room. Silence. Shock. Disbelief, as I quickly grabbed my phone to hop online and dispute this nonsense that must be some kind of hoax…but unfortunately ended up confirming the truth. A legend had left us too soon.
It’s taken me three days to try to put words to paper and reflect on why I am so distraught with this. I have been a Prince admirer for most of my life, and own a significant amount of his catalog, but if I am honest should admit that he isn’t in my top three when I list my musical influences/favorites. Yet, I was extremely saddened and mourning immensely at the news of his death. Until it dawned on me that Prince is one of the musicians/performers/artists who completely shaped the soundtrack of my life and was a comfortable constant to say the least.
Tell me why at 8-years-old, I was singing along to Prince’s Controversy and completely feeling his frustration with innuendos, rumor and the need for folk to let him be and be himself. I heard the freedom cry and proclamation that he, like everyone else, was a child of God.
I think of one of my childhood besties, Aaliyah, who is the consummate Prince fan and whose Aunt Muffin – who may or may not have had too much to drink at one of our Chesapeake Bay dinner runs – decided to turn the car radio up to full blast when “Controversy” came on and proceeded to elicit a car party down the Roosevelt Boulevard. You know the type of car performances where the passengers in every vehicle you pass look over like, “What are they listening to?” except in this instance they actually heard it!
And don’t get me started with the movie Purple Rain! It is absolutely an all-time fave, can’t even count the number of times I’ve seen it, and the titular song is my favorite Prince tune. I cannot watch the movie without reliving the joy and excitement I felt as preteen Thomasena – watching Prince and the Revolution, Apollonia 6, The Time and those amazing performances on the big screen for the first time.
Prince gave me refuge and therapy through the radio in middle school and high school, encouraging and motivation to avoid life traps and keep it moving with tunes like Let’s Go Crazy, Pop Life, and Sign O’ The Times. He literally dropped an album during each of my college undergrad years – and I became more appreciative ( 😉 ) of his more sensual offerings. And he dropped those gems I adore (no pun intended) – Diamonds and Pearls and The Most Beautiful Girl in the World.
There’s so much I can write – so much I’ve left out, including the Batman soundtrack – OMG, I had the cassette tape and must have popped it, I played it so much! I can talk about never seeing him live, until he presented Tamar (not Braxton) back in 2006 at the Electric Factory in Philly – and how I was so hyped thinking he would sing at least one song – yeah he did…and it was Partyman! I mean I dug the Batman soundtrack and all, but not Purple Rain? LOL, even though I was crushed, I saw him live, up close and in the flesh and I’m so grateful for that opportunity.
There have been many pieces written about his life, death, artistry and musicianship since Thursday – and I must have consumed at least a good 3/4th of them as I sorted out my feelings on his transition. Out of all the things I’ve learned, the most impressive – and I dare to say the most important – was the life of service Prince secretly lived and the contributions he offered to many. For those who were die-hard fans, or even to those who weren’t but were mindful of his lyrics and his spiritual lifestyle like myself, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that Prince was putting into practice what he often – and sometimes subtlety – preached in many of his songs.
Scripture tells us to whom much is given, much is expected. I pray that Prince is at peace and has been greeted with a well done at his resting place.
Thank you Prince for the beautiful memories, and the motivation to do and be better – not just for myself, but to and for others. What a gift you were to this world.