While most of us are consistently connected to the Internet and social media, I was two hours late in finding out the devastating news about musical icon, Prince, born Prince Rogers Nelson, today.
While lightly scrolling down my Facebook feed, I saw a picture of Prince posted on one of my friend’s status updates, but one without a tagline or comment. It was simply a photo. No words. And rightly so.
This prompted me to check online as to what was going on with the musical legend. I thought, Mmm, wonder what Prince is up to again…
As soon as I keyed in his name on Google, a list of stories came up with the unbelievable words:
Prince, legendary Purple Rain singer, dies at 57 [CBC]
Prince, pop music superstar, dies in Minneapolis [CTV News]
I screamed at my computer screen, not only shocked, nor bewildered, but in quick denial. Dead?!? What do you mean, ‘dead?!?’ This must be some kind of joke.
I was appalled. And the joke wasn’t funny. Nor was the fact that it wasn’t a joke. I did a quick scroll down the list of news items to verify that yes, Prince, had indeed died. I took a look around me. People were typing away at their computers, others sipping their coffees, still others browsing books and magazines.
I was baffled. Why weren’t these people running in the street screaming the news that a great light has gone? Why was I the only one who seemed clearly affected by this unexpected and unwanted news?
I wanted to cry.
But, of course, I felt silly. Prince did not know me personally, nor did I know him. I wasn’t his wife, his relative, not even a friend.
Still, I wanted to mourn with someone. I wanted someone to recognize my grief. I wanted to share it with someone who understood to some degree what I was feeling. That a great artist with whom I had spent many days and nights listening to as a child was now no longer here, no longer breathing, no longer able to speak to a multitude of people with his music.
I wanted to cry.
There will be words of sympathy, tidbits of reflection, a trending fire of solemn mourning on social media in which the world will implode with throwback songs, album covers, and odes to the colour purple.
I have nothing against that. It is the nature in which the public can somehow place its grief in a community where it can be acknowledged so that the communal pain can be eased, even if a little, and the memory of a man and his music, remembered and honoured.
I was born in the mid-70’s and so, was largely influenced by 80’s music.
I was raised on the musical magic of the man with the soft voice, his one white glove, and the famous, impromptu Moonwalk he showcased to the world during the Motown 25 show in 1983—Michael Jackson. I was a witness to the news of his hair catching fire during a Pepsi commercial. I was there watching television when he took Emmanuel Lewis and Brooke Shields as dates to the 26th Grammy Awards in 1986.
I was also raised on the controversial woman who introduced huge ribbon headbands, tons of black plastic bracelets, and lace stockings into fashion when song titles like, “Like a Virgin,” was so taboo that parents everywhere raised eyebrows about this young, Italian girl who originated from Michigan, and had the audacity to change her name from Louise Veronica Ciccone to the Catholic, religious icon herself, the Virgin Mary—Madonna.
While she danced around her Lucky Star, Vogued in leather bodices and skin-tight lingerie, and continuously changed her image according to what she was particularly interested in during a certain part of her life, I was busy mimicking her style, dotting my cheek with a prominent beauty mark reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe, and wondering how much it would cost to dye my hair blonde.
But, aside from MJ, the King of Pop and Madonna, the reigning queen of controversy—it was Prince who I listened to in my yellow, Sports Walkman, tantalized by his soulful, pop, jazz, funk, and dance sound. What was his music exactly? Could I really classify it so easily without running into the danger of diluting its genius?
But it was the movie, Purple Rain, that propelled him into a sex symbol and into solidified stardom.
In the movie, I empathized with his character whose passion for music was shadowed by a dark and abusive past. I rooted for him to earn his well-earned spot to stardom as the underdog whose talent was constantly second-guessed, and felt a passionate thrill every time he played his guitar.
No musical instrument was foreign to the man. His ambition was hungry; his music, an outlet of maddening creativity; and his fight, always against the demons which tried hard to take control of his musical autonomy.
He was a fiercely flamboyant performer. An electrifying presence on stage. And an adamant advocate for the evolution of music as a songwriter.
While others questioned his ability to create music or perform music (or at least how it appeared in the film)—he was, in many ways—the music.
I wanted to drive a red corvette as a teenager. I think you probably already know the reason why.
I wanted to own a raspberry beret even though none were sold in stores.
And I couldn’t decide if I wanted diamonds or pearls from my boyfriend.
And by the time I reached college, I would slip a loonie into the jukebox and play Purple Rain to woo my sorrows and young-adult anxiety at my favourite hang out, the Blueberry Hill on campus.
Purple Rain had become my anthem song for sadness, my throwback to the 80’s when I tested my boundaries by wearing large, hoop earrings and red lipstick, and when I partied like it was 1999 even though I had yet to know what the year, 1999, would bring.
It brought many things…but no one like Prince, the charismatic, fashion-forward superstar who shone on the musical stage, who not only created new forms of music for himself, but many others in the music industry—none that we could easily classify—but now will always remember.
The news today is still unbelievable.
More unbelievable, too, that when I heard it in my small town of Brampton, it was raining. It still is. And you can guess for millions of fans everywhere today—each drop is indeed purple.
Where were you and what were you doing when you heard the news of Prince’s death?
What is your favourite song by Prince?