~~ “1999”, Prince
I’m not going to write about his life. There have been numerous stories about that, and numerous tributes to his kind, gentle, and caring nature. By all accounts, he was a genuinely decent human being who tried to do good things in this world.
I’m not going to write about his death. There has been a lot of speculation but nothing concrete yet. It is an ongoing investigation, so I’ll refrain from doing any speculation of my own. Besides, it’s still a little too hard for me to think about in any detail.
I’m also not going to write about the outpouring of love throughout the world for the man and his contribution to music. You’ve seen the pictures from all over the world of buildings and other things glowing purple: the Eiffel Tower, Niagara Falls...heck, our own South Bend River Lights were lit up in his honor.
What I’m going to write about is the personal response I’ve seen from some. Maybe it’s because I feel genuine anguish at his death (not quite as bad as what I felt when Bowie died, but pretty damn close) and it makes me want to lash out. I don’t know, but I feel that I need to defend myself and everyone around the world for our depth of feeling at his loss. I want to defend him, too, and explain why we are mourning him.
Because there are always the people who feel the need to say, “So? Big deal. He’s a musician and no one important. Why should I care?”
First of all, why don’t you just shut the fuck up and let us go about our grieving? No one asked you and no one cares that you don’t care.
Now that I’ve got that off my chest, I’ll expound a little further. It’s fine if you aren’t a fan. It’s fine if you don’t listen to music at all. But some of us are and some of us do. In fact, for some of us, music is a defining part of our life. It is what we turn to when we are sad or happy; triumphant or in despair; celebrating or commiserating. There are certain songs and certain artists who are part of the soundtrack of our lives (I know that’s a trite phrase, but it’s apt). Music can bring us to tears and it can make us dance with joy.
For those of us a certain age, Prince was very much a part of that soundtrack. His music reminds us of good times and bad, loves found and loves lost, or just going out clubbing with friends and dancing till we were dripping with sweat and loving every moment of it. (I may or may not have danced in a cage once or twice to a Prince song. No photos so it didn’t happen.)
What I’m trying to say is that just because you can’t relate doesn’t mean that the rest of us are not feeling true anguish over his loss. I’ve seen people who weren’t fans of his music still acknowledge that he was an amazing musician, a phenomenal talent, and an incredibly charismatic performer. To make a point of saying that you really couldn’t care less is not only disrespectful to one of the great talents of our time, it is negating and ridiculing what so many of us are feeling.
I suppose I should be used to people who completely lack the ability to feel empathy for what others are feeling, but I guess I’m not quite that jaded. It still surprises me. For anyone who doesn’t get the power of music, no matter the genre, I feel sorry for you. The best artists can generate a communal energy that is incredible and powerful and dare I say...life-affirming? It certainly is for me!
For anyone who just doesn’t get why anyone would feel genuine sorrow over someone they’ve never met, I’m reminded of the wise person who answered that question after Bowie’s death by saying that we don’t mourn them because we knew them. We mourn them because they helped us know ourselves.