It has been 11 days since Prince Rogers Nelson (June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016) left this world for one of never ending happiness where he can always see the sun, day or night. I was shocked by how his leaving put a hole in my chest. It felt so personal as if I had lost my beloved, whacky uncle. The uncle that just the other day had called me while I was in the middle of picking up the kids from school to play me a clip of his latest song then yelled, “Can you make it funkier than this?!” and hung up. Needless to say I have spent these days listening to his music over and over and marveling at his genius.
I follow Jay Smooth on Facebook. He posted a video of Bruce Springsteen opening his concert at the Barclay’s Center by singing “Purple Rain” in honor of Prince. It was poignant and heartfelt but all I could think while watching it was, damn, Prince does it so much better! to which Jay responded in the comments, as if he knew what we were all thinking, “To think that from now on we will only ever see other people perform this…..” He was stating the obvious but it shook me to my core and brought out my inner Florida Evans – DAMN, DAMN, DAMN! I am so thankful and grateful to have seen him perform his music live, to see him dance, strut and spin across the stage while flawlessly playing any instrument he happened to pick up along the way. He was a phenomenal human being.
The day after Prince passed, I chaperoned a field trip up to St. Paul’s Church National Historic Site in Mount Vernon with my oldest son’s fourth grade class. It’s quite the schlep from Brooklyn so we took a school bus. On the way back the kids were tired and mostly quiet. I sat next to my ten-year-old boy scrolling through Facebook and Instagram looking at photos, videos, remembrances of the Purple One and sharing them with him. He knows that I love Prince and has heard me play his music but he is also blissfully unaware of anything that is not dinosaur or video game related. Both my husband and I are music lovers. My oldest knows what good music is, likes it well enough and can even play a little “Purple Haze” on the guitar but you won’t catch him listening to it on repeat for hours on end. I hoped that by showing him how people all over the world were paying tribute to Prince that he could get a small glimpse of what he meant to me and what he meant to music. As we sat quietly, bouncing along the BQE, in a way that only the completely innocent can, he asked, “Did Prince play the guitar?” I paused. If anyone else had asked the question I would have thought them an idiot but as I said before, my sweet boy lives in his own world. “Yes. He played the motherfuckin'(said that part in my head) guitar.”
I wrote the following for The Pickaninny Papers five years ago on his birthday and it expresses what I will always love about what Prince brought to the world. Rest in peace my dear Prince.
Very few people have the courage to be who they were meant to be, connecting to the universal being (you may call it God), maxing out their potential and shining a light so bright it can be hard to look at them, although it is equally difficult to look away. These people truly are stars. The word is thrown around so easily these days to describe merely famous people but on June 7, 1958 a true star was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His name is Prince Rogers Nelson. I’m not sure how he walks the earth without exploding, his creative genius is so powerful. In truth, I find my grasp of human language inadequate to describe Prince’s impact on the world. He is being who he was born to be and it is a beautiful thing to behold. Happy birthday Prince!