I have been struggling the last few days, as so many of us have. I updated the blog on Friday but the words didn’t come easy, everything I wrote felt cold and empty. My sentences and thoughts were clunky and awkward. It’s hard to write from the heart when your heart is broken.
Prince was my hero. When I was a teenager with his posters on my wall he was the brightest pop star. Later I became a punk, the posters came down, but I still bought every album, followed every move. He was a true inspiration. He was smart, funny, business savvy, musically talented and a total badass.
I was too upset to write properly when I heard he had gone. I did rewrite the blog this morning, but it is too raw, too personal to share. So I left it as it was the other day, you will just have to put up with the ugly writing.
Keep the music playing, keep looking after each other. As long as you keep playing the music Prince will always be with us.
Prince died this morning. The news came through just as I was waking up, first the breaking news, then a flurry of messages from friends, family and fans. I turned to Minako and told her “Prince died”.
She replied, “How old was he?”.
“57,” I said, and she nodded, “That’s young” as she got up and went off to make breakfast.
I lay in bed for a few minutes more, trying to untangle my feelings and senses. Everything was quiet and still as I stared at the ceiling. Questions ran through my head, but for now I just wanted to reflect. I got up and took a shower.
When David Bowie passed away I threw myself on the bed and sobbed great tears. With ‘Low’ playing in the background I wept for the passing of The Thin White Duke. I shed no tears for Prince. As the water washed over me I wondered why I didn’t cry. David Bowie was the generation before us, my fathers generation, but Prince was ours, right from the moment he first exploded he was of our time and my generation was colored by his sound. I felt sad, profoundly sad, yet it some ways felt like another day.
As I left the house Minako said “They played Purple Rain on the radio,” then after a pause “It’s a very long song”. I smiled and told her I loved her.
It was still dark as I walked to work, and I listened to the Soul Brother Show with Mr Chris. The first song was Black Muse. Suddenly my chest got tight, I felt short of breath and my throat went dry. My legs weakened, and as I bent over I found myself crying alone in the middle of the street. It struck me out of the blue and I was suddenly overwhelmed upon hearing his voice in my ears. In the first light of the early morning I stood there crying like a fool on the street. Not even a classic 80’s Prince song, just something cool from his latest album. I tried to compose myself, and found that as I looked up a great yellow moon was sitting on the horizon watching me. It was so big and beautiful, I couldn’t help but find strength in it’s power.
I never met Prince. I never emailed him, tweeted him, or contacted him. I never knew him as a person. He was a global icon, and I was just a small town boy on the other side of the world. Yet, I spent more time with Prince than anyone else. His music has been constantly with me since the age of 9, and I don’t know how many hours of my life has been lived with his music playing in my ears. I have spent hours, days, weeks listening to his music, talking about his music, and writing about his music. In my life I have so many memories with his music, to say nothing of the many great friends who I have met because of him. For me Prince wasn’t just a person, he was someone to rally around, a community and a place, the mythical Paisley Park embodied, if you will.
I never became a musician. I never picked up the guitar, or took piano lessons. So you might think it strange when I say Prince was an inspiring figure to me, and a role model. He may have been a pop star, but it was other lessons I drew from his life. He was fiercely independent, and willful. He had his vision and he stuck with it, no matter what others thought. Like most people I had no idea why he would do things, but he was his own man and went his only path. Prince once sung “They won’t think you’re naive, if you play what you believe” and he did this all his life, played what he believed in. I admire that and take a lot of inspiration from him. Likewise his work ethic was something else that I could plug into. He was singular in his need to create music, and he did it 24/7. No matter how hard I work, Prince will always be working harder. He recorded more music in his life than I have time to listen to, even once I retire I won’t have enough hours in the day to listen to it all. More than 40 albums, plus the hours of unreleased tracks, and the 1000’s of concerts, there will never be enough time.
I never personally knew Prince. I could never call him a friend, or even an acquaintance. But his music has been my best friend through my life. It has been constant, and dependable through all of life’s ups and downs. My first kiss was to Purple Rain, I did my paper round listening to Around The World In A Day, Sign O The Times took me through high school. Every memory in my personal life has a Prince song or album attached to it. Most especially the times when I have been alone, that is when his music has been my one true friend. Just know that Prince’s music has outlasted friends, wives, family, and I am never alone as long as this music is in my life. If I could have met Prince for just one single moment, I would have only thanked him for given me so much joy and comfort in my life. And then there memories built around being a fan. Skipping school to buy the latest release, sitting on the back of the bus holding the album and trying to guess what sounds it holds inside. That thrill of dropping the needle for the first time, it was always an experience. Those many nights where I sat up late listening to the music in the dark, always so special to me. This is where my greatest sadness comes from, knowing that I will never again have that thrill, that rush of hearing something new and unique. I can feel my tears welling up even as I write this.
I never had a group of Prince friends when I was growing up. It was only the advent of the internet that opened up the world of fandom to me. And this is where I received the greatest gift from Prince – the gift of community and belonging. Feeling like an outsider growing up, and having his music to carry me through became much more once I connected with others. Prince sung of utopia communities, his Uptowns, his Paisley Parks while online he created it with his Love 4 one another and NPG Music clubs, and then in the real world we lived it communities drawing together over our love for the music and the man. In forums, at concerts and Prince meet ups, a real community growing as people shared experiences and helped one another, based only on the fact we loved Prince. I have a diverse range of wonderful friends, and the sole reason we met is Prince. Prince sung of love, not just between man and woman, but between all of us, and we all drank from the same cup. People may use the word Fams mockingly, but it’s a togetherness that he believed in, and there does exist a family bond between us all.
And that is where I am drawing strength from tonight. I know across the world the fans are huddling together, forums are lighting up, facebook groups are buzzing, the tribes are circling the fires, arms around each other comforting, supporting and remembering all those years of memories that he gave us. On this darkest of days we are seeking each other out for solace and support, other people who understand what it all means to be a fam. We still have each other, and we still have the music. The body of Prince may have left us, but his body of work will long live on. Prince sung of partying in the face of apocalypse, and I think in this occasion he would have wanted us to do the same. Take out your favorite album, turn it up, put on your brightest clothes, dance,sing, and be free. It’s how Prince lived his life and how I will always remember him -there is freedom in the music.
-I won’t be updating the blog for the next two weeks. It hasn’t fully hit me yet, but I know the next time I hear the opening chords of Purple Rain the tears will flow freely. I am going to take some time out to mourn and spend time with those people who are dear to me. Take care of one another, if anyone wants to chat or share memories or thoughts feel free to get in touch. -HW