Today/Tonight’s blog post was supposed to be a review of my April GlossyBox- but given the circumstances- I thought I’d take the opportunity to pay tribute to an unparalleled genius, a musical and cultural icon, and a man who has inspired and who will continue to inspire me throughout my life, instead.
2016 has been pretty brutal with the celebrity deaths so far. David Bowie and Alan Rickman dying within days of each other back in January was a one-two combo that sent music and movie fans alike reeling in shock and sadness- and just this past week the world bid farewell to both Doris Roberts and former WWF/WWE star and sports entertainment pioneer Joan “Chyna” Laurer.
However, yesterday’s announcement of the unexpected and premature passing of Prince Rogers Nelson made the world feel as though it had come to a standstill- and I think many people are still trying to regain their bearings- myself included.
I was brought up in a musically diverse household- something I’m so very proud of and so grateful for because I was able to learn, absorb and appreciate different types of artistry and cultures from a very young age. My father was a former drummer and classic rock/Beatles buff. My mother loved MoTown and jazz. My two older brothers’ tastes ranged anywhere from heavy metal, 80s hair bands, punk and ska- and the occasional foray into gangsta’ rap- which went over about as well as you’d expect in our predominantly conservative, suburban neighborhood where we grew up.
And while all of our tastes were definitely different- my family collectively loved certain artists. Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston come to mind almost immediately- and so does Prince.
I was born in 1986- two years after ‘Purple Rain’ well, reigned supreme- both at the box office and on the charts- but much like Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’- ‘Purple Rain’ was an album that was on heavy rotation in my household from as far back as I can remember. If ‘Billie Jean’ was the song that had made me want to take dance classes as a child- then ‘When Doves Cry’ was the one that had made me want to play guitar when I was still pint-sized. The album just had that affect on me- and when I was finally old enough to watch the movie and actually understand it’s plot and it’s characters (shout-out to Morris Day- who I love oh so much!)– I fully grasped why it was such a big deal to so many in the two years before I was even on this Earth.
It was art- and it made the music take on an even more profound meaning when you saw how it intertwined with the story and the struggles of “The Kid”.
‘Purple Rain’ was the thing that got me hooked on Prince when I was still a young girl- and his ever-evolving music, image, style, and overall cool, mysterious and provocative demeanor KEPT me hooked. Every song, every album, and every performance I’d catch on television was electric and innovative. Prince not only broke racial, gender and sexual barriers- but he made it look so effortless while he did it. He was one of, if not THE ONLY man who could rock lace, ruffles, eyeliner and high-heeled ankle boots (or ass-less chaps- because we all remember that one) with such unabashed confidence- but still be irresistible and desirable while he did it.
Prince re-defined and re-constructed any previous established tropes of masculinity and played a definitive role in my own sexuality and my preferences in men as I grew up. Fun, TMI fact- the song ‘Cream’ was playing when I lost my virginity- which was really the only redeemable moment in what was otherwise an awkward, fumbling disaster (I wish I could have personally thanked Prince for that one, honestly.)
And through Prince I discovered so many other unique, talented musicians and performers- each with their own style and visions to bring to the table. A whole new world of music and art was opened up to me- and it was through that exploration into his protégés and his collaborations that I learned more about myself and about a scene where it truly felt like anyone and everyone could be themselves and still belong. We all had a place there. We were all welcome.
For someone like me- someone who never felt like I really belonged anywhere for a very long time- this was a huge deal.
Prince and his music united people like that- in a way that I truly feel only someone as brilliant and as eccentric as him, could. He was one of a kind and a trailblazer through and through. Everyone has a favorite Prince song- a song they shamelessly sing along to in the shower, or in their car, or one that gets them out on the floor to dance or pushes them to work out a little harder at the gym to because it’s so funky that you can’t NOT move or groove to it. Ask anyone what theirs is- and I swear to you- they will have one (if not more than one.)
And even through moments of unusual or unexpected behavior- like briefly changing his name to a symbol, or his strict policies on fans sharing his music, or his dabbles into social media- Prince remained endearing, charismatic, and cool. Where many artists struggle to maintain their relevance in pop culture- Prince never had to try. He was always a constant fixture- omnipresent in a way- which makes his death all the more horrible for the people who knew him personally and the fans who adored him. Despite his incredible body of work over these past decades- it feels as though we’ve been left with a void that none of us are quite sure how to fill except by looking back, reminiscing and listening to those very same songs that first made us fall in love with him all those years ago.
Since the news broke of his passing, people around the world have been sharing their favorite Prince songs/memories/performances. I’ve re-watched his amazing guitar solo during a cover of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ at the 2004 Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, I’ve teared up during clips of his perfect Super Bowl halftime performance from 2007 (a set I locked my then-boyfriend at the time out of the house to see so that he wouldn’t interrupt it in any capacity because I’m pretty sure he was jealous of my affection for Prince) and I have laughed watching Dave Chappelle re-enact Charlie Murphy’s tale of the time Prince and The Revolution completely schooled him and his friends during a game of basketball (Game. Blouses.)
Even MTV, VH1, and BET have done the unexpected and have started showing music videos- HIS music videos- again as a tribute and a nostalgic nod to an era gone by- lost to reality TV shows and scripted teen comedies/dramas.
And through it all, there are a few things that remain perfectly clear and consistent: Prince’s otherworldly talent as a musician is undeniable. His prowess as a songwriter is unmatched, and his influence- not just on music and pop culture but on the world itself- is something that we may never get to see again in our lifetimes.
When Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston died, it felt as though an important and integral part of most of our childhoods went right along with them- and the pain of losing people who had shaped us, inspired us, and influenced us so much was, at times- too much to bear- especially given the tragic circumstances of their deaths.
With Prince’s passing- the pain is just as real and just as raw- like a scab that has been picked away at a still healing wound- but his death feels less like the loss of a fond childhood memory we clung to dearly and more like the loss of a close friend or family member. One who was always around- even when they weren’t physically there before our eyes. We have been robbed of a unique and truly incredible artist and presence in this world. Someone who still had so much more to share with us all and someone who still had so much time to continue evolving, inspiring and changing history as we knew it.
In these coming days as fans mourn, remember the man and the music, and cope- let me share what I’ve learned from Prince and from being a lifelong fan:
Never be afraid or ashamed to be yourself. Never be afraid or ashamed to test and break boundaries. Never be afraid or ashamed to venture outside the “norm” and do things your own way. Free yourself of the standards and/or expectations that others have set for you and do things the way you want to do them.
Do what feels right to you- and don’t apologize for it.
And create- as much as you can and as often as you can- and don’t stop creating.
The world is a little less purple today.
Rest in Peace you wild, brilliant, inspiring genius. You will be missed so much and by so many.
Be good to one another.