The news broke yesterday that the inimitable Prince Rogers Nelson has passed. Prince has been a major influence not only on our music, art, and pop culture, but on my personal life as well. And as I sit to write this piece, I feel at a loss for words in a major way – maybe moreso than I can ever recall feeling, because how does one describe the indescribable?
My phone was dead for a few hours and when I turned it back on, I had several notifications that friends had posted to my Facebook timeline asking if I was alright. I wasn’t really sure what that was all about until I looked in my newsfeed and saw the first post announcing his death. In all honesty, as perverse as it may sound, my initial knee-jerk reaction to the news was happiness for him. I was happy that he’d shaken off this mortal coil, so ill-equipped to contain such a massive and undefinable force, and gone on to join the infinite. He was really too cool for all of us anyways. But as the shock faded, a sadness accompanied by a feeling of physical illness set in.
,And I didn’t think I’d ever feel this distraught over the death of someone I didn’t know, but I sort of feel lost and a little apprehensive about where we’re going to go from here.
[bctt tweet=”I’m not cool because you make me cool. You know what cool is because I’m showing it to you. I don’t need you, but you definitely need me.” username=”wearethetempest”]
To say that Prince was ‘cool’ is kind of an unforgivable understatement – rather, he was coolness itself. He embodied, constantly redefined, and pushed the concept forward and outward into the ever-expanding. I remember being a kid in the backseat of my parents’ car, singing along to “Little Red Corvette” and feeling alive and really powerful. Not that I understood the context of the lyrics in any way – but it exuded a confidence that I needed to tap into. He was so entirely secure (at least in his public persona) that his effortless and tangible coolness quite clearly expressed a sentiment along the lines of “I’m not cool because you make me cool. You know what cool is because I’m showing it to you. I don’t need you, but you definitely need me.” I remember seeing him on MTV, earrings, lace, and eyeliner and seeing a human that refused to let others define them – and knowing that I was going that way, too. I remember as a slightly older kid, watching tears stream down my then 42-year-old mother’s face as she listened to “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” and understanding his ability to instill the confidence he moved through the world with into others, his power to undermine and rewrite mainstream definitions of beauty, sexiness, and vitality.
[bctt tweet=”To say that Prince was ‘cool’ is kind of an unforgivable understatement – rather, he was coolness itself. ” username=”wearethetempest”]
The era of Prince and the Revolution represented a non-binary future that we so sorely need to continue to work towards, and a sexuality so liberated and powerful that it, as a friend said yesterday, “can only be described as queer” even for a kid who didn’t know anything about the concept of queerness yet. In the early 90s, he reminded us of his refusal and inability to be defined in binary terms by changing his name to the unpronounceable symbol later to become known as “Love Symbol#2.”
[bctt tweet=”The era of Prince and the Revolution represented a non-binary future.” username=”wearethetempest”]
His confidence and palpable sex appeal were only exceeded by his musical virtuosity. He reportedly could play at least 27 instruments, as evidenced by his having played all 27 on his debut album (released when he was just 20-years-old). His songwriting was so prolific, it’s said that there exists enough unreleased material in the vaults of Paisley Park to give us a new album each year for the next 100 years. He is widely, and justly, regarded as one of the top-ranking artists of all time and consistently thought of as revolutionary in his art. And on top of that, he wrote hit after hit for other artists. Remember Sinead O’Connor and her anthem “Nothing Compares to You”? Yea, that was written by the one and only Prince. I know I ought to find comfort in the thought of further musical genius from his brilliant mind coming to us, but I can’t help feeling anxious that there will be copyright wars and infringement on his personal wishes and privacy. If it is the case that there is more material to be released, I hope that it is only done so in light of what he wanted.
[bctt tweet=”He is widely, and justly, regarded as one of the top-ranking artists of all time ” username=”wearethetempest”]
Anyone who ever had the great good fortune to witness one of his concerts could probably tell you that it felt at least a little bit like attending a religious service. His music wasn’t just music, it was a spiritual endeavor. And let’s not forget that he could throw the shadiest shade that’s ever been thrown. I hope that, as we muddle through our grief and low-grade terror over the gaping hole his loss has created, we don’t make the mistake of asking ourselves, “Who will take his place?” Because the answer to this always has been and always will be, “No one can.” My heart goes out to his family and friends and to all the fans who are reeling from this loss. Rest in Power, you bad motherfucka.