A week ago today the world lost a gigantic talent. Or as my six-year-old says,
And, whether you loved him or loathed him, the truth is, Prince has left an indelible mark on music – and, I don’t care, I’m going to say it, the world.
We mourn. We speculate. We mythologise a man who will eventually – if he hasn’t already – be deified as, ‘….not a woman, not a man, something you will never understand.’
In fact, just like all the other single-monikered legends who ‘died too soon’, I think our obsession with Prince will be eternal.
Yes, he was undeniably gifted. Yes, he revolutionised an industry that constantly teeters on the edge of homogeny and safety. But to be so intensely fascinated by the man even after his death? Absolutely. And I get it. All of it.
In fact, I. Want. More.
I’ve spent the last few days devouring every Prince article, video, image, interview I can find. I’ve watched Stevie Wonder weep over the friend he called a member of his ‘…army of love.’ I’ve stared slack-jawed at the supernatural command Prince had over every performance, a master of on-stage flirtation, urgent guitar licks and intimate banter with audiences creaming for more. And then there’s that raw video of him at a sound check – a sprawling, empty stadium at his feet, he teases those ivories into a sensual rendition of Summertime – snapping gum like a sexy, cocky Mozart as he plays.
I’ve Googled until my fingers went numb discovering old interviews with Prince talking about God, sex, conspiracy theories, music, the afterlife, making up songs for the Muppets and fleeing the set of The View when a co-host confessed her desire to bed him.
I’ve watched him kid around with Chris Rock as he told him why he refused Michael Jackson’s invitation to be in the Bad video – “…the opening lyric is, ‘Your butt is mine’ so we got a problem right there!”
I stayed up late, eyes wide and amazed at some obscure, grainy footage of Scary Spice interviewing her purple crush under the watchful eye of Prince’s caged doves at Paisley Park – his fabled recording studio and home that’s been described as looking, ‘…like the inside of a genie’s bottle.’
Meanwhile, I’ve karaoked the crap out of his songs in the car, supermarket aisles, on dance floors, my living room, in the kitchen singing into cucumbers. And sure, let’s keep the innuendo coming… Prince’s unparalleled, erotically charged lyrical genius continues to inspire tingles all over me –
“Thunder drowns out what the lightning sees, feel like a movie star.”
“Look at me, tell me what you see, the back and forth of an earthquake or a strong and sturdy tree.”
“I wanna be your lover. I wanna be the one that makes you come…running!”
Social media n’ me have also become tight bedfellows. I’ve scrolled through countless tweets and status updates saturated with so-called ‘celebrity-worshipping’ of the late Mr Nelson; and the accompanying comments are relentless in their love and… vitriol.
So young. So brilliant. So what? Why do we grieve so deeply for a stranger?
Well, I think I know. Actually – thinking’s got nothing to do with it.
Our obsession with Prince’s death – and now his life and his music makes perfect sense. You see, the man in the stilettos stole a part of you and me – when that elevator succeeded in bringing him down.
When someone who means something to us dies – it doesn’t matter who he or she was, how many Corvettes they drove, how many hugs they gave you. If this person connected with you on a level not even you can understand, you will always, always mourn their loss – because what you’re also doing is grieving a part of you that’s now gone too.
When my father died, my grief was acute. It sucked – and continues to, five years on. Our connection was profound. I was Daddy’s little girl – and, even as I write this, the tears fall anew. Whose little girl will I ever be now? Shedding tons of tears for Dad was acceptable. Expected, even. But Prince?
Yes. I’ve fallen into a funk over him. It feels odd sobbing for a distant superstar, perfect in his eye-lined madness, sleepless talent, vertiginous heels and androgynous glory. But I am.
Maybe it’s an age thing. As we get older, we become more and more aware that our time on this blue planet is finite. The bits and pieces that have made up your world so far, the people, the music, the lovers, the places – as their time in your life wraps up, you find yourself scrambling, desperately clinging to the past, your memories, your youth – the status quo. And you’re pissed off because you can’t. Not really. So, maybe it’s the futility of this exercise that’s highlighted when such a ubiquitous personality like Prince dies – together with your connection, the soundtrack, the visceral memories that tied you to him. You don’t want to believe it’s over. It can’t be.
So in the last few days I figured if I read enough, or watched enough, understood enough about Prince, buried myself in enough pixels and data, I could somehow, someway resurrect the dude and…
…there I am, hanging out of my bedroom window, a virginal 19-year-old, eager to snatch a chorus of Cream floating on the air towards me from the stadium a suburb away. I want to be Diamond or Pearl. Not precious. Late at night, while my parents sleep, I’m watching Under the Cherry Moon fantasising that Prince will deflower me in a cave filled with tealight candles not Kristin Scott Thomas. He’ll be gentle and voracious. And keep his high-pitched squeals to a minimum. Or not. And now I’m leaping three feet into the air, tickets to Piano and a Microphone mine, all mine. I bounce up and down in my theatre seat matching his grooves on stage, his platform sneakers light up with every beat he stamps out. I feast on the searing intent behind his voice, the deeper notes stirring up a place so obscene and delicious in me, it begs to be revisited.
But it’s all just indulgent reminiscing now.
‘Cause here we are in a world without the playful provocation, the sensuous, soul-shattering phenomenon that was Prince. This is the uncomfortable new.
So. Please. If you don’t get our grief, look away.
A little acclimatising is in order as we recalibrate our expectations of that electric word, life.