I have never been one to mourn celebrities. Some big ones have died in the past year, and while I thought their deaths unfortunate and sad, I never felt compelled to express my emotions on Facebook or anywhere else. It all seemed a tad silly to me to shed tears over someone you had never met.
And yet, this morning I could barely pull myself out of bed. A fog has surrounded my brain all day. I am exhausted with overwhelming melancholy I cannot shake. I want to crawl into bed and wake up to a new day. I haven’t cried, but there is no doubt, this is grief--numbing baffling grief.
Awash in purple, the world is grieving and so am I. I can’t stop reading stories and looking at photos. For more than 24 hours, I’ve had a constant Prince soundtrack playing inside my head. I can’t stop it, and I don’t want to. I want to wallow in it. I want to remember the joy those songs have always brought into my life.
I bought my first Prince cassette in 1988, LoveSexy. I would have been 14 when it came out. I bought it because I loved his previous music, and I was only just discovering him, having been too young and sheltered when Purple Rain came out four years earlier.
That was the beginning of a nearly 30-year love affair in which the Purple One has continually reigned at the top of my list of most loved musicians. Sure, I’ve loved other songs and musicians, but no one could ever take the place of that man.
I still remember my college roommate and I standing in line for concert tickets in college. He played Mecca Arena in Milwaukee, no longer in existence. It must have been his Diamonds and Pearls concert in the early 1990s. For as long as I live, I will never forget how he sat down to that piano and plucked out two little notes, then two more. So slowly, so deliberately. So undeniably the beginning of “Darling Nikki.”
The response was deafening. That concert remains the best one, of any kind, that I have ever experienced—because it was an experience not a mere performance. It was as if every being in the arena that night were part of one living, breathing remarkable thing. That was the magic of Prince.
No, Prince, nothing does compare to you.
Three years ago, just months before we were moving from Denver to Milwaukee and I was leaving my job for part-time freelance work, Prince played a small club in Denver. I wanted to go, but given the financial circumstances, I couldn’t justify the $300 price tag. Now, that ticket price seems like a small price to have paid. He’s the one and only artist I’ve ever wanted to see more than once.
Truth be told, I also couldn’t justify the cost because I hadn’t kept up with his music in probably a decade. And yet, Prince has been part of my life since he first entered it. Multiple songs are on my phone’s running playlist (“When You Were Mine” is surprisingly fantastic to run to). Just last week, I started a new Pandora station with Prince as the seed artist. I was bored with my others ’80s stations.
Prince was an enigma, a puzzle, a brilliant mind. He’s been part of the soundtrack of my life for 30 years. I have no doubt he’ll be on it for 30 more. So, yes, I suppose I am grieving a man I never met, but maybe it’s okay because I didn’t need to meet him to have him touch my heart.
So now I’m going to do what I do when I’m feeling down. I’m going crank up some Prince. My daughter’s waiting to have a dance party, and it’s about time she learned a little bit about the color purple.