If ever there was an artist that seemed immortal, it was Prince. Whether it was his phenomenal guitar playing, unmatched songwriting and arranging, ageless appearance, or captivating performances, he seemed supernatural.
Death didn’t seem like it would ever fit into the equation. Someday Prince would simply fly off into space, his Paisley Park compound rising from the earth like the mansion in Rocky Horror, blasting toward the stars.
I couldn’t text my best friend from childhood or my sister when I finally confirmed the news from a reputable source this afternoon (please let it be another internet hoax, I thought). The news was too big. Too horrible. My husband called me before I could call them. Everyone already knew. We were all searching online for something that proved the news false before calling each other.
I don’t care about the Grammys, the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, or any of the other record breaking stats you’ll find in his obituary. It was his incomparable music that mattered. I could recount pretending to be Wendy and Lisa from the Revolution with my best friend as a kid (I was Lisa); seeing the risqué “Purple Rain” for the first time (mom sent me out of the room during a couple scenes); launching into his “Let’s Go Crazy” intro the year I got a microphone on Christmas morning (much to my sister’s delight); or the insanity and excitement leading up to seeing him for the first (second, third, or fourth) time. But a scroll through Twitter is a testament to the millions of lives, like mine, that he touched. His reach was almost intangible.
Last week when news broke of Prince falling ill after shows in Atlanta, my mom (who almost died in November) gave me a hard time about not taking her to see him there. I wouldn’t have thought about taking her to an out of town show a few months after she was released from the hospital anyway. Now I wish we’d gone. These last shows with Prince and a piano reportedly boiled his genius down in the simplest terms, although there is nothing simple about it.
I also thought about the musicians and employees that work for Prince – some who are Charlotte-based, some that are friends – who are now out of a job, a job that most of us could only dream of. But more than anything, as with the deaths of the Ramones, Lemmy Kilmister, and countless others, I think about the artists my kids will never get to see play live. My 7 year old sometimes asks if an artist is dead before he commits to liking them. There are so many that he’ll never see (that’s one reason I sprung for Guns n’ Roses tickets). But Prince? I always thought there would be time.
I recently made my kids watch a block on VH1 Classic’s “Pop-Up Video” of Prince classics. My 5 year old deemed the video for “When Doves Cry” inappropriate, but remembered “Raspberry Beret” this morning when I shared the news with him. “I like ‘Raspberry Beret.’ I’m sorry you died,” he said, as if dictating his thoughts, thinking I’m typing an email to Prince instead of a blog post. He climbed on top of the metal frame of my mom’s day bed, looked out the window and lamented, “That was a good band.”