By Stephen McClain, Reference Department
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.” –Prince
This isn’t supposed to happen. Our heroes are not supposed to die. Ever. We forget that they are mortal. We forget that they were once little children who went to school, ate dinner, got in trouble, and got scared. They are different than us. They are supposed to be stronger, smarter, more creative and invincible. In so many ways, they are unintentional representations of us; of who we are, who we want to be and most often, who we once were. We try to look like them, try to act like them, and try to write or create like them. But we can’t. Because we are not them. We deify them because they are greater than us and without them; we would not be who we are.
Prince stood up when he felt he was being taken advantage of by his record label, appearing in public with the word “slave” written on his face and changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol in protest. He stood for something, even if it was only the control of his art. I cannot think of a comparison today. So many artists are beholden to corporations and greed and will not risk alienating anyone for fear of losing money or endorsements. I miss those days when rock stars used to be dangerous and take risks. They didn’t care about money. They cared about art and what they believed in and were willing to risk everything for it.
I can still see the flashing, sequenced lights and mirror ball at the skating rink in my hometown whenever I hear “1999” (that year seemed to be so far away). The same goes for “Little Red Corvette” (and everyone knew someone who moved a little too fast). The intro chords to “Purple Rain” take me back in time too, but that album came out later. I was older and the lyrics meant something more to me. In the 1980s, guitars ruled the world and Prince’s guitar solo on “Let’s Go Crazy” was nothing short of inspirational. It demanded you pay attention. Even at the age I was then, I could hear Hendrix in Prince’s playing. Everyone knew this guy was special. And now he’s gone.
As I mourn Prince’s passing I also lament the struggling condition of today’s music. Many of the people I talk with share the same belief that today’s music is in a sad state, which is one of the reasons why Prince’s death is so numbing to me. Prince never repeated himself. He moved forward. He was about the performance and always had something to prove. We argue about politics and religion but what brings us together? Music. The pure joy of music. We’re all in this together and music is one of the few things that can unite us. Prince saw the future. Now he’s in the past. But his music helped create our present.
*Opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and in no way reflect the philosophy or preferences of the Williamson County Public Library, its staff members, their families, friends, or pets.