Stunned. Shocked. Saddened. My initial reactions to Prince’s death were all set in denial; this couldn’t be real. But it was, and here we are, without one of music’s greatest legends.
Some of us at Third Coast Review have collected our thoughts into something palpable over the past few days, once the shock wore off (though I’m not sure it ever will completely). Thank you for everything, Prince. We’ll be eternally grateful.
Steve Prokopy, our movie reviewer, is a lifelong Prince fan. He wrote about his memories of Prince’s music and performances the day Prince’s death was announced. He writes about how in 1995 he and a few other diehard Prince fans would drive seven hours to Minneapolis on weekends to see Prince’s concerts at Paisley Park.
“Dearly beloved. We are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.”
I remember hearing my first Prince song, “Let’s Go Crazy”, and becoming instantly hooked. Most of his top hits were released before I was even born, but this didn’t make the influence of his music any less strong as it became interwoven with my life.
Thank you, Prince. For inspiring the eccentric. For being yourself and offering no apologies or concessions for any of your decisions. For allowing me to remember you whenever I see the color purple. For making an entire bar sing along to “Raspberry Beret” this weekend. For giving a musical home to things that don’t fit anywhere else. For making it a cherished quality to be different. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
There are few musicians that I adored before I could properly understand who or what they were. Prince was one of those few. Having been born the spring preceding Batman, I essentially grew up with the film and its music in the background. Somewhere there are photos of me of a tiny 3 or 4 year old dancing around in a make shift cowl and cape while the film played in the background. If I had to guess it was to “Partyman” and “Trust”. At the time, I had literally no concept how music that infectious came into existence. I just assumed it miraculously appeared out of thin air or more likely the speakers of my TV.
As the years rolled by, Prince was referenced in so many projects that I naturally gravitated towards. Time may have educated me on how music doesn’t just exist from nothing, but Prince’s influence felt omnipresent in my life. Whether it was a cover of “When Doves Cry” in Romeo + Juliet, his songwriting with Morris Day featured in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, or his persona lovingly parodied in The Dave Chappelle Show, Prince seemed like he was around every corner. He and his music honestly felt like a friend who would pop up unexpectedly, party with me and regale me with weird sex stories before heading off into the night. Even when Prince was a little off kilter, like never giving Weird Al to parody or smashing other people’s guitar, there was a legendary quality to him that attracted an sense of respect towards him.
My teens urged on the curiosity to finally seek out the reality of who created that music I had been enjoying so much. I realize it’s easy to exalt Prince as the Purple One, the mystical being who evolve into a Love Symbol and channeled the ether to produce songs that were socially conscious and sexy as, well, fuck. But the reality is far more magical. Not only was it a human being that made these wonderful sounds, but he held a prowess with dozens of instruments. He was self-taught and played nearly every one of those instruments on nearly every song. He had so much creative energy that songs never saw the light of day or were passed on to other artists. He was a singular creator that only wanted to answer to himself and did so as much as possible. He was naturally weird and never felt the need to explain. These qualities spoke to me, inspired me to be as devoted as Prince to whatever I was doing.
As I read the news that someone was found dead at Paisley Park, my stomach turned. When the update came in and the news confirmed, that Prince had passed away, I couldn’t really comprehend the loss I had felt. I knew and know his music and presence will still be around, surprising me by popping up in films and TV every so often. Maybe his vault of unreleased material would be released. His influence won’t be any different in that regard. He’ll still be an inspiration to me and continue make me want to dance. But knowing that he’s not here anymore in this thing called life, for the first time, it really feels like we are on our own.