As I write this, it has been only four days since the world lost its Prince, though it already seems like a lifetime.
The passing of Prince Roger Nelson recalls the deaths of rock-and-roll musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. Richardson in a plane crash February 3, 1959, in an Iowa cornfield. That tragedy became known as “the day the music died,” after Don McLean referenced it as such in his 1971 song American Pie.
March 21, 2016, I suspect, will be remembered as the day the music cried.
And I have no doubt songs will be written about it.
I do not claim to be a big Prince fan—though his song Nothing Compares 2 U is one of my very favorites; I only know that if you were only to have heard once the first notes and lyrics of the song Purple Rain, you would know you were listening to the work of a genius.
That was a love song to friendship — and the sad realization that few believe such love exists or can exist without threatening romantic love.
Maybe it can’t, but I loved that he saw we could all be happier if we remained open to all the love circulating around us, in all its varied forms. I like to think his default was love.
That was the message I took from his passing, and I found myself searching for stories of how he had lived in love. I was overwhelmed by how many there were from people both famous and obscure. Eric Clapton told how Prince had pulled him out of a deep depression. Travis Smiley, shared how Prince had sought him out as a talk-show newcomer twenty years ago and been there for him ever since. And then there were the oh-so-many people who credited him for allowing them to be their own weird selves.
I found my respect for him grow when I learned we know so little about his good deeds because as a Jehovah’s Witness since 2001 he didn’t speak publicly of such things. One did. One did not seek praise for doing. It’s also why Prince refused to swear in his songs in his later years.
Van Jones told CNN that Prince was a “huge philanthropist” and “an incredible humanitarian.” He helped create and supported Yes We Code, which now has 15 major tech companies working with kids from low opportunity backgrounds; he worked with Green for All, which helped put solar panels on homes in Oakland; and he played many, many concerts in struggling cities such as Chicago, Baltimore, and New Orleans as a way to go into communities and help local groups. Tavis Smiley told CNN Prince also anonymously gave coats to the homeless through his Love 4 One Another Foundation.
Maybe, more importantly, he gave all of us hope that if you just kept looking you’d find your people.
In an age when so many celebrities don’t do anything away from the public eye, Prince avoided the spotlight and fanfare.
Any yet, when so many of today’s celebrities are gone and soon forgotten, the memory of the man from Minneapolis will live on.
What is your favorite Prince memory?