By Adam Waldman
You never know how much someone is truly loved and admired until they pass away. It is the sad reality that everyone deals with to some degree, but even more so for once-in-a-lifetime, transcendent talents like Prince, who touched the lives of people of all walks of life. We saw a massive outpouring of emotions like this when David Bowie passed away earlier this year. At the time, it felt like there would never be a reaction like that for anyone else, but Prince’s untimely passing has evoked an even more pronounced response.
Like Bowie, Prince’s music and fan base could not be pigeon-holed into a narrow category. His music touched the lives of a generation that grew up watching him on MTV. The pinnacle of Bowie’s career took place before MTV, so it’s understandable why the reaction to Prince’s passing has been even more overwhelming.
You would expect fans of pop, R&B and funk music to feel the huge impact of losing Prince, but the outpouring of emotions from numerous hard rock and metal artists was somewhat unexpected. In an interview with Larry King on CNN that was being replayed on the day of Prince’s passing, when asked to describe his style of music, he simply replied…“inspirational.” From others, that response may sound a bit self-serving, but from Prince, it came across as a truly genuine and accurate assessment of his music and its place in the world.
Hard rock and metal acts typically don’t cite Prince as an influence, but since his passing, it is clear that his music was not only inspirational to fans, but to fellow musicians as well, most of whom marveled at his immense talent. There’s a saying that goes… “jack-of-all-trades, master of none.” It may be cliché, but it is also true for most people. Prince was the exception to the rule. He was, quite simply, a master of all trades: singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist. Most of all, he was a master performer.
The year was 1999, a number that is more synonymous with Prince than Y2K. I was attending a music industry conference. For those who have ever worked in the industry, it is common knowledge that “industry crowds” are not favored by most artists. They can be jaded, and rarely show the type of enthusiasm as an audience filled with exuberant fans. However, sometimes an artist can deliver such an amazing performance that an “industry crowd” becomes indecipherable from a crowd filled with die-hard fans.
The one chance that I got to see Prince in a live setting was just such an occasion. His performance on that night was jaw-droppingly brilliant. Prince was the ultimate showman, who seemed to effortlessly bounce all over the stage while singing perfectly and shredding on the guitar like few others that I’ve ever seen in my decades of concert-going. He was magical. He was electrifying, and you couldn’t help but feed off of his energy.
Prince touched people with his music, and made people care about lyrics in a way that few others could. From the poetry of “When Doves Cry” to the haunting insight foreshadowing what “1999” would be like long before Y2K was even a concept, Prince made you think…he made you feel…he made you celebrate life. Perhaps the greatest example of his impact is found in the opening lyrics to “Let’s Go Crazy”…
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life. Electric word, life. It means forever, and that’s a mighty long time. But, I’m here to tell you, there’s something else…the afterworld…a world of never-ending happiness. You can always see the sun…day or night.”
These lyrics are especially poignant today as generations of people reflect back on the life of another icon that left us way too soon. For all of the happiness that he gave to so many, we can only hope that Prince finds never-ending happiness in the afterworld.
Thank you for the music and memories, Prince. RIP!