Prince didn’t mean much to me. I didn’t grow up listening to his music and so when I was introduced to it later in life, I appreciated it the way a critic might. I admire his individualism. His ability to easily escape definition. I enjoy some of his songs when I hear them but unlike millions of others in the hours since he died, I haven’t sought them out. They just weren’t my cup of tea. But I do understand why some people felt like when he died, a part of them was lost, too.
Just read these lines from Aesop Rock talking about his visual art and what he lost giving it up.
You can imagine the stars that align when a forearm starts foreshortening right/Or a torso hung on a warping spine of proportion reads as warm and alive.
Routine day with a dirt cheap brush/Then a week goes by and it goes untouched/Then two, then three, then a month/And the rest of your life you beat yourself up.
(Here’s the rest of the lyrics and one take on their meaning)
I imagine how I feel when I listen to Aesop Rock is how so many others feel when they listen to Prince. It’s the feel of relating to what someone else is saying, but relating at a new depth.
The way Aesop Rock explains how he feels about slowly neglecting something he loved is how I feel about my music. I’ve slowly stopped playing my guitar and writing songs and with that, part of my identity has been lost.
Music, film, writing, even marketing–at their best, they are mirrors. Showing us parts of ourselves we didn’t know about, that we buried and forgot, that we someday might be.
For many of the avid Prince fans I’ve heard from, this is at least part of what makes his death so sad. Not just his music or his style or the way he carried himself, but how hearing and seeing him changed the way they experience the world. Most of us have been there. You hear a song or watch a movie that connects with you, and you’re never quite the same afterward. And to the person who pulled you, unwittingly, from the limitations of your own perspective and showed you something you’d never seen–a different shade of purple, say–you form an almost idolistic devotion.
They get me, you think.
It’s odd. Here they are, these strangers. People like Prince and Bowie. And yet we feel like they know us in a way our closest friends don’t. How many people truly change the way you look at the world?
These people give us something to aim for. A far off star. Whatever their faults, they inspire.
Prince, from what I can tell, consistently followed his muse. He didn’t let his brush dry up.
That’s what I’ll take away from his death and hope to emulate in my life.