Prince: Dirty Mind, Beautiful Life

By Uloop Archives on May 4, 2016

By Nick J Nixon. Image via Flick 

It was so sudden; Prince, just 57, still seemed so spry. Though small news had been flying around about his hospitalization, no one thought the worse for it. The legend had been releasing music, interviewing, and performing, all while maintaining his larger-than-life presence. There was no shying from the public sphere. Far from a recluse, far from retirement, Prince was still going strong. He was working relentlessly just days before his death. Who would have known the reaper would arrive so soon?

No one was ready for it. No one could have been. There was no warning, no time to prepare ourselves for the inevitable. No real life-threatening sickness, no reports of drug use, nothing really that we knew of. In everyone’s mind, Prince Rogers Nelson was still doing his thing, and would continue to do so for … forever, probably? Forever, for-ever-ever?

Prince, the larger-than-life figure who shook up the world so much, it could never properly reorient itself again. Prince, the musical prodigy who took absolute control of his art from the moment he started his career, at the ripe age of 19. Prince, the singular musical genius who created complex, beautiful works that seemed to come from another universe. Prince, who refused to let himself be shackled by a soulless industry, and worked forever toward the liberation of both himself and his art. Prince, who broke down racial, masculine, artistic, and corporate barriers with crazy outfits and flamboyant kicks. Prince, who captivated everyone in everything he did, whether it was ripping a beautiful guitar solo, dancing his ass off, acting, or even roller-skating. Prince, the household name whose music and image (represented in a symbol or otherwise) reverberated with people of all ages in all decades.

Looking upon it now, it is remarkable that such a person ever walked among us. We should perhaps feel lucky that he chose to bless us with his work. There are few other humans in all of music history who engaged so thoroughly with the form as Prince had, and left their messy, raw fingerprints all over the cultures that persist to this day. There are even few artists today, in all mediums and forms, who have not been influenced by Prince, indirectly or otherwise. Prince was one of those universal figures who occupy an exceptionally holy shrine, one that beams down on almost everyone. Everybody knows Prince’s name, everyone’s listened to at least a few of his hits, everyone’s aware of what Prince left for us, still crawling over this grimy Earth.

Which is why Prince’s death especially stings. The announcement of his death left one with an all too-familiar feeling. It is the feeling of an emotional sucker punch that, out of nowhere, socks you in your gut and leaves the pain to dry. It is the nervous gulp that never quite settles like you wish it would. It is the feeling of seeing a foundation slowly crumble before your very eyes. It is the feeling of time stopping, leaving you stranded in the singular moment you heard the news. And once time starts moving along again, it never seems to go quite at the pace it did before.

On a grander scale, it is a feeling of great mortality; no matter how magical our heroes seem, none have been able to find the Elixir of Life yet. Of course, their art will continue to transcend them, to transcend us, to imprint their legacy in our time. But they themselves, the physical people behind the art that so moved us, are also just … people. No matter what they created, they are in the end also carbon-based life forms. They are not their art. They cannot be. They are humans, with an expiration date ticking down every second. When the timer shuts off, no one is ready for it.

Yet these people are still on a pedestal above many others. They matter because of what they made. Even in death, perhaps more than ever, Prince matters. His legacy still breathes with us, giving us the life Prince gifted us from his own. In an age where art has been devalued, the state of music and its industry have been chopped up beyond recognition, where conflict is rife, where troubles seem everywhere, where genius seems lost, where any singular personal savior seems all but absent, Prince still matters and will continue to do so.

Goodnight, sweet Prince. May you forever laugh in the purple rain.

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