Much has been written in the past week about the music and life of Prince Rogers Nelson, and my own personal reflections are just one in many millions. Something that became obvious to me after David Bowie’s death was how deeply personal the soundtracks to life provided by such people are. The songs represent something unique to each person who listens to and feels them. They speak of dreams, desires, beliefs and memories. Just as importantly, they connect to the context of the times, and to where we were in the map of our own lives when we listened.
With all of that in mind, I debated even writing anything at all about my own reflections. But here I am. Within hours of hearing of Prince’s death, my mind was catapulted back to my life in Miami in the 80s. I found myself attempting to articulate what that time and place was about for me. In the early 80s, I was in my early 20s and, in my mind, finally having fun. I was living miles from where I had been raised. I felt liberated from the drudgery of childhood, which I saw as enslavement to rules and to other people making decisions for me. To me, Prince’s contagious and spirited music celebrated fun, eroticism, sexual revelation and sexual abandon, and did so in a way that was simultaneously poetic, sensual and cosmic. It said, without apology, pretty much what I dreamed love and sex was supposed to be.
A curious aspect of that time is that it intersected with us beginning to hear about AIDS. In a time of life that felt sexy and wild, with a fabulous funky soundtrack to set the stage, that was kind of a hard realization. Who in their 20s wanted their sexual expression dampened by the dark cloud of a deadly virus? Certainly not me, but it was a reality to be reckoned with.
The incomparable music retains its allure for me. I may be decades more circumspect, but the sounds, the ideas, and the feel of this man’s music still speaks profoundly to the spiritual romantic in me. If I could say anything to him now, it would be thank you. If I try to picture this music never being part of my life, well, I can’t even…