Precisely five years ago this month, in April 2011, I attended (and wrote about, here) a personal event at a Prince concert at The Forum in Inglewood, California. The Purple One was doing a series of concerts at the time to raise funds for the venue, which had fallen on hard financial times and was facing closure.
That was the last of five times I had the experience of seeing this great man perform.
I grew up in a household where my siblings and I all took music lessons on various instruments, though piano was always the starting point. Over seven years of lessons, I developed more than a modicum of skill. Eventually, I went on to play guitar, too. First acoustic, then electric. And eventually, later in my adulthood, I learned the electric bass. I always sang. I was in a band and played a few gigs and wrote a lot of original songs, though not as a profession, just as a thing to do.
The point is that I know music. I don’t know it, obviously, in the way or to the degree that Prince embodied it, but I know it well enough to grasp fully the exceptional nature of his genius.
It strikes me that the Genius moniker gets assigned to people somewhat haphazardly (maybe just nowadays, or maybe always), but to use the term genius in association with Prince Rogers Nelson is about as accurate an appellation as one can be. Each field or discipline has genius in its history. Some even have several. Eras, periods of time, have their own.
Darwin. Einstein. Shakespeare. Michelangelo. Jordan. Mozart. Prince.
Each of us has a gift, a talent, something unique to offer. And then there are those, like Prince, who are given something so far beyond the pale that they carry it for the duration.
Those whose gift seems otherworldly, who seem almost like gods in human clothing.
So many phrases and thoughts come to mind when I think of Prince. He marched to the beat of his own drum. Played by his own rules.
Things that imply that he made choices others of us don’t, that he worked harder, was more inspired, more driven. But maybe he didn’t have a choice. Maybe it was simply his purpose. Like how the Sun’s purpose is to support life on Planet Earth.
I think, too, of cliches about how stars that burn the brightest have the shortest life spans.
Things like that.
But if the Sun died, we would die with it. We wouldn’t be left here to mourn. So I struggle now to find words to reflect the profound feeling that matches the heartache that I, and so many others everywhere, are feeling over this monumental loss.
In every generation, those who are alive at the same time as that genius — those whose existence on this planet overlap — have a great opportunity. Whether or not we actually interact with one of these geniuses, the opportunity we have is to witness their lives, their performances, their creative output, their ideas — basically, the shows of their lives.
And then, when they are finished, when it is their time to step off the stage, they lay their genius down before us, and they let us use it for the long haul home. Peace b 2 u 4 ever.