The news of Prince’s recent death was a shock. At 57 years old, an iconic music legend was gone. There was no long illness, no cause of death given, just a confirmation from the proper authorities that he was no longer among the living.
By the time I picked my kids up from school the day his purple greatness died, they had already heard the news. I paused for a moment in the carpool line trying to figure out: 1. How to tell them, and 2. How it stacked up against the other dramas of a typical middle and high school day. As my son (the high schooler) was sharing his classmates’ reactions to the announcement, he mentioned that a 9th grade girl started crying and exclaimed, “My parents made me to Prince!”
Here we go.
Upon her declaration the rest of the class broke into roaring laughter, and as my 9th grader recounted the story, I started remembering some of my own personal encounters with Prince’s music. Thank goodness I thought before I spoke.
What I really wanted to say was, “That’s sounds about right. You were too.”
But I didn’t.
Because in the moment of me reminiscing of Prince’s presence at the conception of my first-born, my thoughts were interrupted by another child exclaiming, “You mean people listen to music when they are having sex? HOW GROSS! It’s like the artist singing the song is right there in the room with you!”
And that right there is why it’s hard for us to grapple with the news of a celebrity death. Especially a musician. Because they were there. From the foreplay to the aftershocks. Every single time.
While my children may not understand now why we chose to share with our most romantic moments with Prince, Luther, and Whitney, they may understand in 20 years when they look back on their own moments of how Netflix has shaped their generation. Especially if they realize that the chill in Netflix and chill probably led to many a conception.
As luck would have it, the question about sex and music was purely rhetorical. Within 30 seconds, I was hearing about Algebra class, 8th graduation, and the best promposals ever.
Totally good save, because I had no idea how to address that one. It did give me the conviction to ponder how to handle this if the topic came up again. I decided I would focus on the ingenuity and peaceful humanity of the artist.
A few hours later – after we watched the evening news, ate dinner, and read more on-line accounts of the life of Prince Rogers Nelson – my children had another observation about this musical genius.
14-year-old: “Mom, I’m starting to think that low-key, Prince was a little freaky.”
Here we go. Again.
15-year-old: “Get over it child. Prince wasn’t low-key anything. He was over-the-top and definitely a freak. Google it.”
This time I had to respond. Appropriately. I’m sharing it here because, well, you may also have a child who was conceived on December 31, 1999 and now said child realizes that the New Year’s anthem of that year was only a prelude to the fireworks that were to come in the bedroom as the night wore on.
This is what I decided to share with my kids about the life of Prince, and why his death matters, after I proclaimed, “DON’T GOOGLE IT,” to the 14-year-old. “I’m going tell you what you really need to know about Prince.”
- Prince fans founded their own historical and tributary website to his life. Princepedia, a division of Wikipedia, was an on-line vault of all things Prince. The site is currently under construction for updates and such, but really, who else has such a following that their life is enshrined online? And really, are you doing impactful things in life to be enshrined on-line?
- Although he only stood at 5’2” tall, he was one of the best high school basketball players in the state of Minnesota. Don’t ever let anyone tell you because you don’t look like the stereotypical definition of success, you can’t be successful.
- He practiced his craft, no matter what. I read once that a hotel he was staying in did not have a piano in his room. Because Prince needed to practice, and because he is Prince he needed to practice in his room, he needed that piano. When the hotel couldn’t accommodate him, he hired a crane to lift the piano and workers to deliver it to him through the window.
- He was authentic. We knew who he was. He was unapologetic about his sexual freedom, he was unapologetic for the disdain of politics, and he was unapologetic for being a perfectionist.
- All types of music make the world a better place. His unique blend of afro-disco-rock-funk-jazz-pop is one of a kind. He would write songs and collaborate with the most group of diverse artists. Chaka Khan, Cyndi Lauper, Stevie Nicks, and Sinead O’Connor are a few; only a few.
- Change is good. Especially if you’re changing yourself for the better. In the early 2000’s, Prince announced that he would stop singing lyrics that were sexually explicit and profane. Prince’s faith was important to him, and he allowed his faith to guide those decisions.
- He was a humanitarian. And he didn’t have to post his good deeds on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. He gave money to the family of Trayvon Martin, he funded several programs for youth in Baltimore, and he was a supporter of Yes We Code. We never knew about any of this until after his death.
That is how we are choosing to remember Prince in our family. No Googling his freakiness is necessary. How have you shared the life and music of Prince in your family?