The world got a little less shiny today, the percentage of bad-assery dropped by a full 50 percent, and my childhood playlist lost another artist.
Prince, the man who once tried to replace his name with a symbol because why the hell not, died today, April 21, 2016, at the age of 57. For members of my generation, it’s a shock to the system.
Prince?! Not Prince. Really?!
I graduated from college in 1999, and one of my greatest memories is of a campus party where we were dancing to '80s music and drinking terrible beer. Toward the end of the night Prince’s “1999” came on. All of us seniors lost our minds. I have never danced with as much joy in my life.
Prince made being different cool. He wore heels and eyeliner and bizarre outfits and did not give a single care. He was never anything but himself — something that has never been easy to do. His music and style said, “You’re not sure who or what I am, and you are going to worship me because of it.” And we did.
Like David Bowie, another irreplaceable loss of 2016, Prince broadened my world. He made me — a young, privileged, preppy white girl — feel uncomfortable, and that’s exactly what I needed. He forced me to ask myself why I felt the way I did. His music, with its forthright and unapologetic raunchiness, took me into puberty and inspired me to ask questions about my sexuality. Prince, just by being Prince, taught me to not only find joy in the differences of others, but to explore my own.
While his lyrics and gender fluidity may no longer be considered shocking, our world could have used a lot more Prince — a 70-year-old, an 80-year-old, a 90-year-old Prince shuffling around with a diamond-encrusted walker, singing about getting down with the nurses at his retirement home. He wasn’t done making an impact, and we weren’t done learning from him.
Prince, just by being Prince, taught me to not only find joy in the differences of others, but to explore my own.
But now he’s gone, and it’s up to us to show our kids a double feature of Purple Rain and Labyrinth, to teach them about the people who paved the way for the Lady Gagas of today, who shook our worlds, who made us ask questions.
No matter how cute One Direction is, no boy band in history compares to skinny little Prince emerging from a bathtub in the video for "When Doves Cry," holding out his hand and daring us not to love him.