Lessons Learned in The Death of a Prince. (Obituary)

If you’re a music lover like myself, it’s been a very difficult year so far.  Just a few days before the ball of 2016 dropped, there was the passing of Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead.  Then the sudden death of David Bowie.  Glenn Frey. Patty Duke. And now, the iconic, legendary, one of a kind, Prince.

My first instinct when hearing of yet another musical genius passing is to immediately run out to the nearest wooded area clutching a large spade with the goal of digging a giant hole in the ground. The hole would be just deep enough to hide for a good few weeks. Maybe a couple of months. I would bring along with me, if possible, the necessary provisions of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey. Some barbecue flavoured chips. Maybe a large bag of Ringolos. A flashlight. Some comics.  My Sony Walkman and a bunch of awesome tapes.  But it might get uncomfortable. It might get cold, and certainly dirty.

If I had the necessary carpentry skills, I would much rather build a towering, majestic treehouse and hide there for awhile instead.  But I don’t have a treehouse. Actually, I don’t have a shovel either, but I suppose I could find one somewhere. Or borrow one. The only problem is that if I knocked on my neighbour’s door asking for a shovel, they might well get the wrong impression.

It’s easy to understand why one would want to run away and bury their head in the sand (or forest floor, as the case may be), when tragedies happen. The death of a famed artist is in a way, no different from the death of any other loved one. They represent someone of significant value for people. A personal connection. A memory to a lost moment. An important event. In the case of Prince, our wedding song was 1999.  Originally, it was between Prince and Billy Idol’s White Wedding; my wife chose Prince. It was, admittedly, the right decision.

Let’s face it; although we’re all too familiar with that cliche of only two certainties in life (taxes, death), in most cultures, we’re still largely more uncomfortable with the latter subject. We don’t really know how to react to it, because we’re almost never prepared for it.  The first funeral I attended, I think I was about ten years old. It was for a neighborhood boy around my age who had developed cancer, in one form or another. I didn’t really know him.

But when my mother, who happens to be Irish, and Catholic, heard about it, she jumped at the opportunity. Irish Catholics love tragedy. Especially a good funeral. All the best things are there. Guilt, sadness, helplessness, despair, depression. For many Christians, but especially for guilt ridden Catholics (don’t forget; Jesus died for our sins), funerals are awesome.

For a ten year old, funerals are scary. For a forty one year old, they still are. And when you have a personal relationship with that figure inside that handsome, mahogany paneled receptacle, it’s incredibly sad. Because that person is gone forever.

Since I started this blog, I’ve had the grim task of writing about the people that had an impact on me after their demise. Though final endings provide the opportunity to celebrate one’s life and tally accomplishments, it never gets easier. The finality of that wooden receptacle’s termination never fails to make the world a bit quieter, the mood more somber.

But rather than running away with a shovel and a car full of ill advised and probably rapidly melting snacks, I’m going to come up with an alternative solution, dear reader. So we can both attempt to learn to live without fear, without sadness and without constantly digging holes in our back yards like misguided meth heads on a five day bender. Here are 5 lessons we can glean from Prince’s passing.

  1. Listen to music more.  Music is the language of the soul. It’s universal. Music is a uniquely human way to profoundly relate to one another. Life can be a difficult journey, and music can often soften the blow of the everyday struggle.  Remember that it’s great to buy albums from legends like Prince, but it’s equally important to support artists that are not only alive, but not famous yet.
  2. Go to Live Shows. And not just the big ones; support independent artists that are alive and hungry. Everyone has to start somewhere; there is great talent outside the top 40.
  3. Teach your children the value of good music, regardless of genre. Prince was a master of transcending genres, because music is beautiful in any form. Remember that music is the soundtrack to our lives. Certain songs will be synonymous with important events, like weddings, for the rest of our lives.
  4. Enjoy the moment. Prince famously shunned cameras at his concerts and in his private life.  He believed in the sanctity of preserving memories with your grey matter. There is often too much time spent taking pictures on phones and checking to see how many likes you got on social media. Be present for the moment.
  5. Share your music.  Share your lives.  Have a party.  Hug your loved ones. Remember what Prince said. Life is just a party and parties weren’t meant to last.

In a 2013 episode of New Girl, the characters were invited to a party hosted by Prince. When Prince was made aware of the intended plot, he sent the producers a list of songs he regularly spun at his own parties. In the spirit of celebrating life, here’s that selection. I’ll include the playlist below.

If you’d rather celebrate Prince’s life in the company of others and you happen to be in Toronto, Remix Lounge (former owners of T.O’s famed Twilight Zone hotspot from the 80s) are having a party in his honour this Saturday.

“City in the Sky,” The Staple Singers
“Country John,” Allen Toussaint
“Fire,” Ohio Players
“Happy House,” Shuggie Otis
“Higher Ground,” Stevie Wonder
“I Was Made to Love Him,” Chaka Khan
“Listen to the Music,” The Isley Brothers
“The Lord is Back,” Eugene McDaniels
“Lost in Music,” Sister Sledge
“The Pinocchio Theory,” Bootsy Collins
“Rubber Duckie,” Bootsy Collins
“Rumpofsteelskin,” Parliament
“Skin Tight,” Ohio Players
“We’re Gettin’ Too Close,” The Soul Children
“Wild and Free,” Curtis Mayfield
“After The Love Has Gone,” Earth, Wind & Fire
“Back in Baby’s Arms,” Allen Toussaint
“Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight,” The Isley Brothers
“Don’t Take My Sunshine,” The Soul Children
“How Could I Let You Get Away,” The Spinners
“I’ll Be Around,” The Spinners
“Push Me Away,” The Jacksons
“Stay With Me,” Shirley Brown
“The Thrill Is Gone,” Aretha Franklin


Featured photo of Prince, taken in Brussels during his 1986 tour, courtesy Yves Lorson from Kapellen, Belgium – via wikipedia.


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