It’s all been said, I suppose, but it’s one those times where not quite everybody’s said it, so this is my turn. Prince died on Thursday. It doesn’t seem real. It’s one of those, “where were you when…” moments. I was sitting in class, and my undiagnosed adult ADD was getting the best of me as someone was talking about the Gospel of John, and I opened up Twitter and saw some initial tweets coming out of TMZ. I actually looked up at the date on my computer to make sure it wasn’t April Fools day. It wasn’t. This was no joke. The more deeply I dug I discovered it was real. That last 20 minutes of class I was in a fog (sorry, Dr. Lewis). Class dismissed and I got into my car to head to my weekly Bible Study at Parkshore in St. Louis Park. It was raining, and every station I had programmed in my car was playing “Purple Rain”. 96.3 should have been playing the Twins game, but they interrupted it to take this moment. I balled the whole way to the Bible Study in shock and disbelief.
Over the last few days, I’ve been a mess. I didn’t know Prince meant this much to me. I feel a little bit like a poser, but these feelings are not fabricated and are undeniable. I was never a deep fan, but I was always a fan. I seem to remember being at a neighbor’s house with my older brother and an early Prince album was playing. I don’t remember the music, but I remember people talking about him, and there was always this tinge of pride with him because, as Minneapolis kids, he was ours. As I grew older I clearly remember getting the Purple Rain soundtrack and playing it over and over, particularly its title track. That song taught me the way in which music can move beyond just a good jam and to something transcendent.
There’s so much that could be said, but I think, for me what it comes down to is this: What struck me about the response to Prince’s death was the way in which all my classmates with whom I came of age kind of came out of the woodwork. Prince indeed crosses generations and ages, but it seems to me that there is something particular that he did for those of us who grew up in Minneapolis in the 70s and 80s. He brought us together.
There were varying opinions on music growing up, as there are in any age: We all had thoughts on Michael Jackson, and Madonna, and Duran and Duran, and Bon Jovi, and many others. Some of us were more inclined to classic rock (like me). Some of us grabbed on to hip hop and rap. Some of us were part of the New Wave. Some of us got into hair bands. “Hot funk, cool punk, even if it’s old junk”, we all had our preferences and opinions. But everybody- everybody- loved Prince. Prince was our common ground.
When A Prince song came on at a school dance, everybody got out there and everybody loved it. There were a lot of musicians, bands, and pop stars that marked our generation, but at least for us Minneapolis kids, Prince was, in a very real way the one that brought us together. From “Little Red Corvette” to “Cream” he was with us all along. As we ventured into adulthood he remained. He was ours and we were his. We all had our favorites (mine being Billy Joel, of course), and for some it indeed was Prince, but regardless of your favorite, he was the constant.
Mayor Betsy Hodges said it well: “His music brought untold joy to people all over the world. But in Minneapolis, it is different. It is harder here. Prince was a child of our city…” In a very real way, for those of who grew up in Minneapolis in the 70s and 80s, Thursday was the day the music died. Thanks for all it, Prince. And to those who actually knew him and called him dear, may the grace, peace, and comfort the spirit meet you in your grief.
We laughed, we bathed, were lived underneath the purple rain, but sometimes it snows in April.
On Sunday in worship we made our attempt at Purple Rain as our postlude: