The tide is rolling out. This year alone it has claimed David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Merle Haggard and now, Prince. Surely the waters will continue to swell, tug and take – each member of the masterclass of rock and roll, every icon of the 20th century, and eventually, you and I. But what is so jolting about this latest wave of victims is the seemingly impervious energy that they possessed: Bowie’s passing was never imagined, nary Prince’s mortality considered. They were amongst of the Gods of Music, Sex, Drugs, and Radical Independence, who could not be bothered by simple banalities like Death. Though as the outpourings of grief and acclaim follow their departure, one thing is evident above all – they were simply humans. Prince was not a supernatural, extraterrestrial light beam but rather a mortal creative genius. He was born, on June 7th 1958, and died 57 years later, yet during this brief earthly stint he crafted 39 albums, 104 singles, and numerous hits for other artists. He shaped the leading edge and did so with purple panache. He challenged the accepted standards of masculinity, sexual expression, and racial identity. His resume extends beyond any writeable list. These accomplishments were not a product of the Cosmos but of incredibly hard work and a restlessly forward vision. And while Prince’s death has torn a hole the size of a great, squiggly, unnamable symbol into the fabric of global culture, his mere presence was a blessing.
Singing cheekily at the end of 1999’s closing track, “International Lover,” Prince thanks the listener “for flying Prince International.” And now, with the world staring at an empty tarmac, it has become clear that the plane would never have ascended without the Purple One in the cockpit. Now it is his turn to be thanked; for his contributions to music, culture, and for taking millions of listeners on an unimaginably zany, incomparably sexy flight.