Like millions around the world, I too mourned the death of Prince Thursday. I was strolling back to my classroom elated that the day was almost over. I had one class period to go. In my world, once the bell rings at 2:10 on Thursday, I officially call it Friday. With this fact driving me, I completely missed the oncoming collision that would blindside me and send me into a tailspin. My coworker and neighbor Elizabeth Clark bulldozed into me with the news of Prince’s death.
“YES,” we screamed back and forth at each other until the bell rang. I walked into my classroom riddled with disbelief coupled with fruitless hope that this was some egregious error. I asked my students to give me a moment while I confirmed what my reality already knew to be true. YES. Clark was right.
On my way home from school, I refused to turn on the radio. I just couldn’t. I dressed for the gym, but I never made the trip. Instead I opted to sit behind my keyboard wishing that I had taken those piano lessons that my mother tried to make me take when I was younger so that I could pay tribute at that moment. I looked over at my guitar leaning against the wall and couldn’t even remember the notes or chords for “The Cross” (the first Prince song that I had learned to play on guitar). With no musical options other than to play his songs from my computer, I decided that I’d face the barrage of news reporting, so I turned on CNN to watch an hour of coverage that absent mindedly turned into three hours. I was completely engrossed in the recall of the life and times of Prince. He was the greatest musician that I had known in my generation – hands down, my favorite male artist. Out of all of the posters that have risen and fallen from the walls of my room where I lived as a teenager and that still exists at my father’s house today, my Prince poster still remains. No dust or grime or even twenty-five years of worn out adhesive have caused the poster to fall face first to the floor. This and so many other facts flooded my memory. How it came about that I was able to see the movie Purple Rain although I was not older than nine or ten; seeing him kiss in the movie and knowing even at my young age that Prince needed some kissing lessons; singing “Sex Shooter” in the car and my mother cutting her eyes at me and asking if I knew what I was singing (duh, the song from Purple Rain of course – I responded in my head); crooning to “When the Doves Cry” and over emphasizing “maybe I’m just like my mother-she’s never satisfied” when passing her in the kitchen; my brother wearing out “Let’s Go Crazy” as the first real song he learned to play on piano; performing in front of an audience of none in my living room with a broom stick as my microphone; singing “Baby I’m a Star” while jumping off of my father’s coffee table when he wasn’t home; believing that I had learned sign language when I pointed at myself in the mirror and fingered, “I Would Die for You” while Prince sang the words to Apollonia; the countless splits that I’d take to the floor trying to bounce right back up; sneaking and saying “damn” when “Housequake” played; watching the “Sign of the Times” concert so many times, that I knew every sequence; wasting my father’s lighter fluid as I waved my hand back and forth flicking his lighter on and off to “Purple Rain” as if I was at the concert myself; the tears I cried to “Sometimes it Snows in April” when Christopher Tracy died; falling in love with a man who had the courage to define himself; the concert in Chicago; the one in Atlanta; and really, the list could go on for miles, but out of all those memories, the most profound realization that I had was when my idea mated with my current reading on servant hood. “The world defines greatness in terms of power, possessions, prestige, and position…however, greatness is measured in terms of service, not status” (Warren, 254). Prince’s greatness isn’t just because he was musically gifted, but also because he purposed to serve his fans with his gift. Whether it was at an arena, a small theater, a hole in the wall, or his Paisly Park studios, he was a Prince who served.
Warren, Rick. What on Earth Am I Here For?. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002. Print.