Music icon Prince was found dead in his home today. He was 57.
On the social media, there was sadness and shock, and the inevitable “why are so many of our pop culture touchstones dying!” “Damn you 2016!”
I’m not sure if it’s been a banner year for celebrity deaths. I don’t really keep track of that sort of thing.
It has, however, been a first culling for the youngest Baby Boomers and the oldest Gen X of their musical and movie “heroes”, and they aren’t taking it well.
For me, I am not surprised when men in their 50s or older up die. It’s fairly normal for death rates to begin to inch up once people edge closer to retirement age, and for a 57-year-old male who’s been suffering from flu-like symptoms for a few weeks to suddenly die? Heart attack is the first thing that comes to mind.
Other celebrities who’ve departed for the other side or the beyond, or whatever your personal preference is, include Alan Rickman (a true loss) and David Bowie (someone I’ve always found quite creepy and can count the number of songs of his I don’t hate on precisely two fingers).
I liked, shared and retweeted depending but wasn’t terribly affected.
But Prince is a bit different.
Prince is part of the soundtrack of my life. The university days primarily.
My chief memory of the fall of 1983 is scored by Prince.
One weekend in particular stands out
Sigma Chi Derby Days. It was an annual drunk-fest to mark the new semester and the end of summer. That was my sophomore year, and though I didn’t head over to the frat house as early as some of my friends, I ended up there eventually. Most of the campus ended up there at some point between mid-afternoon and midnight.
The party started in the dorm. Someone was mixing Blue Curacao in the sink while others danced around the room to 1999.
At 4am, our hall was still full of people. Loud. Drunk to some extent.
Every light was on.
Stereos and boom boxes competed to be heard. Laughter. Dancing.
Every door was open. Well, every door but Nick’s, the RA. His door was closed. No light seeping out from under it.
And when Currier Hall’s head RA came stalking down the hallway, flanked with other resident assistants who were equally grim-faced and clearly not there to dance, it was Nick’s door she stopped at.
“I can’t believe he’s sleeping while all this is going on.”
A small crowd of curious co-eds were watching by now. There were giggles.
Someone said, “I don’t think he’s sleeping.”
She pounded on his door. Ready to confront him and discover why he wasn’t keeping order. Again. At barely 3 weeks into the school year, our floor had a bit of a reputation for “all nighters”.
Nick, who was put together like a Greek demigod, answered wearing just a sheet, followed by a young woman in similar attire. If Little Red Corvette wasn’t playing, it should have been.
By Monday, Nick had moved into the house of the fraternity he belonged to. Of course, he belonged to one. Anyone who could wear polos like he did naturally belonged to a fraternity.
The new RA was a wee weasel named Eric. We didn’t even try to like him, and he in turn didn’t like us.
It’s a testament to the soundtrack of my life that whenever I hear a Prince song, I can remember both Nick and Eric though I haven’t seen either man in over thirty years, and I can remember the Sigma Chi Derby Days like it was last weekend.
Everyone’s life has a musical score. Mine has an album full of Prince.
His death reminds me – though I hardly needed reminding – that time has passed and, like people, will continue its inexorable path to an endpoint. Some of us sooner and some later, but all of us inevitably.