Even though I'm sure you've been bombarded with this fact on social media so far this year, I'm going to say it anyways: A significant amount of notable musicians have died in 2016. First was Lemmy, then Bowie, and now Prince. Each of them were titans in music and seemed to take everyone by surprise when it happened. I don't think I need to say anything about any of these musicians' legacies, because I'm far from the best to do so, but I think it's notable that all of these guys went by singular names, which speaks to their place in the public consciousness.
I don't think that it's a stretch to say that these have been the most significant celebrity deaths since Michael Jackson. They took everybody by surprise because the figures had been so omnipresent in music that people took for granted that they would always be around. They larger than life, in the truest sense of that phrase, in that their personality and influence extended beyond just them as people. They were symbols for much larger cultural and social ideas.
This might also be that these, we can group Michael Jackson in here for convenience, are also the biggest deaths that my generation has experienced, making this a new feeling. I was too young to experience Kurt Cobain or John Lennon dying, but I'm sure it was a similar feeling. It doesn't really matter if you like the person's music or not, because their influence in a particular sphere of life is undeniable.
To completely understate it, three very significant people have died this year.
Prince's death is different for me though, because I've never listened to him very much. I've spent loads of time listening to Motorhead and David Bowie, but not Prince. This has nothing to do with the quality of his music at all, he's just one of the huge figures in pop music with an extensive, critically revered back catalog that I haven't decided to dive into yet. This of course feels extra silly today, as almost everyone I know is posting memorials about Prince and I wish I could relate, but I can't really. I respect him tremendously as a musician, but it would feel cheap and trite to try and write something up praising him when I don't have a relationship with his music yet.
Instead I thought I would do something a little different to show Prince's place in the world and illustrate just how there he was for people born from like 1960 on, and speak about the random times in my life, which were all far apart, that he has popped up for me. I think it's crazy that somebody whose music I never actively looked into could still be around. Only a handful of people in the world are like that, and not many as out there and counter-cultural as Prince.
As a child, my favourite movie was Batman, which Prince, of course, provided the soundtrack for. My family rented it so much from Videoflicks that they eventually just gave us the copy. I was very young, so I didn't know who Prince was or really even make a note of the music at the time, but I watched the movie so much that eventually the music was branded onto my brain subconsciously. Prince's music is a very distinctive blend of different genres that, really, only he can do, but at the time I just understood syncopated synth bass and guitar leads as "Batman music". Whenever I would hear a Prince song later in life, it was immediately recognizable to me because of Batman.
The next instance came when I visited then-Paramount Canada's Wonderland with my cousins in the summer of grade 7 or 8. The park had installed video screens beside the lines of most of the rides that played a loop of promotional stuff for movies, TV, music, etc. One of the things that was included in this loop was the video for "Musicology" by Prince, which was either just or about to be released. I knew who Prince was as a musical figure, but still wasn't familiar with his output and hadn't placed him as the "Batman guy" yet. I was just getting into punk music at the time, so I had a very narrow scope of what I thought good music was and also thought I was the punkest kid in the whole world, so I thought the song was boring. Kind of sucks because Musicology is a pretty weak late album to be introduced to the guy with. For some reason, this memory is still so vivid, despite it being inconsequential and nothing of importance happening that day. I can't tell you anything I did, but I can tell you that "Musicology" was playing on the park's TVs that day.
Lastly, there was a time period in Kitchener when Mark had just moved out and Colin had just gotten engaged where I was mostly alone at the house. As a result, I spent a lot of time downstairs with Erik, Duff, and Jeff. One night, we were having a few beers and getting ready to go to bar while playing music videos on the TV. Jeff put on a Prince song and immediately said something like, "Are we doing this right now?!" It brings me a lot of joy to see somebody take in one of their favourite things, and this was one of those instances. I love that Prince can be a "thing" for people who you wouldn't expect him to be a thing for.
I guess that's it. Like I said, I don't really have anything I can say about Prince, but I did feel the need to throw in my little bit about him as part of this crazy trend in 2016 of terrific, game-changing artists dying. It is a singular cultural moment.