Prince and the Power of Music

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If you have ever doubted the power of music, take a look around you today. Marvel at the conversations and stories you are sharing with your friends and loved ones. Take some time to wallow in your sadness. (It’s not a bad thing.) Listen to some songs and embrace the impact of music in your life.

It happened again this afternoon. The word spread from friend to friend via Faceboook, Twitter and text messages. Another great musician  was gone too suddenly and too soon. The annus horribilis that is 2016 continues: Prince is dead at the age of 57.

You may have placed Prince as the pinnacle of your musical pyramid. You may have worshipped his genius as a player and a composer. His songs may have been the soundtrack of your youth. His performances may have inspired you to take an instrument and start a band.

Maybe Prince means a half dozen hits that you occasionally hear on the oldies station as you drive to work. You may not be grieving today, but you know many people who are.

Like David Bowie, Prince was special. He was an outsider who embraced kookiness and kink, gender fluidity and raw sexuality. His blackness was never the branded fashion cliché of the day but an ever-changing amalgam of influences that became unstuck in time as he grew older.

You couldn’t help but look at Prince. You couldn’t help but listen. But if you turned your attention away, it didn’t really matter. Prince gave up on being a hitmaker early on in his career and focused on making the music he wanted.

It’s been said that Prince composed at least a song a day in his Paisley Park studio complex, which means that we’ve not heard the bulk of his recored work. Given his legendary animosity toward record companies and his disdain for the predatory nature of the music industry, we may never have a chance to plumb the depths of his archives.

Perhaps years from now, we’ll listen to his demos with the same fascination that we now reserve for artifacts like Michelangelo’s sketches.  Or maybe we’ll have to settle for the catalog of his official releases. But we will be listening.

Days like today remind us to never take music for granted.  These days, it is often in the background. We listen on earbuds as we commute while we are playing Candy Crush Saga or posting to Facebook. We cocoon our ears in noise-cancelling headphones and use music to block out our nattering co-workers in open-concept offices. It’s on the P.A. at the gym, in restaurants, and bars.

We are so surrounded by music but we are not immersed in it.

We forget how special it is, except on days like today, when we exchange stories with friends and strangers, and realize the things we have in common: a song, a concert, a guitar solo… a mutual experience not physically shared.

Perhaps we shouldn’t wait until our heroes die to share our love of music with those we love.  Perhaps we shouldn’t  wait for days like this to stop what we’re doing and lose ourselves in song.

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