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Losing an icon, suddenly you feel different

Terrance May, a musician who goes by the name May Millions, appears at a makeshift memorial for singer Prince outside the dance venue First Avenue in Minneapolis. Associated Press photo.
Terrance May, a musician who goes by the name May Millions, appears at a makeshift memorial for singer Prince outside the dance venue First Avenue in Minneapolis. Associated Press photo.

You may be feeling what Prince and other baby boomers experienced when John Lennon was killed in December 1980, and what John, the other Beatles and other post-WWII babies felt when Elvis suddenly died in the summer of 1977. Michael Jackson. Next month it will have been seven years.

Losing an icon of your generation; suddenly you feel different. Older, I guess.

john lennon1I remember my anguish and a sense of transition with John’s death. I never met him, but he was part of my life, my youth. He was the voice of my generation. He was not supposed to die. Ever. And certainly not at 40. And not that way. During a global moment of silence days after his death, I sat on the beach in San Diego, and something tapped me on the shoulder—no, it slapped me across the face, and said, ‘It’s over. It’s going to be different from now on.’

For people now in their thirties and forties, teenagers when Prince was at the height of his stardom, I know how you feel. Along with Prince, you’ve lost a piece of yourself.

Watching CNN last night, a lot of correspondents, those in their 30s and 40s, were experiencing the loss of their generation’s icon. Many had a hard time holding it together. A few didn’t. Some who had met or knew Prince choked up. Some openly wept. During a telephone interview with Don Lemon, model Naomi Campbell rambled incoherently in her grief. It was uncomfortable listening. I wanted Lemon to let her hang up because I felt some intrusion on my part.

Seeing the images of fans outside Prince’s home, reading the Twitter feeds and Facebook posts, struck so strikingly familiar to the pall and aftermath of Jackson’s death nearly seven years ago. Jackson was not supposed to die. Ever.

Those images. People gathered outside Prince’s home in Minneapolis, crowds outside Harlem’s Apollo Theater, it reminded me of the night people assembled on the street below Lennon’s Manhattan apartment. They had to come out and just be there. Be with others who felt the same type of loss—not only the loss of the music that will never be composed, sung and performed, but the loss of a symbol of our salad days, that vibrant period of youthful idealism when everything seemed so relevant. With the loss of Prince, an icon, many feel suddenly older and less relevant.

But chin up. There’s the music.  The vinyl, the cassettes, the CDs come out. The downloads commence. There will always be the music. And music keeps us young.

(Watch Bruce Springsteen’s tribute)

Published inCerebrationsMusicNews

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