On Not Participating In A Collective Mourning

It’s an odd business to not be participating in a collective mourning. By ‘collective,’ of course, I mean ‘seemingly widespread and ubiquitous within my social space.’ In this case, I’m referring to the mourning following the death of Prince last week. There are: musical tributes, personal testimonials, remembrances, markers in public spaces–all the manifestations of a collective outpouring of grief at the death of a man reckoned one of the music world’s most interesting and accomplished artists, a reconfigurer of musical tastes and sexual identities alike. But I have nothing to contribute to this celebration of his life; Prince’s death didn’t touch me the same way. For the simplest and best of reasons: his music didn’t.

I heard ‘When Doves Cry‘ and ‘Purple Rain‘ back in my high-school days; they were an interesting departure from the other offerings of the music world. A few years later, I heard ‘Sign o’ the Times‘ and quite liked it. (A lot; for I still remember where I was when I first heard the track play.) But that was about it. I never bought a Prince album, never played a Prince song on a jukebox in a pool hall or a bar, never bought tickets for, or attended a Prince concert. He simply did not feature on my musical radar. Indeed, from the sidelines, over the years, I watched with some bemusement as his star ascended in both the critical and commercial dimensions. A fan of Prince might say that I don’t get it. And that would be entirely right. I didn’t. And that’s perfectly fine. Not everyone did.

Still, as this mourning continues, on my social media pages, in the various conversations I overhear, in the many tributes, I feel distinctly isolated. All around me, there is a ritual underway; an invitation to participate has been extended; and yet, I stand on the sidelines, unwilling and unable to acquiesce. I have not been ostracized; I have exiled myself. For my older indifference to the music is still present. I watch and listen to his supposedly memorable guitar solo on a performance of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ during the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, and do not find it as compelling as the guitar work I have admired in the past; ’tis true, my receiver for Prince signals is not working and has been turned off for a while. I am beyond redemption. Perhaps the future will see me change my ways and join the fold of the faithful. Stranger conversions have been known to happen.

Of course, there is an irony present in my writing of this post. I began it by noting that I had not participated in the collective mourning for Prince’s death. But by putting these thoughts down here, by making note of my distance from his music, I have finally been compelled to step forward and throw my hat in the ring, even if only by way of explaining why I did not do so. Well played, Prince. RIP.

4 comments on “On Not Participating In A Collective Mourning

  1. CK Sharma says:

    With a generation gap between you and me, it’s amazing how accurately you have verbalised my (silent!) position on Prince! I checked my stack of almost 40gb iTunes and found that I do have ‘Purple Rain’ and a couple of other numbers of Prince, but that is about all! Was Prince a good artiste? Possibly. Was he a great artiste? I don’t know. Glad to see that we have bridged the so-called generation gap there, Sam! (Y)

  2. kjaggi65 says:

    One of the few posts that I have to not necessarily disagree, but add my .2 cents. I have very few songs or records of Billy Holiday. There are hardly any songs of her that I can recall on my fingertips, but that does not diminish her greatness. There hasn’t been one time that I have heard her songs without getting goosebumps. Prince may not be at that great a level but he was great nonetheless.

  3. True. I’ve never heard any of his songs too and totally not been influenced by his music. But may his soul R.I.P, well played Prince.

  4. Jack says:

    Maybe the following will help to explain why Prince was a rock god

    From one of the You tube comments: Eric Clapton was asked what it felt like to be the world’s greatest guitarist. His reply-“Ask Prince”.

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