There are certain artist/celebrity deaths that make certain people feel especially sad—not to mention mortal. This can be particularly acute when the celebrity is one’s age, or thereabouts, and/or when the work of the celebrity is associated with special memories.
For me, one of those is Prince. I never met him, or even attended a concert. But, I have clear memories of Prince’s music, with distinct images popping into my head when I hear particular songs.
When I learned of his death yesterday, I immediately remembered that relatively short time in my life when I was in college when I ran for exercise. At that time, I had several friends who were runners. So, I ended up a runner too (though it didn’t last long after college).
Several times a week, in the late afternoon, I set out for what was known as the “three-mile-loop.” I had my Walkman (it was the 1980s) and the cassette of choice was Purple Rain. I ran to that album countless times, its music forming an indelible mark in my head and in my memory.
I almost always ran alone, mostly because I was slow, but also because I enjoyed the solitude. A college campus can be a hard place to find quiet places to be all alone (the library was usually quiet, but one was hardly ever alone). For my three mile run, with the music of Purple Rain ringing in my ears, I could escape for a short time.
After a traumatic experience in the fall of my senior year, I didn’t run for a little while—mostly because I was afraid of being alone. When I was ready to don my running shoes again and my Walkman and run the three-mile-loop, Prince was the one who came with me.
I remember it like it was, well not quite yesterday, but like it was not all that long ago. Yet it happened a long time ago, like thirty years ago (my thirtieth reunion is coming up in June).
And, now Prince is gone, and not much older than I am.
We are gathered here today
To get through this thing called life
Electric word life
It means forever and that’s a mighty long time
But I’m here to tell you
There’s something else
The after world
A world of never ending happiness
You can always see the sun, day or night
So when you call up that shrink in Beverly Hills
You know the one, Dr. Everything’ll Be Alright
Instead of asking him how much of your time is left
Ask him how much of your mind, baby
‘Cause in this life
Things are much harder than in the after world
In this life
You’re on your own
(Lyrics from “Let’s Go Crazy” from Purple Rain)
Well, not really. We’re not really on our own. And, I’m thankful for that.