The first time I remember feeling it was when Princess Diana died in August of 1997. Obviously, I did not know her, but I felt a grief when she died so tragically that felt out of proportion to my relationship with her. I was at the lake with my sister in law and I remember us both sitting on the couch crying like she was our personal friend. How could I feel such sadness about someone I didn’t even know? I felt the same way when Michael Jackson died. It was as if he was such a force and influence in music that there was this gaping hole left. I couldn’t imagine a world full of music in which Michael Jackson didn’t exist. And his life was so full of conflict and pain and family issues. He seemed to continue to grasp for something he just wasn’t able to get. The next thing never filled him up. When he died, I remember being so sad that he wasn’t able to get over all that plagued him. It appeared like he was taken advantage of by people he trusted and who continuously betrayed him. He seemed to be searching for a love that would complete him, and he never found Love.
When Robin Williams died last year I felt the same pain and sadness. I’d followed Robin’s career from the beginning, and my observation was that he became less well through the years. Oscar Levant once said, “There’s a fine line between genius and insanity.” This was personified for me in Robin. He was a brilliant comedian and actor. His portrayal of the therapist Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting still makes me cry every time I watch the movie. My favorite line is when Sean ways to Will, “People call those imperfections, but no, that’s the good stuff.” Robin was good stuff and I grieve his loss.
Yesterday the world lost Prince, who was also a genius. I heard someone say yesterday that on his debut album For You, Prince played all 27 instruments. He was 20 years old at the time. I know many musicians, but I don’t know anybody who plays 27 instruments. That is genius. And I feel sad about losing Prince, which is again interesting because I did not know him personally. I guess sometimes with famous people, especially musicians and actors, we feel as if we know them because of how their work speaks to us. Through lyrics or lines, they allow us a glimpse into their souls. And we think we know them.
How is it possible to feel sad when someone dies that you don’t even know personally? Artists have a way of connecting with people through the words they sing, write or say that allows us to feel known, to feel heard, to have the “me too” moment. On his last album Hit N Run Phase Two, released last year, Prince included a song called What If.
But what if you’re wrong
What if there’s more
What if there’s hope
You never dreamed of hoping for
What if you jump?
Just close your eyes
What if the arms that catch you
Catch you by surprise?
What if He’s more than enough?
What if it’s love?
Prince, you will be missed.
*photo courtesy of consequences of sound.net