I was at an HR technology conference when I learned that Prince died. Then I watched grown-ass people in khaki pants and sensible shoes lose their minds when they heard the news.
There are two reasons why people freaked out.
1. Adulthood is full of complicated choices and disappointing compromises. It’s okay because that’s the circle of life. But while you and I are being passive-aggressive to one another and fighting over 3.6% merit increases, Prince was creating extraordinary music and hosting all-night dance parties at his house. Artists are sin-eaters for our mediocrity, and Prince offset our averageness through art. It will be a little harder to get through a day of low-stakes political gamesmanship at work on Monday without the countervailing force of Prince to make the universe a better place.
2. Even if you don’t love Prince’s music, you love music that was inspired by Prince. His art had integrity, but it was incredibly accessible. You can hear Prince’s legacy in today’s trendiest songs, but he also influenced everything from Chicago House to Screamo. There isn’t a musician out there who hasn’t benefitted from Prince’s principled and creative leadership. Losing Prince is like losing Steve Jobs. Every band we love will be just fine but also slightly suck for about the next ten years until an entire industry comes to terms with this enormous loss.
If you think about the visible and obscure ways that Prince touched our lives, it’s not hard to understand why middle-aged corporate recruiters and HR nerds heard the news of Prince’s death and felt an immediate sense of sadness.
Prince was one of those artists who made love and kindness available through his music, and he did it on his own terms and without apology. You don’t have to be a music lover to comprehend the loss. And you don’t have to be a fangirl to appreciate the fun, silly, ridiculous ways that Prince translated important messages of love and acceptance into mainstream art.