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.


  1. Thanks for putting this in this type of perspective. Prince was my all-time favorite, — for his music, for his dancing, for his perfection, for his reach, and for his advocacy. There’s so much I could say about his genius, but it would never be enough to cover the effect his music had on my life. I’m just going to enjoy watching the key memories of my life that come up with so many of his songs.

  2. The grief here in Minneapolis has been intense. He was our guy. He could have left but stayed and was very active in the community. He donated millions of dollars to groups with a stipulation that it could not be public. Almost everyone has a story of seeing him in concert, at a store, at the gas station, riding his bike. First Avenue had 3 late/all night dance parties that had hundreds in line until 4 am. And the vibe was so good… people of all ages, backgrounds, income. We are proud of him and I/we hope these last days he heard us too.

  3. Yes, this artist still cruises over to the former Cynical Girl’s place on the web now and then…

    I am glad to see that Prince’s legacy is being appreciated as art. He defied standards at every turn in his music and in his approach to the music business. He created art that was unique and influential despite his incredible success as a pop icon. He touched a chord in us well beyond the usual macabre fascination that we have with celebrities.

    I also appreciate that you continue to recognize how the arts elevate us as a whole, Laurie, and how artists stand apart from others in their efforts. Following the muse is essential for some, as it impacts us all.

  4. Here’s my version. Death is something we all think of as bad. And it usually comes because of physical problems.

    We normally feel pity for someone who suffers so we feel sad that Prince died.

    We feel especially bad because we liked him. And we liked him because he wrote some good songs and was a great performer. It’s like cutting down a beautiful tree.

    If you listen to Kevin Smith’s long description of the week he spent with Prince a bit of the shine will wear off the guy.

    You’ll still like him but, offstage, he’ll definitely seem more human in a mundane way.

    I feel especially sad that Prince died because it seems like he didn’t have to. One of the stories going around is that he wore high heels because he didn’t like being so short.

    These caused problems with his hips and ankles. He needed a double hip replacement but refused to have this commonplace operation because he believed that God didn’t want him to have a blood transfusion.

Comments are closed.