My heart is broken. I’m 46. I’m no youngster. I’m a 1980’s girl. The decade was the soundtrack of my life. It was the decade I went from being age 10 to age 20, and music was my everything. I discovered New Wave early on, probably because I had a very cool sister who introduced me to Blondie and Joan Jett and took me to see them at Six Flags Over Georgia when I was 12. Then U2 at the Atlanta Civic Center. To be followed by streams of concerts from R.E.M. to the Alarm to Squeeze to Flock of Seagulls to Fixx to Big Country to Adam Ant to Suzanne Vega and need I say, Duran Duran? I saw them over and over. And Bowie. Even Cher. All under the age of 16. That sums up the start of my obsession with music in a nutshell.
My sister went to see Prince in concert at the Omni. I’m not sure why I didn’t go. How naive and incredibly blind sided? One of the best artists of our lifetime, and I didn’t go.
Bowie died recently, and now Prince is dead. I’ll never be able to see him perform now. Like Amy Winehouse, he was on my list of beloved musicians. All the brilliance of my era gone. Just like that.
The strange thing now is that Prince was just 57 years old. His death is sudden, shocking, and for so many of us, devastating. He was huge in my time. After all, I was a product of MTV and used to sit in front of the television for hours on end watching videos. I literally can feel watching “When Doves Cry” for the first time, and last night I re-watched “Purple Rain” on the network and it kind of felt like seeing it for the first time all over again. In high school, at school dances, and later in college in clubs, I have vivid memories of dancing to “1999” – particularly in the year 1999 when I was living in Israel. We used to sing in on the bus, it was the anthem of our year abroad.
When Bowie died, I became more determined than ever to see my heroes perform live before I lost the chance. I wouldn’t let another concert coming to town pass me by, so I’ve been scouring the internet for upcoming tours. I saw Duran Duran last week at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. My husband bought me tickets to see Sting and Peter Gabriel in July, the Cure in June and we will see Cyndi Lauper and Boy George in a few weeks. I will see everyone I can this year, and the next year and the one after that.
When people like Bowie and Prince die, I get depressed. I freeze. I can’t work. I’m glued to the Internet for updates on their death, their careers, their music. I connect with the people talking about them. I yearn for details about their lives, their endings, and I Google videos from my youth and have one flashback after another.
When I find out these legends from my youth die, I quickly connect to the people from my youth who loved them along with me. When Prince died, I called my sister. I was actually in the middle of a class I’m taking full of young (and old) people when I got the alert about his death and I was shocked. I needed to leave to connect with her. When Bowie died, I texted my high school bestie who saw him in concert with me. The moment somehow brought us back together. For that, I am grateful, but I sure do wish both singers were still alive.
And I can’t stop scrolling through Facebook and Twitter. Mourning is more public than ever in the day of social media, and it’s kind of nice not to be alone.
I read a post on Vox this morning that put it all in perspective – why I feel so lost, why I can’t work, why I feel like I lost yet another friend. The writer said:
Even if multiple people posted about the same song, their reason for doing so varied wildly. My friends and celebrities alike talked about how Bowie and Prince expanded their horizons and made them feel less alone. They talked about how they created thrilling, limitless universes they could visit on demand, within the comfort of their headphones. They talked about how much they meant to them — how much they helped them get to know themselves.
Grieving en masse might intensify the initial reaction, but every single response to a public figure’s death is an individual one. We all experience art from our own singular place. That’s true whether you’re hearing the joyful, soaring chorus of Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U” or the fierce zip of Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel” for the first time. It’s true whether you’re feeling an ecstatic jolt at Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” clutching your face to keep from smiling too hard at Robin Williams’s performance in The Birdcage, giving in to the chills inspired by Heath Ledger’s smile in 10 Things I Hate About You, or closing your eyes and letting the smoke of Amy Winehouse’s voice curl around you and squeeze, just a little too hard.
And that just about sums it up. I’m stuck in the 1980’s but it’s not a bad place to be.