In recent months, whenever an icon passes, social media mourns. Conversation around said artist is non-stop; memories shared and confessions revealed. It’s only with their passing we reach into ourselves and as if never really fully understood before, finally do, the impact of that person had on our life.
This week was no different. The passing of music legend Prince was a shock. He has long since been an artistic chameleon. Cool and funky, risky and sexy. Gusty, dare I say ballsy, in a way only a man that stood at 5 “2” and sang of dove’s crying could. He sang of love and sex, of steamy nights and restless needs. Of love and passion and sweat and fashion. Just listening to the man made our hearts race even before we knew exactly what it was he was saying. It was a good many years before I fully understood Little Red Corvette. Trojan soldiers? Why the hell was he singing about them? Oh precious, young heart.
But then throughout the day yesterday, I started to see the sentiments from folks who weren’t fans. Who didn’t understand why celebrities were mourned and people who live and die every day were not. And as I wrote on a friend’s post around my thoughts on why it was we mourned him, it was clear as day: with every passing of an icon of our childhood — the transcendence of a spirit who shared his or her gift with so many, lifted up so many — we lose a piece of ourselves. Our childhood is one step further out of reach and the clarity around life as a one time experience, with a beginning and end, is that much clearer. Our own mortality is questioned.
Music connects to memories in a way nothing else does. Even to this day, a tune, opening sequence of a song, even a lyric, can throw me back to my childhood. It is something that transcends time.
My mom always listened to music. I grew up with The Supremes, The Beatles, The Four Seasons and The Beach Boys. Man, she used to play their “All Summer Long” album all. the. time. She’d once told me she bought it the summer of ’64. “That summer,” I remember her saying, even now, “was endless. My girlfriend got her license and we’d just drive around, and around.” I remember watching her record that album to cassette tape and listen to it in the car for the first time. The smile on her lips that grew with the passing of each song. I didn’t understand it then, but I do now. It reminded her of her own teen years and I’d see the smile on her face as she played the record over and over again, no doubt reliving a memory in her head. I didn’t get it then, but I do now. Music was connecting her to her own childhood memories as the songs of my youth do. It’s why the opening music to Def Leppard’s “Animal” reminds me of the local County Fair; a place I spent a week of my childhood every year from the time I was six, camping with a handful of families, falling asleep in our trailer to the sound of laughter and blenders mixing drinks in the background. Why George Strait reminds me of BBQs, pickup trucks, and night swimming. How Whitney Houston, no matter the song, reminds me of my long perm-haired teen self, dancing around in my room to “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” bow tied around my head, arms covered in bracelets. And “Thriller,” Michael Jackson’s masterpiece, will always remind me of Saturday morning, curled up on my living room floor, watching Friday Night Videos.
I love music. It has been there for me, always. In laughter, in love, in heartbreak and sadness. Even in anger, it has been there. The songs in my soundtrack grow year after year, and while some memories fade with time, I can always count on a melody to bring back that special moment that becomes further out of reach with the passage of time.
So when we mourn an icon, don’t think any less of us. It’s natural to want to hold on to what was, to a time that was simple, and the moments and places that are woven in to the fabric of who we are.
“We are gathered here today,
To get through this thing called life….”
And if music is our vehicle, than so be it.