Since the AP news alert pinged on my phone yesterday to let me know about the passing of Prince Rogers Nelson, he's all I've been able to think about. I've read essays commemorating his life, such as this one titled "Prince Was The Patron Saint Of Black Weirdos" from The Establishment. I've watched YouTube videos of Broadway stars like Jennifer Hudson and the cast of The Color Purple, as well as Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast of Hamilton, cover his works. I've searched for his music on Spotify and YouTube, to no avail. (I ain't mad though.) And as my baby and boyfriend slept this morning, I watched his music videos, many I'd never seen, on MTV Live.
But here's the thing. I'm not a devout Prince fan. His music and artistry never made a profound impact on me.
I feel horrible writing that, because as I peruse news sites and social media feeds, I see that a LOT of people are taking his unexplained (as of this writing) death hard. And I understand why. He's one of the most talented and prolific artists we've ever had the privilege of hearing work from. He didn't care what people thought of him; he never conformed to anyone else's rules, and I love that. He was Prince, dammit.
But 10 years from now, if someone asks me where I was when the Purple One died, I won't remember.
I felt a similar sense of detachment when David Bowie passed earlier this year. I didn't mourn him the way so many people I know and respect were, so I felt left out of the cool kids' club, so to speak. (Frankly, I wasn't aware I even knew any of his songs until I found an all-David-Bowie Spotify playlist.)
When it comes to music, I'm completely out of touch. I gravitate to radio-friendly hits because it's easy; I don't have to listen to the lyrics as long as there's a catchy beat. I'm happy with anything that disrupts silence and lets me bob my head mindlessly while I contemplate my own selfish needs.
I realize now that my apathy has partially been a result of my cultural upbringing. For the first ten years of my life, the music choices in our home and car were dictated by my Korean mother, a hard-core Christian, while my dad was traveling for the army. That meant I could sing Korean gospel songs by heart, though I rarely knew what they meant. Of course, I may have heard brief snippets of American music on the school bus, but never enough to pique my interest. It actually wasn't until 5th grade, when kids start caring what others think of them, that I started paying more attention to American music. But I did so only to try to fit in.
When someone with a legacy like Prince dies, I understand the hole left in the fabric of our culture. I empathize with those who, when they first heard the news, felt emotionally beat down despite having never met the artist. And the next time I have the opportunity to get lost in a Prince song on the dance floor of a smoky bar, it'll be bittersweet, for sure.
But I can't shed tears for him. He never helped me find myself like he did for so many others. I'm still looking.