Honoring Prince: Sometimes it Snows in April, Sometimes We Sing in the Fall

This article is part of our Election 2016 Countdown Anthology.

It’s been 4 months since music icon Prince took his earthbound love away.

But if you love Prince, personally or from afar, it probably feels like he hasn’t left at all.

The air has been thick with tributes. (I wrote one too.) And they don’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. This Labor Day weekend, Prince’s cherished band The Revolution is playing to 3 full houses at First Avenue, a Minneapolis club where their Purple Rain journey to stardom began 33 years ago. An official tribute concert takes place on Oct 13th. And Prince superfans snapped up the first tour tickets to Paisley Park, Prince’s creative and residential complex.

If you love Prince, these overtures make perfect sense and you’d want to experience every moment. If you’re just a casual listener, all this hoopla may seem over the top. How long will a fan, a musical collaborator, a Purple-laced nation continue to pay homage? What does this wave of emotion tell us about Prince, his life and legacy, and about the country he called home?

Starting to heal

Only by playing for you, the fans, can we be Prince’s Revolution. He gives Us 2 oneanother now, as we all start to heal and fill forever emptiness with sound. 2gether, we are The Revolution.

The Revolution

Tragic and sudden deaths are unbearable. Prince was frail but alive one week, then passed under mysterious circumstances the next. In the media-driven and celebrity-loving culture that is America, the airwaves and interwebs continue to swirl with stories about how and why he passed. Was the powerful opioid that killed him an accidental overdose, or a hint of a longstanding challenge with pain medication?

From what I’ve seen, many Prince fans don’t care that much either way. What’s fodder for the media is a temporarily painful but ultimately irrelevant detail for the superfan. They love Prince for his music, and they’re not about to let the moment of his death overshadow the decades of his genius.

And then, there are the ones who lived, loved and made music with Prince.

We all grieve differently. We even grieve differently for different loved ones. Each mourner’s journey is unique and sacred, not to be rushed and never to be ridiculed. “Get over it” or “move on” are often cruel suggestions for a complex, heart-wrenching process from pain to peace.

And for performing artists, the soul-baring gift that makes them irresistible to their fans also makes them fall to their knees when they grieve. It’s no surprise that Prince’s backing band The Revolution, who rode that initial wave of global Purple Rain superstardom with him, are among those taking his death the hardest. They’ve called this weekend’s gig their “grieving concerts” – a moment for them to turn a corner on their sadness. Drummer Bobby Z termed it a return to, “Purple Zero. It’s where we need to start back there. Go back to the beginning. We’re striving to find our way out of this extremely dark place.”

The fearless leader has left the building

They’re experiencing the discomfiting vacuum when a strong leader moves on. The void feels surreal. You wonder if your vibe and voice will still ring true. Slowly and tentatively, you pick up your instruments, trying out the new configuration, all the while wishing you didn’t have to. Your heart is shattering inside your chest, but the show must go on. There are fan-favorites to perform, your leader’s legacy to honor, your “new normal” life to live.

But live it you must, and eventually do.

For if there’s one thing America excels in, it’s having an indomitable spirit and unshakable belief that it will prevail. It’s this spirit that kept Prince churning out song after song, performing gig after gig, in a relentless pursuit of his personal truth over a short but rich life.

The family that Prince built

The best leaders create purpose and meaning. They take a motley crew of strangers and turn them into friends and, if the stars align, into family. The Revolution is Prince’s musical family – another reason why his passing cuts them so deep.

They’re mourning a brother in every sense of the word. A man who guided, goaded and galvanized them into more than they ever believed they could be. A man whose relentless work ethic probably drove them insane in the worst of times, but whose tough love typically lifted them to higher artistic ground. A man who embodies the American belief that all people are created equal, and have inalienable rights to freely express their musical talents.

Enter Prince the Muse

The creative process is palpable and ultimately unknowable. When musicians jam, they don’t know, they can’t know where the rhythm is going to take them. When artists convene, an invisible force enters the room with them. Call it inspiration, call it a heavenly Muse. Whatever the name, it’s there to channel the notes and tones that ring out, to herd the cacophony into a beautiful melody or a funky hook.

Prince inspired millions to do and be more when he was alive. The accolades he received are testament to that inspiration and influence. When artists gathered to honor him at the 2016 BET (Black Entertainment Television) Awards, they did so with reverence and a desire to do him proud.

Through living his bold and fast life, Prince echoes the will of America’s Founding Fathers. He gives Americans permission to be unapologetically great, to reach for impossible dreams and to make them come true.

And even though Prince has passed, I choose to believe he’s now one with that invisible creative force that enters a room. He’s still there to help channel the notes and tones that ring out, creating funky hooks and beautiful melodies. To his loved ones and musical collaborators, he still whispers in their ear, nudging them to try this chord, write that lyric or consider that arrangement.

Always cry for love, never cry for pain

This Labor Day weekend, guitarist Wendy Melvoin is performing a stripped-down version of Prince’s “Sometimes It Snows in April”. The song became a de facto elegy when Prince passed. It’s a song about love and loss, and about a hope to reunite in the afterworld. Wendy’s rendition is tinged with a grief that only a fellow band member can know.

 

I’m a Johnny-come-lately to Prince’s world. But now, whenever I sit down to create, I invoke Prince as I believe he now is – a heavenly Muse ever-ready to whisper in my ear, nudging me to try this turn of phrase or consider that next bold move in life.

And when I invoke him, I feel a deep kinship, an intense nurturing and a true desire to help me do and be more. The energy is strong, the emotions intense and often overwhelming. If this is what I feel merely by tapping into the spirit of his leadership, what must his loved ones, his musical family be facing?

Their void is real. Their cry for pain is real. It’s a pain that must be acknowledged and witnessed and, in time, released. Then slowly, surely, one soulful note at a time, The Revolution and other longtime Prince collaborators will be able to perform from a place of peace. And they will be able to cry for love for him, for his life and legacy, and to sing with joy again in the country he called home.

(featured image from www.startribune.com)

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About the author

Maya Mathias

Maya Mathias is a global leadership veteran, with a life and career spanning 3 continents and 5 job transitions. She is a peaceful leadership advocate and mentor, bringing her unique blend of East & West to her leadership development and innovation management practice. Maya’s life began with a lower-middle class upbringing in Asia, surrounded by poultry & vegetable farms and the ‘simple life’. She doesn’t forget her humble roots, and her body of work seeks to bring more equality, justice and personal purpose in troubling times. Learn more about Maya here.

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