Good Night, Sweet Prince

I did not understand Prince. Not too surprising for an old guy whose musical tastes alternate between the Beatles, Jazz, New Country, and Classical! I found his songs — like so many these days — unintelligible unless you had “liner notes” (now there’s a thing of the past!) and his videos off-putting at best.

Having said that, he was obviously a musical genius of sorts, a prolific composer, incredibly versatile and an accomplished instrumentalist. The outpouring of praise and sadness at his passing is testimony to the fact that what I did not “get,” countless others did. I mourn his sudden and early death, and I hope (though I’m not optimistic) that it was from so-called natural causes.

I struggle with his profession to be a person of faith while marketing (very shrewdly) material that can only be described as salacious. Perhaps, as some have suggested, he came to faith later in life. Fair enough. Many have. Although I do not recall hearing him apologize or be the least bit regretful of some of his earlier work. Perhaps no apology is necessary.

What is interesting to me is his being described as one who sought to hold together the dualities of his life into one. Black and white, straight and gay, blues to psychedelia and everything in between. That is surely something to be celebrated. We have enough divisions and bipolar thinking in this country. Throwing a monkey wrench into some of that would be an accomplishment in and of itself.

His clear holding in tension of sexuality and spirituality (sometimes in the same song) is an important thing to note. Wiser sages than I (or Prince) have often pointed out the relationship of sexuality and spirituality. Both seek a kind of unitive experience, both (at their best) are motivated by love, both are among the most powerful forces which can move human beings. And both are mysteries.

If Prince’s work allows us to wrestle, once again, with the ancient connections between spirituality and sexuality, that will be a good thing. Listening again to his body of work may do this. Discovering “new” material of which there is said to be vaults-full may be another.

And it really won’t matter whether this old guy “gets it” or not. It will nonetheless be part of the legacy of one who left us far too soon.


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