When the “Thin White Duke,” a.k.a. David Bowie, passed, a piece of my youth went with him and I remembered such hits from high school, as “Let’s Dance,” “China Girl” and others that were catchy dance tunes, along with the avant-garde hits of “Ashes to Ashes” and so many others that are far too many to name right now. I also remember the song “Changes” which came out in 1972, when I was literally a child, and didn’t understand the lyrics in songs, but knew that music was something special and had power.
It wasn’t because of Bowie that I wanted to play guitar, in fact I’m not even sure who my true guitar idols were. I loved Hendrix! Adored Parliament and all of their different evolutions. I wanted to be smooth like the Isley Brothers, and thought that Devo was the end all and be all to my misfit-like nature. And then of course there was Rush, the three ring circus that put the modern, future and post-apocalyptic world into perspective for me. And of course there was the man, the myth the legend. Michael Jackson. However, that is a weird and short history for me in regards to musical love. A sort of time freeze, if you will, because my desire to be like Mike, the King of Pop, ended with his album, “Off the Wall” which for me, despite what everyone may say regarding all the albums that came after, was his greatest album. It was his greatest for me because in a sense it was the end of who he was from the time that I knew of him as a child and going into to my young adulthood. It was the epitome of who I thought that I should be as a young Black Boy in America and so that was it, caput, finito. His death was a blow to me, but like I said, in a sense he had already been classified as departed after “Off the Wall” which came out in 1979. I mean “Thriller” was good, but “Off the Wall” was it, and so I guess Michael was gone for me in 1982, when “Thriller” came out.
And then there was Prince. I admit that when Prince came onto the scene, I listened and liked his music on a secret, in the closet, if you will, type manner. He was too out there for me from a sexual perspective and I wasn’t as comfortable in my own sexuality perhaps, to deal with him. He wasn’t someone I went around saying I liked. But hey, in 1979 when I first heard of him, I was 13 of 14 and was definitely not into anyone trying to confuse me with the androgynous nature of how Prince was. It wasn’t until later in life that I began to appreciate the artist that Prince was. Later when I myself started playing guitar, around 25 years of age and when I realized the complexity involved of entertaining a public. I started the music game as an adult, and don’t regret it. I’m enjoying the things that I’m learning, and enjoying be able to appreciate the artistry that existed in and exist in so many folks. I’m also even more impacted now by the death of Prince, perhaps because it took me so long to recognize and appreciate him for who he was and what he did as an artist and a member of society.
57 years old, and gone. Just like that, within the blink of an eye. They say that he was a vegetarian. He looked to be in good health. I don’t know if he did drugs, but doubt it, based on the way that he lived. But hey, who knows. Maybe it was pain killers, or perhaps that Flu that he had the week before. I don’t know. What I do know is that nothing and no one lives forever and the more I profess to know this, the more I’m shocked when I hear of someone’s passing. Facing the inevitable, is not as easy as it sounds and as much as I’d like to think that I’ll be ready when it comes for me, or someone that I love, I never am.