R.I.P. to My Friend Prince
A requiem from his longtime tour manager
By Alan Leeds
It was just his time.” I HATE it when people say that after someone passes.
Prince died alone in a friggin elevator… What spiritual power would have designed it that way?
Would it have been his time had he stayed in an Illinois hospital last week and received treatment? Would it have been his time if he had walked down Paisley steps instead of taking the elevator?
The facts are that this man was still actively performing, throwing parties, cycling around Minneapolis’ suburbs. Does that sound like it was his time?
It wasn’t his time because it wasn’t MY time. Wasn’t my time to lose a friend, a generous, memorable employer, someone I ate with, drank with, partied with and, yes, worked for during the most formative and rewarding years in my career — someone without whom my life might have been radically different.
But, yes, this is how we grieve. The grieving is never about the deceased, it’s about us, our loss. And so it goes.
While I consider myself a spiritual person, one who subscribes to some kind of higher power, I don’t have much affection for formal religion. I surely don’t claim to know what makes this world and our species tick. Years ago it annoyed me that Prince sometimes seemed to have a double standard — that he had a Holy Hot Line and got a pass for behavior that would have been less than correct for others. I always felt he privately mistook his super-natural musical gifts for some sort of anointment — he was fully aware that it was a package denied mere mortals and he didn’t mind rubbing it in. I was skeptical, I came from the “all of us have gifts of some sort” school of thought.
But who was I fooling but myself. I have been fortunate enough to witness quite a few amazing talents in my career — landmark performers, singers, musicians and writers. But nobody was like Prince. Yes, the young Prince once practiced and dedicated himself to developing a skill set, but once his foundation was intact, the music, the ideas — both creative and promotional — flowed out of him like a raging river. There was no industry that was equipped to process and digest his ceaseless flow. Radio couldn’t keep up, record companies couldn’t market and promote fast enough, fans couldn’t re-focus fast enough. His songs were like a daily newspaper and he wanted them to be read while the news was fresh.
His brain never shut off. We wrestled with words to describe him — tireless, driven, obsessed, manic. But just maybe it wasn’t any of that. Maybe he was simply put here to be that funnel… to bring us the music and bring us the joy that accompanied it; to bring us the thought provoking lyrics and the effects they had on youth culture. To bring us the generosity (much of which was incognito) that supported schools, music programs, young artists, ecological issues, social movements and people of all races and walks of life.
In other words, just maybe all the things we found odd or, those of us who worked for him and tried to keep up, sometimes argued about… were simply meant to be that way. Maybe HE was on schedule and the rest of us were late. Once the technology caught up with HIS visions, and fundamentally changed how the music industry operates, it seemed like Prince had been a prophet. He may not have specifically envisioned a Spotify or iTunes, but he damn sure did envision a world where artists would retain more control of their work and how it is marketed.
More importantly, just maybe he had given all he had to give, climbed every mountain there was to climb. For a mind as restless as Prince’s it must have been torture to think privately that there was nothing left ahead but to repeat himself—even if he did have the talent and versatility to keep it interesting to fans.
Eric, in his matter-of-fact way, told me, “Men like Prince aren’t meant to grow old.” My first thought was, what men are like Prince? But I know what Eric meant. I couldn’t even fantasize about a 90-year-old Prince. Think of any of our elders, grandparents etc. and their lifestyle then substitute Prince. C’mon! Really?
It was raining in Minneapolis the morning Prince died. But it stopped soon after his body was discovered and by the time fans began gathering a gorgeous rainbow surfaced atop Paisley Park, and there was a lot of purple in it. So I’m going to believe that it was his time. And, yes, that’s about me — making it easier to put this somewhere comfortable because I’m still freaked the fuck out.
I’m just grateful that Gwen and I passed through Prince’s life. We live in Minneapolis because of Prince. We saw the world because of Prince. We learned about the pros and cons of celebrity and fame because of Prince. My son grew up around Prince. We got married, got sober and beat both cancer and spinal meningitis while working for Prince. Once again, that’s about me — us. This grieving shit is damn selfish.
So I’m gonna take Prince’s advice and do what, ironically, he was finally unable to do: I’m not letting that Paisley elevator bring me down. I’m punching a higher floor, grateful that I’m looking around me and know I have friends.
Gotdamnit — more about me. I’m crushed I never got a chance to say goodbye, much less thank you, which is exactly how he would have wanted it.
So this is THANK YOU.
R.I.P. my friend
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A critic’s take on how to remember Princemedium.com