I was on a plane yesterday when news of Prince’s death hit. Seatmates in row 4 of Southwest Flight 2815 were furiously searching their smartphones for more info, and there wasn’t much to be known at that point.
I missed most of the avalanche of tributes.
Not to be maudlin -- though I’m about to be--we have a lot of rock legend deaths to come. What will happen in the media when the couple of handful of really, spectacularly giant artists, pass away? Boomers popularized rock stars and then boomers became management. Rock stars got old; they began to die.
Then came the Internet and the loose version of eulogy and fact-picking, and gone is the general idea that nice, or even correct things should be said about the dead.
So today I’ve been looking around the Internet to see the damage done, and in a couple of cases, the more appropriate responses. Let’s start with them.
The casts of “Hamilton” and “The Color Purple” on Thursday night took their final bows and then paid respects to the artist formerly known as Prince. What distinguished it, among other things, is that the tribute-makers were show people, and African-American. The “Hamilton” cast, led by star Lin-Manuel Miranda, broke into a spirited version of Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” that seemed just right. Otherwise on Broadway, Jennifer Hudson led the “Color Purple” cast, and audience, into a soulful, gospel-tinged version of “Purple Rain.” I hope there’s a cleaner version than the YouTube one I saw. When you’re done reading this, watch those.
But then there’s all the rest. I’m a defender of live on-air talent that stumbles on words or titles. Your mouth doesn’t get a chance for rough drafts. Then again, Wolf Blitzer is a joke today for his heartfelt tribute to the singer he said made rock history with “Purple Haze.”
As Slate tweaked, that’s the song with the lyrics:
I never meant to cause you any sorrow
I never meant to cause you any pain
Lately things they don't seem the same
Actin' funny, but I don't know why
Excuse me while I kiss the sky.
And while we’re in the generally insincere/pathetic category, Donald Trump’s tweet is a classic: “I met Prince on numerous occasions. He was an amazing talent and wonderful guy. He will be greatly missed!”
You have to step back for just a moment to appreciate that statement. Can you begin to imagine the interaction between Donald Trump and Prince? Do you believe it’s possible he could have come away from these alleged meetings with the conclusion that Prince was a “wonderful guy”? I’m suspicious.
Instant, plentiful media is its own punishment. It took only moments, it seems, for radio nobody/Internet/YouTube goofball Alex Jones to jump on Prince’s death. Jones, if you don’t know, has never seen a world event that wasn’t a deep dark conspiracy, ranging from his doubts about 9/11, the Oklahoma City bombing, and fake moon landings. Thursday, he asked: “Was Prince killed by the chemtrails he spoke out against?
Prince, at least, at one point believed that those jets we see flying high overhead leaving that vapor trail are creating a “chemtrail coffin,” a “geo-engineered flu” that can kill you. And so did Merle Haggard, who, by the way died a couple weeks ago. Just a coincidence? And Prince died, what, the day before Earth Day!!!
There are a lot of people who make a living off of celebrity deaths, and there's a lot more media for them to roam. Prince is just fresh dead meat for them. When Peter Townshend wrote “Hope I die before I get old,” he had it right. The younger you are, the milder the slander.