When Doves Cry

April 21, 2017

 

Today marks one year since we lost Prince. I was asked to share my story when it happened, but I just wasn’t ready. It was too raw and I felt way too vulnerable.  But when the calendar turned to April, and my heart started to feel it all over again, I felt like maybe it was time.

 

"It feels personal because it is." That text from a friend on April 21, 2016 was all the grace I needed to let myself truly grieve the death of Prince. This was the loss not only of my greatest musical influence, but also the loss of a childhood friend... a friend of more than 30 years. I saw him live three times, and have hundreds of his songs in my music collection, but it's not enough. There was supposed to be so much more...another 30 years at least.

 

The last time I saw Prince was in 2011 in Vancouver B.C. He was 53 years old then, wearing sequined pants and heels and dancing up and down the stage as if time had stood still for him. I think that’s what the world thinks of when they think of Prince. Eccentric and strange. But the talent. The musicianship. The ARTISTRY. He was channeling something other worldly and a lot of people missed it because the packaging didn’t make sense. 

 

Under the track listing on most of his albums you will find these words: Produced, Arranged, Composed and Performed by Prince. ALL OF IT. Every vocal. Every instrument (guitars, bass, keys, drums, and on and on). Literally a one-man band, all played with masterful skill. Who does that?! And the same thing live. He bounced from the keys to the drum kit, danced his way across the stage, stopped to cue the horns, flung on his guitar for some crazy solo and Never.Missed.A.Beat.

 

He’s known for his racy lyrics, but his music has always had spiritual undertones. And for the past 15 years he’s been much more outspoken about his faith, a faith that appeared to evolve, especially in recent years. Over the past decade I saw a man who loved Jesus, who fought against injustice, who championed artists’ rights, and who gave God the glory. The audience would cheer and he would shake his head “no,” and point skyward. He had believers in His life speaking gospel truth with him daily. Cause of death? Irrelevant. Prince had intense chronic pain.  He gave everything to his calling as an artist – heart, muscle and bone.  And I am convinced that God has him now. I just am.

 

Adding to my grief this past year, I often beat myself up for shedding foolish tears. I didn’t know him. But YET. I felt like he was a dear friend. He sang me through all my heartbreaks, danced me through all of my milestones, and laid a foundation for my biggest calling beyond being a wife and mom: the calling of an artist. I understand improvisation and melody and chord progressions because of Prince. I am completely untrained, but my mentor was the master.

 

I still don’t want him to be gone. I am still desperately sad when I let myself really think about it. I still had more to learn. There were so many more records to buy. I was going to get to see him in concert 4 or 5 more times, at least. And then when he was about 80 I was going to hear him live at some small obscure jazz club, and I was maybe even going to get to shake his hand. THAT is how this was going to go.

 

And the world has moved on, but a lot of us haven’t, and probably never will. We just weren’t ready for the music to go silent. Questlove recently said it so well, “There will be no high like the high music fans felt when Prince was releasing magic every year like it was chewing gum…” It was effortless for him. He has well over 400 released songs, and an estimated 1000 completed songs remain in the vault at Paisley Park.  Many have called him our modern-day Mozart - the most prolific artist of our time. I agree, and I feel like I finally understand what it sounds like When Doves Cry. It sounds like SILENCE.

 

So where do we go from here? Liv Warfield, one of his backup singers and protoges, always writes this when remembering Prince: #whatPtaughtus and #continuethework. I agree. Let’s keep supporting excellence in music. Let’s not buy into the lie that music should be free. Let’s continue to cheer on up and coming artists. And let’s GIVE with generosity to a world in need. Prince once said, “I don’t need any more attention. But I can’t be in this world and see this much pain and suffering and not do something.” AMEN.

 

The photo above shows him with his Hohner telecaster, my favorite guitar. And hand pointed high to heaven, giving ALL glory to God. And I believe he’s there now, leading the biggest funkiest band and praising God with the angels. And as for me, and the rest of the Purple Army – we will continue the legacy, as there will always be a need for more light and love and truth through music.

 

Thank you for you all you taught us, Prince. Thanks for all of the breathtaking art you gave to this hurting world.  We miss you so much, but we will channel our grief by continuing the work.

 

"Black day, stormy night/No love, no hope in sight/Don't cry for He is coming/Don't die without knowing the cross." - Prince 

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Jessi McNeal ©2019 Photos by Arlene Chambers Photography