Why Prince’s death hit me especially hard

(Commentary) Whenever I’m happy. Or sad. Whenever I feel loved. Or feel alone. Prince was there with the perfect lyric and the perfect note.

Singer Prince performs in a surprise appearance on the "American Idol" television show finale at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, California in this May 24, 2006 file photo. REUTERS/Chris Pizzello/Files

Lindsay Pollard

Lindsay Pollard

COMMENTARY — My friend, Brandon, and I have this running joke: We each take turns on “bunker watch.”

See, the bunker is our imaginary safe haven where we keep some of our favorite pop culture icons. (I think Brandon came up with this after we lost Whitney Houston.) Morgan Freeman lives in our bunker. Betty White mixes the drinks. Sade – the whole band, not just its timeless lead singer – is under our protection, as is Dave Chappelle and Sirs Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart.

And Prince.

Of course, Prince.

Especially Prince.

The man was a lyrical genius who needed to outlive our children’s grandchildren to remind them that, once upon a time, the American pop scene was a home for real music and real musicians.

Nothing tragic was ever supposed to happen to anyone in our magic bunker. Except …

Prince Rogers Nelson, of Minnesota – of “Purple Rain” – died Thursday. Why, we’re not yet sure. But it doesn’t matter. Because for everyone who loved his sound (and him) like I do, a little piece of them died that day, too. And of that cause of death, they are acutely aware.

I confessed to Brandon and our friend Deirdre (a fellow lifelong fan) that Prince’s death hit me harder than Whitney’s, harder than Michael Jackson’s. Deirdre suggested I ask myself why (for the express purpose of this post).

I did. And I still couldn’t pinpoint it at first.

It might be because Prince always gave me what I needed.

Like when I was 12 – and hormonal – Prince knew why my parents didn’t understand me: my father’s too bold and my mother’s never satisfied. (Spoiler: neither of those things is true; puberty is just awful.)

When I was 14 and a boy broke my heart, really broke it, for the first time, I listened to “The Beautiful Ones” on repeat and cried for three days straight.

When I was a freshman in college and met my dear friend, Devoni. We bonded over “Purple Rain” – song and movie. We still quote both to each other. Last time we did? Three days ago.

Whenever I’m happy. Or sad. Whenever I feel loved. Or feel alone. Prince was there with the perfect lyric and the perfect note.

Brandon reached into the bunker today to pull out one of our favorite, shared memories. It was 2007 and Prince was the Super Bowl halftime performer (featuring our college’s band – FAMU’s Marching 100!) in Miami. And, of course – it rained. And Prince. Kept. Playing.

“He made it rain, Brandon. Prince made it rain during ‘Purple Rain,’ ” I still exclaim nine years later.

Brandon sent a video to Deirdre and me after news of Prince’s death broke. It was a documentary about that amazing performance. The production designer, Bruce Rodgers, explained how the morning of the game, Prince got word it would rain all day.

“Can you make it rain harder?” Rodgers recalled Prince asking.

That. That is why I love Prince. Why I always will. And why I mourn his untimely passing so profoundly. He made going against the grain something of which to aspire. Made being different and weird and quirky and, even nameless, kind of dangerous and a little (a lot) sexy.

Prince may not reside in our bunker anymore. But I hope, wherever he is, his music brings the same joy to those he walks among now that it brought his fans for so many years.

And I really hope it rains there.

Lindsay Pollard lives and South Florida and works in politics. She is a recovering writer.

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