I’m not even sure how to process all of this.

The year 2016 has felt like one punch in the gut after the other, although I keep reminding myself that there are good things happening and good things to come. I’ve always tried to avoid the whole “public mourning over a public figure” thing because, really, I didn’t know them personally. I did have a personal loss this year of my grandfather and trust me, that one hurt. But that’s personal and family, so I handle it in different ways. The impact of my grandfather on myself and my world is a known quantity and something that I don’t really feel needs to be shared with the world.

This year I lost two of my heroes and it sucks. I’m not sure that there is a more eloquent way to put that or to express how awful it feels. I, like many others, grew up a weird kid. I was an angry kid most of the time and I grew up listening to heavier music because of that. I liked to brood. I was at time pigheaded in my views of what made music “good,” and if it didn’t come from certain parts of Scandinavia I simply wasn’t interested.

I’m not sure what it was about Prince that drew me to him, honestly. Maybe it was that he did the Batman soundtrack in ‘89 and I grew up obsessed with that movie? I don’t know, but somewhere along the way Purple Rain became a part of my regular life. But I always thought that it was weird, something that other kids didn’t like or care about, hell, even made fun of, so I didn’t talk about it. We were all image conscious and my image was that of an angry kid who liked angry things, so I didn’t want to change that. I’m not entirely sure why.

But I remember one day when I was at my friend Ryan’s house with our friend Thom in high school. Thom was always a bit more worldly in his views and wasn’t afraid of it, which is always something that I admired about him. We were talking about music, as we were prone to do, and an offhand comment he made made me stop. “Sign ‘O the Times is one of the best albums ever.” This was an age where the internet was still really early, mind you, life wasn’t soaked in thinkpieces and social media influence and arguments. All that I knew about Prince were the few albums that I had and that most people thought that he was weird, effeminate or that liking him was “gay,” which at the time felt like a death sentence.

My dad was a source of a lot of my musical influence, but he never cared for Prince or Bowie, who turned into two of my biggest influences and artistic heroes. But that one day when Thom talked about just how good Prince was something clicked. Was Prince really that great? I started buying up whatever Prince that I could, even the weird, obscure stuff that people didn’t seem to like much, and I loved all of it.

Name me a Prince album and I’ll find you something to love about it. Chaos and Disorder? I Rock, Therefore I am. Graffiti Bridge? Love Machine. The Gold Experience? Dolphin. I could keep going. You get the picture. I even loved (and I mean LOVED) Rainbow Children. The message was something that I really was unhappy and uncomfortable with, but the music was just incredible.

There are so many milestones in my life that can be measured through Prince, even. From my first girlfriend, overcoming severe depression in my teens to my college years to going to see the Musicology tour and so much of my adulthood. The first movie that Lori and I watched on what was probably our second or third date? Purple Rain. That was also the song that we danced to at our wedding reception. As much as I wanted to, I held back on playing the overly-cheeky “Wedding Feast” from Rainbow Children at our wedding.

As a guitar player Prince influenced me in so many ways. He was brilliant, sometimes more brilliant than anyone would ever give him credit for. He wrote pop music, sure, he did some simple stuff, but as a guitar player he was beyond impressive. Sure, he was a genius at just about every instrument that he played, but when he played guitar it felt like the world stopped to hear what he had to say. He expressed himself via piano brilliantly, but the guitar is where he bared his soul.

This wasn’t his best, but it’s probably up there.

I feel like there is a stigma with latching onto “celebrities” and caring about them. Undoubtedly whenever someone dies and there is a social media outpouring there are the people shouting “THAT IS FAKE.” Sometimes I agree with it, but other times it’s David Bowie and Prince in one year and I’m not sure what to do with myself. Prince was a brilliant in so many ways, troubled in so many ways. He wrote a lot of music and while a lot of it, on the surface, sounded fun and happy, there was a certain melancholy to it. He always seemed to be having fun, but there was a deep, inner sadness that was deeply embedded in his music, even if he attempted to eschew it. So no, all of his music wasn’t about fucking and love, it was usually about that, but also how alone he truly was. Growing up that was something that I picked up on right away and never let go of.

Everyone has a Prince song that they love and I’m not sure that I could ever just pick one. From every era, every album I have a favorite, but the only one that I find fitting for his passing is Sometimes it Snows in April. Parade is one of those albums that holds a place in my heart. Sure, Under a Cherry Moon was not a good movie, but the soundtrack was perhaps one of his best overall works. I can’t help but listen to this and cry.

“Tracy died soon after a long fought civil war,
Just after I’d wiped away his last tear
I guess he’s better off than he was before,
A whole lot better off than the fools he left here
I used to cry for Tracy because he was my only friend
Those kind of cars don’t pass you every day
I used to cry for Tracy because I wanted to see him again,
But sometimes sometimes life ain’t always the way

Sometimes it snows in April
Sometimes I feel so bad, so bad
Sometimes I wish life was never ending,
And all good things, they say, never last

Springtime was always my favorite time of year,
A time for lovers holding hands in the rain
Now springtime only reminds me of Tracy’s tears
Always cry for love, never cry for pain
He used to say so strong unafraid to die
Unafraid of the death that left me hypnotized
No, staring at his picture I realized
No one could cry the way my Tracy cried

Sometimes it snows in April
Sometimes I feel so bad
Sometimes, sometimes I wish that life was never ending,
And all good things, they say, never last

I often dream of heaven and I know that Tracy’s there
I know that he has found another friend
Maybe he’s found the answer to all the April snow
Maybe one day I’ll see my Tracy again

Sometimes it snows in April
Sometimes I feel so bad, so bad
Sometimes I wish that life was never ending,
But all good things, they say, never last

All good things that say, never last
And love, it isn’t love until it’s past”

Please, go do yourself a favor and listen to Parade.