We are gathered here today to get through this thing called “All Our Favorite People Are Dying.”
It’s 2 AM.
I am about to go sleep when one last habitual scroll through my newsfeed brings my attention to a post “Is Prince really dead? I keep seeing his name online.” Great, another Jackie-Chan hoax. Scroll some more, scroll some more. “Legendary musician, Prince, dies at 57” and this time it’s from Billboard.com.
No, no, no.
I message my editor, Ioana, in a dizzy stupor. What is happening to the world?! Who’s next?! I’m beginning to believe George R.R. Martin is the author of 2016.
Personally in the first four months of this year I have lost David Bowie, then my beloved Alan Rickman, now Prince. Has it always been like this, your favorite artists dying one by one, each body falling from the sky like a raindrop? Was I too caught up in my life to notice before? Or is this a foretelling of an apocalypse in this dark year?
According to BBC, the wave of celebrity deaths this year alone is “phenomenal.” The statistics have leaped five folds since 2012. This is simply because the baby-boomer generation of our idols has reached their death’s-doorstep years.
Ioana begs to differ, “It’s always been like this. I’m not shocked anymore. Celebs have such messed up lives.”
Celebrities become an enigma in our lives, especially if they’ve indirectly contributed to our youth and growing-up. Somehow, Amy Winehouse feels human because you see her stumbling on YouTube high as a kite, owning a talent worth millions of dollars you wish were yours, but at the same time you unconsciously think of her as invincible despite the obvious health problems. It rings even more true when death happens to seemingly healthy celebrities such as Prince or Philipp Seymour or Alan Rickman.
It’s a “surprise death” because we know people die, but we feel like our idols shouldn’t. Their PR team does a good job of keeping their cancer or worsening drug addiction hush-hush, so when the punch line finally comes, we don’t see it coming. And boy, does it leave a bruise.
But that’s the thing, isn’t it? These celebrities have managed to reach out and touch the deepest recesses of our souls and mind that we try to hide from our friends and parents. As much as we covet artists’ jetsetter lifestyle and obsess over their latest exploits, it feels like they’re a huge part of our personal lives – it feels like they’re our secondhand best friends. We don’t mourn because we know them, we mourn because they helped us know ourselves.
How many times did Kurt Cobain lull your lonely, broken, tear-stained hearts to sleep? How many times have you felt like a queen because of Aaliyah’s and Whitney Houston’s music? How many times has Robin Williams made you laugh and distract you from the dullness, the emptiness that is called your life? How many times have you pondered what issues they might be coping with before you read of their death in flashy red headlines?
We’ve heard the old adage before – “Celebrities are people, too!” It’s just as my editor says, like ordinary people, famous people have messed up lives. Only we don’t learn about ordinary people’s deaths, however tragic the death, however interesting their lives.
Will I get over it? Probably not. I shudder to think of the day Morgan Freeman or Jack Nicholson or any of the Spice Girls are found lifeless in their luxury apartments.
But just like Prince, legacies don’t die. They never leave us. Prince (and all other celebrities) will live on through his work, especially every time I hear purple rain, purple rain.
He was one of those icons who reinvented the future of music and what a rock-and-roll star should be. He is the very definition of sexy and androgyny in a once macho laden genre. Heck, he was 57 when he passed away, but his latest concert last week still got raving reviews. Who else could still do that to his audience?
No matter if they die, celebrities have discovered the secret to the fountain of youth – that is leaving behind timeless artwork that continues to move and inspire. “A strong spirit transcends rules,” Prince once said. And as much as I’d like to list down each his albums, his chart-topping songs, and crazy accomplishments, I won’t. Because it goes without saying how electrifying a performer, activist, and talent this man was as soon as you hear his name.
Whether Prince and the others knew it or not, through their work artists speak to us at our lowest and loneliest. It’s silly but one catchy lyric, one poignant movie, one goosebump-inducing melody was all it took for us to survive one more day.
And for that, I am forever thankful.
Prince’s impact on the world lives on eternally. Rest in peace to a timeless innovator and true star. I only hope that at his darkest minute in that elevator, as the lights dimmed in front of his eyes, he could hear the chanting of his fans at all his concerts and feel back the love he has given so unselfishly. Just as his songs was there for many of us at our darkest minutes.
Breakfast awaits you, dear Prince, in these star-studded heavens where your peers are dancing the batdance.
Fly high, partyman. You are sorely missed.
Sade Andria Zabala is a twenty-four year old Filipina surfer sometimes living in Denmark. She is the author of poetry books War Songs and Coffee and Cigarettes. Her work has appeared on places such as Literary Orphans, The Thought Catalog, The Rising Phoenix Review, Hooligan Magazine, Germ Magazine, and more. In her spare time she likes to eat words and drink sunlight. You can purchase her books here.