It is hard, even if you have the vivid, soaring capacity to imagine that Prince Rogers Nelson used to secure his place among the greatest artists of our time, that a person born in Ireland in June, 1958, could have made love and sex, sex and love, such an easy, well-articulated cornerstone of their life’s work.
Many of Prince’s Irish contemporaries have dealt with these issues in almost a lace-curtain, Late Late Show sort of way, but very few, if any, blended craving, disappointment, triumph, and inevitability as naturally, as joyfully, or as honestly as the genius from Minneapolis, who died at the young age of 57 on Thursday.
An Irish person born the same year as Prince was a citizen in a country in which Archbishop John Charles McQuaid had just passed the halfway point in his long career as a forceful voice for dour, repressive conservatism. The culture he promoted could not have nurtured a Prince; it would have crushed him. There is an irony in this, as both men held their religious beliefs dearly. In latter years, Prince had become a Jehovah’s Witness and often did door-to-door missionary work. Imagine, if history would allow, if this journey had taken him to Archbishop McQuaid’s palace in Drumcondra. Indeed.
Prince was an enigma wrapped in something mercurial, something undefinable, and so far beyond the ordinary that his life was a constantly evolving work of art. Like David Bowie, who died in January, Prince brought those who would follow on a rewarding, exciting journey to something like self-realisation. He was far too young to die, especially as none of us can imagine what he might have done next.
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