His Royal Purpleness: Prince at the 2009 Grammy awards.

This Is How You Don’t Write an Obituary For Prince

This is the part where you first read the news.

This is the part where you still think it might be a hoax.

This is the part where you learn that it isn’t.

This is the part where you recall where you first became aware of his music — in a friend’s family home in Evanston where you and your friends sat around listening to “Purple Rain.” And you can’t recall any other time before or since when people would just sit around and listen to an entire album front to back.

This is the part where you remember how the album seemed that important.

This is the part where you remember that “Purple Rain” was the only album, save for “Exile on Main Street” and “Court and Spark” that you owned on cassette, CD and vinyl.

This is the part where you remember you downloaded it too.

This is the part where you remember buying two cassettes of it — one for yourself and one for the girl you had a crush on.

This is the part where you remember trying to woo her using lyrics from “Darling Nikki.”

This is the part where you remember that miserably failing.

This is the part where you remember that summer when “Purple Rain” seemed to be playing at every party you attended, in every car in which you caught a ride, on every boombox blasting on every beach.

This is the part where you remember seeing the movie “Purple Rain” at the Coronet Theater.

This is the part where you remember the first four words you heard upon entering your college dormitory and those words were, “Oh no let’s go!” chanted by a crowd of freshmen dancing to “Let’s Go Crazy.”

This is the part where you remember your first college roommate listening over and over to Prince’s project Vanity Six at all hours of the night.

This is the part where you remember feeling sort of relieved when he moved out.

This is the part where you remember that scene in “Do the Right Thing” where Spike Lee and John Turturro debate the relative merits of Prince and Bruce Springsteen.

This is the part where you remember watching “Raspberry Beret” on MTV.

This is the part where you remember driving around in your first car blasting “Graffiti Bridge.”

This is the part where you remember later when that car was in much worse shape and it ate your copy of “The Black Album.”

This is the part where you remember losing sight of the artist for no particularly good reason other than that you were occupied with other things so you can’t remember when the “Artist Formerly Known As” glyph period started and when it ended — or if it ever did.

This is the part where you remember working with two guys, one named Jesse; one named Jerome, and just about everyone being too young to get the “Jesse! Now Jerome!” reference from one of the Morris Day numbers in “Purple Rain.”

This is the part where you remember reading an interview with Pete Townshend about the genius of Prince and then going back to the artist’s records and realizing that, though he mattered to you, you never quite appreciated him as much as you should have.

This is the part where you remember the last time you saw a friend of yours named Curtis — a high school classmate who wound up dying way too young — and your last image of Curtis is of him showing you the Prince poster he had purchased at the Evanston Garage Sale.

This is the part where you remember the funniest moment of listening to German radio when you were living in Berlin and the deejay came on and said, “Das war Prince mit Sexy Muzzerf—ker.”

This is the part where you remember watching Prince at the Super Bowl brandishing his guitar like a phallus in front of hundreds of millions of fans watching at home.

This is the part where you heard about the memoir he was writing.

This is the part where you remember looking forward to reading it.

This is the part where you remember hearing about how his plane had to make an unscheduled landing because he was suffering from the flu.

This is the part where you remember thinking that didn’t sound like quite the whole story.

This is the part where you remember seeing the first report of his death on Twitter, then Facebook.

This is the part where you decide to post something on Facebook.

This is the part where you see even the Google logo has turned purple.

This is the part where you read more articles to make sure it’s not a hoax.

This is the part where you read about how he died in an elevator.

This is the part where you can’t stop thinking of that lyric asking if we’re gonna let the elevator break us down.

This is the part where you remember exactly where you were when you first heard about John Lennon. And Kurt Cobain.

This is the part where you think of how many different ways people learned and processed the news about Lennon and Cobain, and now you wonder if there are more than three or four people on the planet who didn’t first hear the news on Twitter or Facebook — exactly the same way that you did.

This is the part where you wonder whether you’re mourning him or the connection he formed between who you were and who you are.

This is the part where you religiously scroll through other people’s Facebook posts and watch that insanely good video of him playing guitar on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” during the concert at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

This is the part where you read half a dozen obituaries and appreciations, including one you really like from your former Chicago Reader colleague Bill Wyman, and you wonder how so many people have already figured out how to mourn Prince so eloquently.

This is the part where you read all the nasty comments from readers of the obituaries and appreciations, wondering why this or that writer can be so selectively grief-stricken, mourning an artist they never met and shouldn’t they be writing instead about the Middle East or the Zika virus or any of an infinite number of deaths that should be just as consequential as his?

This is the part where you wonder if you have anything to say that someone else hasn’t already said better.

This is the part where you decide you’d be better off not writing anything about Prince at all.

This is the part where you sit outside on your stoop on a beautiful night in April.

This is the part where you stop writing and you just sit there listening over and over to “Purple Rain.”

You just keep listening to “Purple Rain.”

Adam Langer is the culture editor of the Forward.

Author

Adam Langer

Adam Langer

Adam Langer is the Forward’s culture editor. Born and raised in Chicago, he now lives in New York. He has written plays, films, criticism and a memoir, but most of the time, he writes novels.
He is the author of the novels “Crossing California,” “The Washington Story,” “Ellington Boulevard,” “The Thieves of Manhattan” and “The Salinger Contract” as well as the memoir “My Father’s Bonus March.”

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This Is How You Don’t Write an Obituary For Prince

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