Prince & the Death of Creatives

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.”

princeI had just walked into the guest room to get the vacuum out of the closet when I received an alert on my phone that a body was found at Prince’s Paisley Park house. Naturally, I clicked the link that confirmed it was the body of Prince. Then I clicked over to Twitter for further confirmation. It was true. Then, almost as if I couldn’t think of anything else to do, I opened YouTube and watched Prince’s incredible guitar playing on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” in 2004 at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony for George Harrison. It still blows me away.

If anyone in this world would live forever, Prince was the one who would do it. There’s something about the way he lived, the way he created, that seemed like he was a spring that would perpetually regenerate from here to eternity.

And yet this news hits hard. There has been an outpouring of tributes on social media (four hours after the news broke, tweets about Prince’s death already numbered in the millions.) As I was scrolling through the different thoughts, it hit me that there are some celebrity deaths that are universally mourned.

For me, it has been people like Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Robin Williams, Philip Seymour Hoffman, David Bowie, and now Prince who, in their death have stirred something up in our broader culture, and in me personally as well. When someone prolifically creative and talented as these artists die, there is a mourning for art that will never be made.

Art connects us to some of our deepest places of pain and sadness. In those pits of despair, art has the ability to help us believe in something beautiful and joyous again. A great album, a favorite film, a painting or book can transport us to another world — one of awe and astonishment.

When we lose that sense of awe, it can be jarring. There are stories of people who don’t leave bed for weeks after their favorite celebrity artist dies. The grief hits us in an intensely personal way.

Psychologist David Kaplan says that when someone who is well-known or admired passes, it creates a desire for connection among people who admired them. He says, “We want to know that we’re not alone. So when I feel sad over a celebrity, I want to know that there are other people also feeling this way. That [connection] is very helpful.”

Every time one of our favorite artists dies, we feel a need for connection. Some of us also feel a need for an outlet — some kind of release from the pent up grief inside. My friend, David Hansen, issued a charge on his social media yesterday that I think is a great exercise for this grief as well.

For Prince. For Bowie. For Michael. For Whitney. For whoever your creative muse is: Go do something creative today. Create something. Use your gifts to bring something new into the world today. Don’t worry about how good it is or if you did it right. Just create. Use your gifts. Then share it with the world.

This is your charge, people. Create something awesome. Then share it. Drop a comment below to share something you’ve created recently. I’ll do the same. Let’s stay connected. Let’s stay creative.

Cheers,
Eric

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