Prince, Bereaved Dad

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It’s been so lonely without you here

Like a bird without a song

Nothing can stop these lonely tears from falling

Tell me baby where did I go wrong?

‘Nothing Compares To You’

This time last year, music fans around the world mourned the sudden and shocking passing of Prince.  For me, it was like losing a dear and trusted friend who made my life richer and brighter.  It is hard to do justice to Prince’s creative output in mere printed words. He was an immensely talented musician – he played all twenty-seven instruments on his first album, For You. He was a prolific songwriter, first turning out a song on his father’s keyboard at the age of seven. He wrote thousands of hours of electrifying music in the fifty years that followed. He is credited as a producer on over eighty albums. His massive haul of accolades include Grammys, MTV Awards, Golden Globes, Brit Awards, an Oscar and multiple NAACP honours.

Orion’s arms are wide enough

To hold us both together

Although we’re worlds apart

I’d cross the stars for you

‘Arms of Orion’

 

After numerous high-profile relationships, Prince married actress, singer and 2014-04-02-19.40.07choreographer, Mayte Garcia, on Valentine’s Day in 1996.  Shortly afterwards, they found out they were expecting their first child.  Ahmir Gregory Nelson was born October 16th 1996. Ahmir is Arabic for ‘Prince.’ He died a week later due to Pfeiffer syndrome, a very rare genetic disorder characterised by the premature fusion of certain bones in the skull.  There was intense media speculation at the time about their baby and the couple went to great lengths to protect their privacy.  In what many regarded as a bizarre development, Prince and Mayte granted access to Oprah Winfrey for an interview within days of losing Ahmir and spoke8ad9d3454e0727497623980e65e7fd9d about him as if he were alive. They even gave her a tour of his playroom.  When Oprah asked about the baby, Prince replied, “We have a long way to go; there will be many more children.”  Many people were baffled by their behaviour, but I suppose few of us can say the decisions we made immediately after we lost our babies were among our smartest.  Had TV cameras come to my house at the stage in my loss, they would not have captured me at my lucid best.

How can you just leave me standing?

Alone in a world that’s so cold?

‘When Doves Cry’

 

Despite his global fame, Prince maintained a level of privacy that is perhaps not in keeping with our modern, media-driven age.  We know very little about his own inner turmoil. He and his wife suffered a miscarriage a few months later and then went on to divorce three years after the death of Ahmir, which must have brought its own anguish. Mayte later said in an interview, “For me, it was very, very hard to move forward and for us as a couple I think it probably broke us.”  Ahmir would now be twenty if he had lived. 8ad9d3454e0727497623980e65e7fd9dIt’s hard not to speculate, of course, and to fill an information vacuum with your own thoughts.  But I think fatherhood would have been good for Prince. It would have brought him the sort of stability he often lacked in his own childhood, which was spent back and forth between the homes of his divorced parents. It might have brought out even more of the warm, mellifluous side of his songwriting. And I suppose he just would have been an unassailably cool dad.

If you don’t like
The world you’re living in
Take a look around
At least you got friends.

 ‘Let’s Go Crazy’

Celebrity deaths are very much part of our lives these days.  When we start talking about celebrities who die, I think we inevitably end up talking about ourselves. When Prince died, an immense sadness came over me. I was taken back to my teenage years, when I dealt with all my stresses and strains by going out for walks on my own with only Prince in my Walkman for company. Long, long walks taking some comfort in a sense that he understood the stresses and strains of life too.  But as the reality of his death sank in, I became sad for him, and the life he should have enjoyed with his little boy. It’s astonishing to think that he carried on for twenty years – writing, recording and touring, bringing joy to millions – while all the time nursing such sadness in his own life. It was striking to note how many people did not even know he was a bereaved dad.  Sad for Mayte, too, for all she had gone through and the hopes and dreams that were never realised for her. And sad for baby Ahmir.

And if the stars ever fell one by one from the sky

I know Mars could not be too far behind

‘Cuz baby, this kind of beauty has got no reason to ever be shy

‘Cuz honey, this kind of beauty, the kind that comes from inside.

 ‘Diamonds and Pearls’

 

 

 

This post first appeared in Moments, the magazine of A Little Lifetime Foundation, in May 2017

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