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Music heroes have meaning

It was 1979 … I’m 15 years old and believe it or not “American Bandstand” was still relevant and this dude comes on to perform a song and right then I was hooked and so were many of my friends.

I remember the week after that Saturday performance talking to a few friends who had seen the show and how blown away we all were. This was also the age of the “MTV generation” when MTV still stood for Music Television. Soon Prince videos began to dominate the music channel. And when his iconic movie “Purple Rain” came out in 1983, my senior year of high school, Prince was the new “Elvis” of rock-and-roll music.

The reason was that he could play every one of his instruments, wrote every one of his songs and could entertain like no one since Elvis. And just like Elvis, Prince transcended society. His music influenced other musicians in so many various genres and brought together races.

For example, two high school friends, Timothy E. Raborn and Philipp Embuido … two guys that were about as different as two friends could be … were the biggest Prince fans I’ve ever known. They came from very different backgrounds, but Prince was the mutual interest and just shows how the music icon had no boundaries and brought so many different people from very different walks of life and backgrounds together.

This from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which inducted Prince in 2004:

“He rewrote the rulebook, forging a synthesis of black funk and white rock that served as a blueprint for cutting-edge music in the Eighties. Prince made dance music that rocked and rock music that had a bristling, funky backbone.”

When I walked into work a week ago and a co-worker walked by and said she had heard Prince was dead, my mind went blank and at the same time raced back over the last 37 years to when I first heard his music and saw him perform.

I thought back to my high school days cruising around in my ’65 Mustang convertible with my friends listening to the “Purple Rain” soundtrack.

That was my youth. And it seems my music icons are dying way before their time.

Just a few months ago, Glenn Frey, a founding member of the Eagles, passed suddenly and my heart ached for days. The Eagles were one of the first music groups as a pre-teen I enjoyed listening to and my parents didn’t seem to mind.

More recently, my country music hero Merle Haggard passed away. Granted he was much older than Frey or Prince, but his death hit me just as hard. Not so much because I could relate to his music, but more because my parents could relate to his music, which was always playing on the station my parents listened to. He is the reason I love classic country music today.

But when Prince passed away, I immediately thought of the day in 1977 when news broke on TV of Elvis being found dead and I knew how the generation of my parents felt.

Many people don’t understand why folks like myself hurt so deeply when a music artist or entertainer passes away. I get it. There are so many other “heroes” out there, such as soldiers or law enforcement officers who die in the line of duty.

But entertainers like Prince, Haggard or Glenn Frey are a part of our lives and their music resonates with us. When they pass away, it’s like a part of our lives dies with them.

Rob Sigler is managing editor of The Oxford EAGLE. Contact him at rob.sigler.@oxfordeagle.com.