Know how lucky you are to have been alive at the same time as Prince and David Bowie. Recognize how infinitesimally small the chance was that the Venn diagrams of your and their lives all happened to intersect for a glorious, soulful, brief blip in the history of time. Last year, you could have heard both artists back-to-back on any city’s FM radio and imagined what either, inhabiting the same blue dot as you, were doing. This year, the narrative has changed. We have lost both, and the world is hues darker. But in the words of Prince: “Life is just a party and parties weren’t meant to last.” And in Bowie’s: “We are arriving and departing all at the same time.”
The commonalities–their protean approaches to music, film, performance, and style, their subversions of racial and gender norms, their shared displays of rare humanism–are astounding. “Transcend” is a verb used frequently to describe how either of these artists magically hovered in the ether above, how they were able to cast shadows football fields longer than the rest of us.
Were they both actually aliens sent to earth to impart compassion and beauty during their tenures? Have they returned back to their cosmic provenances? No, it is best to remember that they were human, maybe the best possible definition of that word. Their messages and art were tangible, within reach despite how mythical their existences were. We still have a lot to learn from them, so luckily, they’re not truly gone.
In a special, karmic vibration of a moment, Prince covered David Bowie’s “Heroes” at one of his final shows in Toronto. Though the below clip is only an abbreviated iteration of the whole performance, perhaps that is the best microcosm of Prince: beautiful, transfixing, and over far too soon. Hopefully we’ll see a complete version of this performance from other sneaky concert goers who took a cue from the Purple One himself and broke the rules.
One of the subtle implications—and best parts—of the song “Heroes” is that Bowie relegates independent effort in favor of collective potential. Think about the lyrics: “We can be heroes, just for one day.” He is saying that nothing is guaranteed, except for the fact that we are in it together. Prince knew this too, which is why it stings so badly that we’ve lost them both. They were our heroes.
Image Credit: NPG Records
Matt Grosinger is the music editor of Nerdist. He watched Purple Rain last night and will be bummed forever.