Water Baby: A Eulogy for Our Departed Prince



“When…working or thinking…your bloodstream beats differently.”
—Prince, Rolling Stone, 1985

Prince Rogers Nelson was never one to let anyone wrap him up in a pussycat bow. Pop-star. Rock-god. Funk-master. Preacher. Satyr. Dandy. Workhorse. Gender-bender. Monk. Magician. Philanthropist. Joker. Svengali. Recluse. Showman extraordinaire. He was a man of luminous, full-throated joy, and deep, shattering longing. Of indestructible groove laced with an abyssal ache that he was certain (and he was right) could be made to take flight through the transcendent, propulsive power of music. He played guitar like he was making love and talking in tongues. He sang like an angel and a man possessed. He was reverence and sin. Confusion and commitment. Artifice and naked emotional exposure. He hated being stared at but wanted everyone to look at him. And when we looked, we were as awed as he wanted and needed us to be, and we offered up the love that he asked for and that he made, and for a long time it was enough, it was everything, and at the same time it was not and could never be enough.

Rest of essay here.



  1. I have to say. I found your essay enthralling. As a woman in her late forties who literally came of age under the reign of Prince, it’s been difficult for me to really articulate why his death has left me hollow – speechless – and still in some measure of disbelief. I’ve obsessively read many of the “tribute” pieces that followed his passing. As well-written and thoughtful as many of them have been, I don’t think any of them quite captures that *thing* about Prince – that lightning-in-a-bottle-how-many-angels-can-dance-on-the-head-of-a-pin *thing* that you’ve captured here. Really – one of the finest pieces I think I’ve ever read.

  2. I have had these thoughts “pending” on POPMATTERS for a day and a half, but my comments have yet to appear so I thought I’d share them here. I don’t know where the moderators might be; maybe they are just busy living their Pop Life. 🙂 My post is hardly profound enough to appear multiple places yet once I wrote what I wrote I’ve been wanting someone to hear me. So . . . for what its worth . . .

    Jane, thank you so much. I’ve read this maybe only 20 times . . . so far . . . and shared it with my very patient therapist who has sat with me for seven weeks now with copious tears, heavy sorrow, guilt, acute feelings of loss and sadness and incredible discovery that is like Mary Poppins’ carpet bag: videos, records, writings, photos, tunes, lyrics. Oh my God the lyrics! Right now I’m listening to Art Official Age (WAY BACK HOME). Yesterday was LET’S GO DOWN TO THE HOLY RIVER. And then there is this sweet, tender, less than two minute gem: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2U0Olh574nw The internet vault is open and flooding with new discoveries daily as I’m sure you know. There isn’t enough time in the day or the night, even if I didn’t have a full time job. What treasures!

    Yes I have a story but it didn’t start when I was 14 or even 25; hence the crippling, almost unbearable (at times) hard reality that I didn’t know what I didn’t know until it was gone. I am so struck by your water analogy. Before I discovered your piece . . . I found myself trying to explain to people – who I trust with this and there aren’t many – that what I have been experiencing since April 21st feels like a flash flood or even a Prince-ly tsunami and, even though it seems so odd, I can only surrender and ride it out because I don’t really have a choice. I am consumed.

    I don’t know where this certainty is coming from but I feel like Prince’s death is going to change my life. As hyperbolic as that sounds I’m just gonna go with the flow. I also keep thinking about baptism in both a narrow and broad sense . . . and I just found this entry online from a southern pastor (who was rather pilloried by people in the comments section for even suggesting such a thing). http://www.al.com/opinion/inde

    Thank you for articulating so well and so fiercely this eulogy for a mind-bending, life-changing artist that deserves every accolade he has ever received and what is still coming his way. I also wish I could write just half as well as you do.

  3. Your eulogy is the most insightful and truthful thing I have read about Prince. I have only discovered prince since his death and have become enthralled and seduced by him ,arrested by his sexuality ,his yearning ,his spiritual quest ….but I’ve only come to understand him more fully on reading your work… I couldn’t understand why he was drawing me in so powerfully …Was it my grief ,and the human suffering of the cancer patients I work with …was it my raging menopausal hormones which after years of childrearing seemed to have dimmed to nothing , suddenly emerging with having time and hormone changes..

    My friends and family seem to think I’ve gone slightly mad , I can only describe finding his work a little like a religious conversion …..I have no religion but the yearning to make spiritual connection ,my loneliness since losing my dear mother , my struggles in the workplace to hang onto my values…all thing Prince gets and gives to help us all , all the sensitive ones with skin like tissue paper…I think he was one of those ….

    You have truly done your self ,Prince and your craft proud with your beautiful eulogy .

  4. Jane Clare Jones, I promise, if I ever see you I will SLAP you! (Not a threat … an affirmation) You wrote the absolute shit out of this piece. All I have left after reading “Water Baby” is profanity and prayer. I might actually take my laptop and smash it. You have written it all Sista, there is nothing left to ponder. Let the church say AMEN!

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