Prince once said, “Despite everything, no one can dictate who you are to other people.”
Of all lessons, it is this lesson that I cherish most because it is the core thread upon which each of these other lessons are strung together. That statement, and lyrics like “she walked in through the out door” in his hit song, “Raspberry Beret” served as a call to action to be daring and proactive in the narration of your life.
“Why do they not teach you that time is a finger snap and an eye blink, and that you should not allow a moment to pass you by without taking joyous, ecstatic note of it, not wasting a single moment of its swift, breakneck circuit?” –Pat Conroy
In the span of six weeks we have lost two of the most influential artists of the 21st century. They may seem dissimilar, yet they have more in common than you may think:
Both Pat Conroy and Prince were daring in their own way, and they listened to their inner voices. And each believed in that ‘voice’ to such a degree that it helped change the way we think about writing, ownership of one’s craft and the value of being fearless.
“A strong spirit transcends rules.” –Prince
Authors and musicians have a great deal in common. An album or CD is like a volume of short stories- a canon of one’s work and reflective of a generation. Both Pat and Prince’s influence on those that came after them is necessarily huge. And yet, in some ways, the shadow they cast over the cultural landscape is more diffuse than other colossus of the artistic world we have lost. In part, that probably has to do with the fact their genius was more instinctive in nature.
That they followed their instincts and thrived –in spite of unrelenting critics– is an example to us. That they became successful and did not forget their roots is even more instructive.
Both men were also avid supporters of their fellow artists.
Pat was tireless is his support of young unknown writers, of fellow USC Press authors and of his readers. He also remained loyal to his Southern roots, just as PRINCE stayed rooted in Minnesota and helped mentor legions of protégés.
For dozens of writers and musicians, most of them plucked from obscurity, Pat and Prince each became a cross between visionary and father figure, artists who would invite fellow aspiring artists into their respective inner sanctums.
Both were legendary for stamina during public events and capable of playing to any audience.
They turned seemingly negative events into feature performances. Prince turned a downpour during his 2007 Super Bowl performance into something memorable by owning it. He used nature to his advantage and made it look planned, a special effect.
Just as Pat Conroy used the downpour of his father’s wrath to his creative advantage, and how he made every single booksigning special for every single reader in line, holding out his hand to each and famously introducing himself, “Hi, I’m Pat Conroy” (as if anyone lined up didn’t know). He did it so they’d introduce themselves, too; Pat loved meeting new readers.
Both Provided Unconditional Support to fellow artists.
Pat and Prince were unusual in the sheer extent to which they discovered and championed other artists, many of them far from being household names. Both enjoyed seeing people’s dreams come true.
Perhaps it is the commonality – the crucible of a painful childhood – that honed their sensitivity to the needs of others, but it is an instructive and beautiful lesson about how to live in truth, how to nurture one’s craft, and how to reach out and champion others along the way, having not forgotten the hard work and the resulting strength within.
“There is no teacher more discriminating or transforming than loss.” –Pat Conroy
Have either of these princes influenced you, your philosophy, or your craft? Share your story with your comments below!