Then one thing that never changes joined the conversation: Alumni remember my "dead celebrity project." Yesterday I reminisced about how a former student I didn't have a deep bond with sent me a lovely note and a newspaper clipping when Mr. Rogers died. I told my coffee mate how I was surprised at the breadth of social response to Robin Williams, and we talked about why David Bowie was so significant.
Today, my brother* texted me: "Sorry about Prince."
Thirty minutes later, another text, from a friend and former student: "I think this is the year to finish your book."
I'm working on it. I write about social responses to the death of celebrities. The interest got me in the late summer of 1997 (just that date will prove some point if you fill in the blank without much effort). Since then, I've tracked, theorized, listened, researched, and absorbed a lot of answers to, "Who's yours?" -- sometimes without my even asking. It's fascinating and overwhelming and I really think it's important. Why and how do we respond to the death of someone famous? When do we grieve? With whom are we mourners?
First, though, we respond. I respond.
I follow a tech activist and entrepreneur whose diverse Twitter feed regularly celebrates his favorite Artist. I recommend Anil Dash's thread (still active as I write) responding to Prince's death (and art and life). Anil's kind of a Tech Twitter celebrity, I guess. His loss, and his writing's sunlight on our loss moves me.
I think Prince spent so much time & energy insisting he was ageless and immortal that maybe I bought it a little bit. I grieve over that.— ଅନୀଲ (@anildash) April 21, 2016
A person died. An icon died. We respond. We grieve. RIP Prince.
Now trending in our online dictionary: 'icon', 'iconic', and 'iconoclastic'. https://t.co/vbKDoK8mIG— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) April 21, 2016
*(My brother's at a librarians conference, during a big children's book award ceremony, where someone at his table read the news of Prince's death and then everyone at his table checked their phones. The winning book's about the history of hip hop.)