Culture Caucus Podcast

Purple Pain, or Why Prince’s Death Brought Us Together in a Way That Politics No Longer Can

In the ninth episode of the Culture Caucus podcast, John Heilemann and Will Leitch mourn Prince’s death—and marvel at the breadth and magnitude of its impact—with music writer Lizzy Goodman.

Prince performs during the 2013 Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 19, 2013, in Las Vegas.

Photographer: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

2016 is only four months old, but already the new(ish) year has brought the loss of a staggering number of seminal and beloved musicians: David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Phife Dawg, Merle Haggard, Maurice White. But none of those untimely deaths shook the world more than that of Prince. Once the news was confirmed, it seemed that the entire country was plunged into a prolonged stretch of collective mourning, a sorrow so deep it almost took you by surprise, as if you hadn't realized just how brilliant the Purple One was, or how deeply interwoven his oeuvre was into the fabric of your life.


In the ninth episode of the Culture Caucus podcast, we discuss the death of Prince, how his passing united us in a way that nothing or no one has in years, and why music is capable of summoning moments of unity and community in a way few other cultural forces—not movies, not sports, and certainly not politics—can muster in the fractured, atomized, often wretchedly polarized environment in which we live. We talk about social media's impact on our grieving, and how, within a few days of Prince's death, the 32-year-old relic that is "Purple Rain" was playing in nearly every multiplex in the country. And we discuss how the way we consume music today expanded Prince's influence while often keeping his songs at arm's length. And mostly we ask: Will we as a nation ever again mourn anyone the way that we mourned Prince?

In the second half of the podcast, we talk to Lizzy Goodman, whose writing on music and music culture has enlivened the pages of The New York Times Magazine, Elle, New York, Rolling Stone, and N.M.E., and whose forthcoming book, Meet Me in the Bathroom, promises to be the definitive oral history of the 2000s music scene in New York City. Lizzy riffs with us about Prince, and what made him unique as a musician and personality, even among other unique musicians and personalities. We don't know anyone we'd trust to talk on this topic more than we'd trust her.

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