The Late and Great: Why Does Losing A Black Entertainment Legend Hit Us So Hard?

In Arts & Entertainment by Domonique HamiltonLeave a Comment

Photo by Ann Althouse via Flickr

On April 21, 2016, the world lost yet another music icon, Prince Rodgers Nelson. While people  around the world recognized the loss of a true legend, the African American community felt it as the lost of a treasured brother. Over the past 7 years, we have lost so many of our talented artists and each time they take with them something special the world may never see again.

But why does it matter so much? After all, death is a part of life and we really don’t personally know these individuals, right? So why does it hit us so hard when we lose another legend?

I sought the answer from fellow students.

“Oh my god, I was devastated!” Neuroscience major Mariamu Osumah exclaimed when I asked her how she felt after Prince’s death. When I proceeded to ask her why, she elaborated.

“Because he was a legend. Like, you didn’t have to meet him to be hurt by his death . . . I mean, his music reached a great amount of people cross-culturally.”

Madeline Bracamontes, who was also triggered by his sudden death, felt that even though she didn’t not know him, his music made her feel like she did. “I grew up listening to him. When you spend your whole life listening to an artist . . . they become a part of your childhood. Your life.”

Associate Professor of Sociology, Theresa Martinez, at the University of Utah says it because “these people are related to our understanding of ourselves, as a culture. We feel like it’s a family member.”

Simply put, even if you’d never met them, an artist’s music makes you feel like you do. Their voices take you to another dimension. Their lyrics make you feel some type of way.  Even if you are five and don’t know their meaning (or at least aren’t supposed to), you still feel it.

Our legends and their music are a part of our culture and therefore are an integral part of us.   When we lose them we are, in a sense, losing a part of ourselves.

Additionally, these are the people that innovate and elevate all genres of music—-rock, pop, r&b. They shape the way we listen to and feel music time and time again with their attention-grabbing talent and time-withstanding bops. Surfacing only once in a blue moon, these musical gems unapologetically and beautifully break barriers of racism, classism, and all the other negative isms out there. They perpetuate our culture through their music boldly and proudly, making us proud to be Black. Because if someone like them can be so great and defiantly Black, so can I.We grab on to them and proudly support them. We can’t help but to love them in a special way.

The Temptations. Teddy Pendergrass. Etta James. Whitney Houston. Michael Jackson.


The recent deaths in the Black entertainment only serve to remind us that our legends are not as invincible as we perceive them to be. Losing them, just like losing a close family member, reminds us that life goes on. But let us not get too downtrodden in what seems to be the diminishing of our culture. There are still those who are toiling as “legends in the making” striving to continue to carry the torch set by their processors. If anything we should take the passings of our heroes as a reminder to enjoy and cherish them while we can.  

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