CNN  — 

Whoopi Goldberg said it best, echoing the thoughts of many: “This is what it sounds like when doves cry.”

She was far from the only person to invoke the indelible song to pay tribute to legendary musician Prince after news broke of his death on Thursday.

The opening lines of another monster hit, “Let’s Go Crazy,” also seemed to fit the circumstances: “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life…”

Within minutes, Prince’s profile picture on Twitter changed to remove his trademark glasses and reveal his third eye. It was a fitting symbol as expressions of grief and tributes reverberated through the Twitterverse.

Shock and denial was a prevalent theme. Comedian and Prince superfan Chris Rock summed up what everyone was feeling: “Say it isn’t so.”

In paying tribute to his artisty, Michelle Branch and many others shared a story that goes like this: “When Eric Clapton was asked how it felt to be the world’s best guitarist he replied: ‘I don’t know. Ask Prince.’ “

Chaka Khan and Russell Simmons were among those who bid farewell with “rest in Power.”

Rapper Chuck D, a man of words, found himself speechless in response to the news: “It’s like the Earth is missing a note. Little to say – only thing to do is play.”

To many, he was more than an entertainer, he was an outsider who showed it was OK – better, even – to stand out. And, as Anil Dash pointed out, he used his platform to promote women and people of color.

Amid the grief were expressions of gratitude, pure and simple.