Pop icon and music legend, Prince, died April 21 at 57.
Story by Nick Erickson Staff writer
In the summer of 2009, the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, left the world. Barely three years later, the life of the Queen of rhythm and blues, Whitney Houston, came to a tragic end.
Fast forward to April 21 of this year, and the world was swept with the devastating news of the passing of one of the biggest music icons of all time, the one and only Prince. Loved by just about everyone (not to mention all of the ladies he wooed), he is regarded as one of the largest innovators of the pop genre and left behind an immense legacy.
Among a littered crowd of musicians, Prince stood out like a shining star in the black of night. Not conforming to one particular genre, he integrated a diverse variety of styles including funk, rock, R&B and even psychedelia. His stage presence was almost as impressive as his vocal range. He managed to master an array of instruments, most prominently the electric guitar, which he used as his paintbrush to create some of his most notable moments (cue the colorful solo of “Purple Rain”).
With a pianist as a father and a jazz singer as a mother, Prince took an interest in music from a very young age. By the time he was 19 years old, he had demos he’d self-produced. It was his 1978 debut album, “For You,” that set the stage for the start of his success. This album, released by Warner Bros. Records, was nine tracks of pure R&B, funk and touches of ever-prevalent disco. His first single, “Soft and Wet,” was a thick concoction of synthesizers, bass and drums, which impressed many, as Prince recorded everything himself. Word caught on about the young artist, and he soon became renowned as the new face of talent.
A year later, his follow-up self-titled album “Prince” was released. Prince achieved platinum status with this record thanks to the enormous success of his single, “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” which to this day still remains one of his most popular tracks. Prince’s tender falsetto voice, coupled with a driving disco beat, became the nation’s newest earworm.
Prince never let up on the release of new music, pumping out three albums the next three consecutive years, “Dirty Mind,” “Controversy” and “1999.” His lyricism more often than not contained fun and sensuous motives. “Little Red Corvette,” one of his biggest hits from “1999,” was beloved for its edge. “A body like yours ought to be in jail, cause it’s on the verge of being obscene.” It’s no doubt Prince made sure his music was always fun to sing along with.
In 1984, he also incorporated his own live band, named The Revolution, to back him up and fill out his performances. That same year, he released his magnum opus, “Purple Rain.” The title track reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and his single “When Doves Cry” continues to be one of his most beloved numbers, capturing his lyric-writing virtuoso. The album even became the soundtrack to Prince’s own movie, also titled “Purple Rain.” He was virtually running the music game.
Prince went on to write, record and produce more than 30 albums after the success of “Purple Rain.” His last musical endeavors, “Hit n Run Phase One” and “Hit n Run Phase Two” were both released in 2015. By this point, the artist was 56 years old, a long way from where he had begun. One thing is for certain: he made a lasting impact on music.
Prince did so many things most musicians cannot say about themselves. He put out a jaw-dropping 38 records, influenced music and injected his own doses into the genres he played. Never sticking to one particular sound, he always had fans on their toes anticipating his next move. Touring the globe extensively for decades, Prince never let any of his energy go. The flamboyant presence he portrayed on stage for millions of fans remained persistent over the years. Times changed, but Prince sure didn’t. It’s hard to believe anyone could match his charisma.
Future generations will never have a chance to experience the legend in the flesh, but as the world mourns the loss of the pop icon, there is a positive light shed onto his end: his legacy has not truly ended. Though Prince may be gone, his music is here to stay. When the world is sad, it can pop “Purple Rain” into the CD player and let the nostalgia of Prince’s voice spread joy, even if just for a song or two.