The Gangster of Glam, his Royal Badness, the Prince of Pop - no matter what title is given to him, Prince Rogers Nelson (June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016) was an American singer, songwriter, collaborator, self-taught player of at least 27 instruments, actor and integrator of soul, funk, rock, jazz, hip hop and pop. Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, he was named after the jazz band his father joined at the time. As a teenager, Prince would revel in playing basketball but was much more interested in seeking out a way to create his own music since it was difficult to find albums in his hometown from artists that he loved.
Eventually, he would find solace to further develop his interest in music and discover a safe haven away from his stepfather when he joined a band called Grand Central Station with other members such as Andre Anderson and his sister Linda, along with Morris Day. This group would be the ground plan for The Artist to refine his skills and expand his knowledge with regard to various styles of melodies and production. Driven by his inspiration to record music, this musical savior would reinvent genres that were not just for listening, but for looking. Prince emerged during the ‘80s as an unstoppable force to be reckoned with. His magnetic personality, signature purple color (other band members could not wear it), and music in the hit film “Purple Rain” catapulted him to super-stardom with frequent tours, writing songs for other artists, producing albums, and recording an enormous amount of unreleased material which still lies tucked away in his hidden vault at Paisley Park.
As an innovator, he would remain in the world’s limelight for more than a decade with his open-minded lyrics, extravagant stage presence, and immense vocal range. He was notorious for constantly experimenting with different sounds, layers, and genres and being insistent on how his music was to be sold and distributed. With each album he released, fans would listen for hours to the distinguished growth in his music and style and watch as he would reinvent himself from the days with The Revolution and The New Power Generation, to sporting an afro while playing with his new band 3rdEyeGirl. In his hometown, he was, and still is largely respected as the pioneer and advocate of the Minneapolis sound which incorporates funk with synthesized sounds and drums. During that era Prince influenced, produced and wrote songs for The Time, Vanity 6 and Sheila E.
Later in his life, Prince would re-sign with Warner Bros. Records whom he had protested for many years. This would spark the mega music company to not only give him his master recordings, but to launch a promotion to reissue Purple Rain to celebrate its 30th anniversary. Meanwhile, Prince would continue touring around the world with appearances at the SuperBowl XLI (2007), 21 Nights in London 2007), HitnRun Part I and II (2014), and in early 2016 a solo tour in America he dubbed “Piano and a Microphone”.
Unfortunately, his list of dates would not be completed when the tour was cut short in April due to illness. Speculation still surrounds the emergency landing his private jet had to make in Moline, Illinois days before his death. The coroner’s report asserts that Prince died of an accidental overdose of the painkiller fentanyl, but no matter what people choose to believe, we can always be reminded of his true essence from one of his popular quotes: “Despite everything, NO ONE can dictate WHO YOU ARE to other people.”
Heaven just got a little bit funkier! RIP.
"You are either here to enlighten or discourage." - Prince