A Lasting Legacy

Riley Addington

Last Thursday, an icon in the music industry departed from the world of the living, and now we are left to remember the life and mourn the loss of Prince. At the age of 57.

 Prince spent his life making a career as one of the most accomplished rock and roll musicians in modern pop culture.

 In addition to being an entertaining musical performer, Prince was also seen as something of an icon for breaking down racial stereotypes and redefining gender roles. It’s with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to Prince. Before we do that, though, we should remember some of his many accomplishments.

 Prince Rogers Nelson, more commonly known by his performing name Prince, was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1958. Alex Hahn wrote a biographical account of Prince in 2004 titled “Possessed: The Rise and Fall of Prince” that provided the public with an intimate look into the singer’s early life. John Nelson, Prince’s father, was a pianist and his mother Mattie Shaw was once a jazz singer. It was clear from the beginning that Prince was apt to be a talented musician given his parents’ lifestyles.

 According to Hahn, the singer’s father once stated, “I named my son Prince because I wanted him to do everything I wanted to do.” So, when Prince allegedly wrote his first tune called “Funk Machine” at the age of seven, few people could be surprised.

 However, Prince’s childhood would not be continuously charmed as his parents separated when he was 10 years old. Between living in his parents’ homes on-and-off. In addition, Prince had seizures as a child,  as he was born epileptic. Although, there was no way these downfalls were going to slow the musical genius down.

 Instead of accepting defeat, Prince continued to focus on his musical passions and joined a band, “Grand Central,” during high school with one of his cousins. It was around this time that Prince began to build a reputation for being a musical virtuoso as he was already starting to become a masterful musician on multiple instruments, acting both as Grand Central’s pianist and guitarist.

 When Prince began his commercial career, he continued to demonstrate his mastery over the musical instruments that he played to the point where he could play a variety of 27 instruments. Stan Hawkins and Sarah Niblock, in their 2012 book “Prince: The Making of a Pop Music Phenomenon,” wrote that during his first five albums Prince used his musical talent as a way to exercise control over how his music was produced and sounded, which was something that provided the artist with a large amount of creative license.

 Unfortunately, Prince would begin to lose some of this creative license, and in the beginning of the 1990s he became engaged in a contractual battle with Warner Brothers. The dispute was based on the pace by which his music was to be released. Following this, Prince broke away from Warner Bros. by changing his name and image as an artist to a symbol that combined the symbols for male and female. At first this symbol was referred to as the “Love Symbol” and then Prince began referring to himself as either “The Artist” or “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.”

 In 2000, Prince dropped his symbol as his identifying marker and used his name once again to refer to himself. During the mid 2000s, Prince gave audiences one of his most iconic and memorable performances. In front of thousands of fans and millions of viewers on television, Prince took to a stage shaped in the fashion of his symbol for Super Bowl XLI’s halftime show. In a spectacle for the ages, Prince wowed his audience by performing the song “Purple Rain” while in the middle of a downpour. 

 Prince would continue his musical career in a successful way and even returned to Warner Bros. in 2014. Following this he would continue to work on new music as well as perfect some of his previous releases. Last year during 2015, Prince released his last two albums titled “Hit n Run,” which were two parts that complemented one another. Sadly, this would be the final album that the world would get to receive from Prince. However, his collective works are massive and it’s more likely than not that a memorial album combining the best of his works will be released eventually.

 What’s also worth mentioning is the work that Prince had done towards increasing awareness for issues concerning sexuality and race relations. During the May 2015 Baltimore riots, concerning the death of Freddie Gray, Prince released a song as a tribute to Gray that also supported the protestors. Also, as a performer throughout his career, Prince opted towards dressing in outfits that combined elements of both male and female fashion styles. Overall, Prince can be remembered for what he was: an amazing artist and compassionate human being.