Monday, April 25, 2016

Prince, Legendary Music Phenom and Innovator, Dead At 57

Music icon Prince died on Thursday, April 21, less than a week after he was briefly hospitalized for the flu. The cause of his death has not yet been determined. He was 57.

Prince was one of the most multifaceted artists in pop-music history. The breadth of his talents seemed limitless. He could do it all—and do it all well. He was a talented singer, a gifted multi-instrumentalist (guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, etc.) and a consummate songwriter, arranger and producer. Probably not since Stevie Wonder had a music superstar had such a wide and varied skillset.

In addition to his many amazing accomplishments in the recording studio, the Purple One will also be remembered as one of the most electrifying performers to ever hit the stage. Onstage, he melded James Brown’s raw, explosive energy with Jimi Hendrix’s galvanic rock-star charisma. A Prince concert was by turns rowdy dance party, wild rock show and rousing church revival. He never let his audience down and always brought everything he had to the stage.

Additionally, Prince was a true music innovator. He cultivated his own unique sound and never deviated from his musical vision. He got over on his own terms without compromising his art or toning down the sometimes controversial themes in his songs.

His Royal Badness also smashed through the sometimes constrictive boundaries that come with the designation of R&B artist. The musician’s restless creativity couldn’t be contained within a single music genre. His sound was a potent mix of styles, which included funk, rock, soul, gospel, pop, jazz, rockabilly, R&B, new wave, synthpop and even some avant-garde. He was always pushing the envelope with his music and testing new ideas.

With landmark albums like Dirty Mind, 1999 and Purple Rain, Prince brought the Minneapolis sound to the masses. Its widespread influence can be heard in numerous music genres today.

And Prince was as daring thematically as he was sonically. He brazenly took on taboo sexual themes in his music as well as spiritual ones—sometimes in the same song.  His desire to unite spirituality and sexuality in song was one of the things that made him such an intriguing and provocative artist. He also tackled hot-button political and social issues on his records.

Prince’s gender-bending androgynous image—particularly throughout the 1980s and early ‘90s—was almost as controversial as some of the more ribald themes in his music.  In his early days, he’d wear women’s underwear onstage, thigh-high socks and high-heeled boots.

Whether he was doing it for the shock value or because he really wanted to dress that way, it took some serious guts to go onstage like that in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s in Minneapolis. In his later years, he toned down his flamboyant attire considerably, especially after he converted to the Jehovah’s Witness faith in 2001. However, his adventurous spirit in the studio never subsided. He continued to experiment and expand his sound to the end.

His Royal Badness was without question one of the most important artists of the last 30-plus years in modern music. His music has touched millions across the globe and influenced a generation of musicians and performers. Legions of young music artists cite Prince as being a major influence and inspiration.

The worldwide outpouring of love and endless tributes over the last few days show just how significant an artist Prince was and the tremendous impact he’s had on music and entertainment. On April 21, the world lost an incredible talent, who left behind an amazing musical legacy.

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