No one could have predicted the purple rain that fell on April 21, 2016. Prince Rogers Nelson, the artist and performer known for his eccentric style and strong sense of individuality, unexpectedly passed away this past Thursday on April 21, 2016 in his Paisley Park residence in Chanhassen, Minnesota. The cause of his sudden and tragic death is still unknown.
Since his childhood, music has played a large role in Prince’s life. He was inspired by his parents’ jazz trio and artists of different genres like James Brown and Stevie Wonder. As Prince later said to Rolling Stone, “Half the musicians I knew only listened to one type of music. That wasn’t good enough for me.” It was inspiration from genres like jazz, funk, and R&B that shaped Prince’s innovative sound. By the time he was 19, Prince had signed his first music label, beginning his ambitious career in the 1970s. It wasn’t until his second album, Prince, that he truly rose to stardom. It sold over a million copies and his music dominated the Top 10 charts for the next decade.
In the 80s, he came out with hits like, “Kiss,” “Little Red Corvette,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Purple Rain,” and “When Doves Cry.” Unlike many other artists, he played his own instruments, sang every line, and wrote every song. Many of his album credits read “produced, arranged, composed, and performed by Prince.” In 1984, he also wrote and starred in the film Purple Rain. Due to its massive success, he had the number one album, film, and single in the US simultaneously. Even more impressive, he was the first artist to do this. The movie’s soundtrack sold over 13 million copies in the US and landed Prince two Grammys and an Academy Award.
During his 40 year career, he accomplished more than most achieve in their lifetime. He won 7 Grammys, an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He released 39 albums and was one of the best-selling artists in the world, selling over 100 million records. Prince’s biggest achievement, however, was his indelible mark on the music industry. By combining a medley of genres, Prince created a new sound and style of music. His unparalleled stage presence and wild spirit connected him to people across the globe.
After the news of his death, fans took to social media to share what Prince and his music meant to them. As one fan shared with The New York Times, “[His music] gave me inspiration to be whomever I wanted…to be creative in spite of the naysayers. He was the first person I really felt personified the attitude of ‘do you.’ And it was liberating.” On Facebook, President Obama shared this statement: “Today, the world lost a creative icon…Few artists have influenced the sound and trajectory of popular music more distinctly, or touched quite so many people with their talent. As one of the most gifted and prolific musicians of our time, Prince did it all. Funk. R&B. Rock and roll… ‘A strong spirit transcends rules,' Prince once said. And nobody's spirit was stronger, bolder or more creative.” Many more remembered Prince across the media. Google made their logo purple in his honor, Snapchat created a filter with purple rain, radios around the country played Prince’s hits and AMC theaters played “Purple Rain” in theaters again. Our own Duke Energy Center was lit in electrifying purple.
All those who loved Prince heard what it sounds like when a dove cries the day Prince left us. His unforgettable talent and art will continue to inspire people for generations to come. As Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota, Prince’s home state, said, “To say he will be missed is an understatement.”