I’m still firmly in the “denial” stage on this news, although the AP has just confirmed it: Prince, renowned musician, has passed away at the age of 57.
Can we just take a second and marvel that Prince was only 57 years old? He feels like a much more eternal figure than that, given his pervasive influence on music and culture. His music career kicked off in the 1970s, when Prince was in his late teens. Throughout his career, Prince became well-known not only for fusing multiple musical genres and appealing across many demographics as a result, but also for being incredibly prolific.
As his full discography demonstrates, Prince has released an album per year almost every year of his musical career–sometimes two albums per year. What’s more, his own personal archives contain reams of music that have never been released. These archives have become legendary in the music industry, and will doubtless become an ongoing point of contention for the musician’s estate in the years to come.
Not only was Prince prolific, he was also a best-selling, multiple award-winning, multi-instrumental phenom–not to mention a fashion plate with several evolutions of his own personal aesthetic. Much has been written about Prince’s navigation of his sexual identity and gender fluidity in his work. Prince’s fans often cited the musician’s androgyny as the precise reason why they found him so compelling. Pushing between the boundaries of the gender binary, as well as the boundaries between multiple musical styles, are the defining elements of Prince’s work.
Prince was also known for having a tumultuous private life; a former girlfriend once brought charges against him for filming their sex acts without her knowledge, as well as threatening her while referring to himself as the “Messiah.” (She also detailed “bizarre sex parties” that she alleged had occurred at his home, although she makes no mention of anything non-consensual occurring at these parties, other than the filming.) Prince won this case; although it seems to be the most extreme example, it’s not the only example of a former partner or colleague describing his temperamental nature. Sinead O’Connor, for example, has a famous story about herself and Prince getting into a fist fight with one another over the course of their musical collaboration; needless to say, this collaboration did not pan out.
Prince was seen as a legendary and almost mythical figure even in life, and doubtless the legends about him will continue to appear long after his death. What we do also have left is a huge catalogue of his musical artistry. As for me, I have too many favorites to include here, but here’s one that I’ve been listening to today: “Givin’ ‘Em What They Love,” Prince’s stunning collaboration with Janelle Monae.
Thanks for everything, Prince.
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