American Icon: Prince

Prince, Purple Rain and American Sunglass

If you grew up in the 1980s and 90s, then Prince was most likely a large part of the soundtrack to your childhood.

And one week after Prince’s passing, many of us are wishing we could take this cassette tape called life and press rewind so we could go back to those days. Back to a time when the music of Prince moved us emotionally, spiritually and physically.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way and we are left with a mixture of emotions ranging from sadness to shock to anger. Yes, Prince is gone. And it doesn’t seem fair.

Any loss is difficult, but it becomes even more profound when that person is taken from us far too early.

Even though he was 57, Prince was a true icon, leaving an indelible mark on the world. It started with his music, but went far beyond that to fashion, philanthropy, civil rights, art and individuality.

It was music that launched him into the world consciousness in the late 1970s when he released “For You.” That was the first of over three dozen albums he put out until his sudden death last week. According to some reports, he is said to have enough unreleased music that he could release a posthumous album once a year for the next 100 years.

Clearly, he was prolific, but that never came at the expense of talent. Prince was a true virtuoso. He played the guitars, keyboards, drums and performed nearly all the instruments on his first five albums which included such hits as “When You Were Mine”, “1999” and “Little Red Corvette.” Many of his albums were simply credited as, “Produced, arranged, composed and performed by Prince,” revealing the artistry he brought to music.

Prince received worldwide acclaim with the 1984 film and album “Purple Rain,” which told a fictionalized version of his life. Among the memorable songs to come out of that masterpiece were “When Doves Cry”, “Let’s Go Crazy”, “Purple Rain” and “I Would Die 4 U.”

Not only was Prince and amazing musician and performer, but he was an accomplished songwriter, penning the beautiful “Nothing Compares 2 U” for Sinead O’Connor, the effervescent “Manic Monday” for the Bangles and the sultry “I Feel for You” for Chaka Khan.

Unlike his contemporaries, Prince could never be pigeonholed into one specific genre. He was rock, pop, jazz, funk, R&B and dance, all rolled into one. And when you saw him perform live, you knew you were in for something special. Watching his Super Bowl halftime performance in 2007 leaves you with chills, even today.

He brought his versatility to fashion. Whether adorned in black underwear and a black sleeveless tee, a white lace two-piece outfit or an aqua blue suit with an orange shirt, he was flamboyant while remaining stylistically cool, and always unique.

In the 1990s as the friction between he and his label, Warner Bros., grew, he took a stand for his art, changing his name to an unpronounceable symbol, often appearing in public with the word “Slave” written on his face. When his contract with Warner Bros. ended, he celebrated by putting out an album dubbed “Emancipation.” Until his death, his music was never found on such popular sites as iTunes, Spotify and Pandora as he was critical of the lack of compensation given to musicians like himself by companies that owned those services.

In the days following his death, we’ve learned more about Prince’s generosity, whether it be opening up his recording studio Paisley Park to parties for fans or donating to charities like #YesWeCode which educates urban youth about technology or buying his former tour bus driver a purple Harley Sportster as a gift.

None of this comes as a surprise for someone who seemingly gave his all, not only to his craft, but to life. Much like his musical counterpart David Bowie, Prince made the most of his talents during his short time on Earth and then shared that with us as best he could. And we are all the luckier for it.

Words of an Icon: “Dearly beloved, we are gathered her today to get through this thing called life.” – Prince