The man behind some of the most innovative sounds in American pop music passed away on April 21. The death of Prince Rogers Nelson, better known as just Prince, marks a 2016 that has already featured the deaths of many visionaries, including fellow musical genius, David Bowie.
Prince first came onto the scene with his hit For You in 1978. The album came after Prince released a demo tape and signed a recording contract with Warner Bros. Shortly afterwards, Prince formed a backing band to accompany him on albums as well as for his live performances.
Prince’s initial breakthrough came with 1980’s Dirty Mind, which set the tone for the 80s new-wave infatuation. Yet Prince will always be remembered for the output he had during his period with the Revolution. In the mid 80s, Prince retooled his backing band as the Revolution. The band became known for its diverse style of dress, as well as the diversity among its members.
During this period, Prince pursued an ambitious project. The film Purple Rain was released in 1984, along with an album of the same name. The film proved to be a success at the box office, and the accompanying album formed an unyielding piece of Prince’s canon. Purple Rain’sstrong tracklist includes Prince classics “When Doves Cry” and “I Would Die 4 U.”
Prince also became known for his flamboyant style, as well as his eccentric manner of self-promotion. He changed his name multiple times, including to an unpronounceable symbol, during this period. He confounded his fans by going by The Artist Formerly Known As Prince.
Prince was also a strong pursuer of his copyright, suing multiple companies, including YouTube and eBay, for posting his songs without his permission. These legal pursuits alienated some of his fanbase.
One thing that’s for sure is that Prince served as a musical role model for both the African-American community and for any songwriter that pays homage to that 80s funk sound. His death, just like Bowie’s, helps us go back through the strong catalogues of artists that we sometimes forget. His timeless sounds have formed and will continue to form building blocks for many musicians that we enjoy today. Rest in Peace, Prince.