The music world has lost yet another icon. Prince, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, was found dead in his Minnesota home on Thursday at the age of 57.
Born in Minneapolis as Prince Rogers Nelson, the superstar leaves behind a legacy that includes 39 studio albums, one Academy Award and seven Grammys.
While music fans will remember the late icon for hits such as “When Doves Cry” and “Purple Rain,” along with his abilities on the guitar, Prince had a cultural significance that transcended his music.
Using his art as a form of expression, Prince defied societal norms of masculinity. Ahead of his time in many aspects, his gender fluidity paved the way for other artists and listeners to express themselves how they saw fit. As Christina Cauterucci of Slate put it, “Prince didn’t just disregard the boundaries of gender and sexuality: He kicked straight through them.”
As the music world mourns the loss of such an important figure, familiar names have popped up to share their stories about the late musician. From Stevie Wonder to President Obama, music fans from all paths of life have been affected by Prince’s music, in some way or another.
“Few artists have influenced the sound and trajectory of popular music more distinctly, or touched quite so many people with their talent,” Obama stated in a Facebook post. “As one of the most gifted and prolific musicians of our time, Prince did it all.”
Throughout his four decade career, Prince had his ups and downs. Legal battles with Warner Bros. over financial and artistic control of his work led him to speak out against the music industry. During the lawsuit, the icon appeared publicly with the word “slave” written on his cheek, explaining during the suit: “Prince is the name that my mother gave me at birth. Warner Bros. took the name, trademarked it, and used it as the main marketing tool to promote all of the music that I wrote. The company owns the name Prince and all related music marketed under Prince. I became merely a pawn used to produce more money for Warner Bros.”
This legal battle also led Prince to change his stage name multiple times throughout the course of his career. Prince started to be recognized by the “Love Symbol,” an unpronounceable graphic, as opposed to his original stage name.
Prince explained the symbol as a “representation of me and what my music is about. This symbol is present in my work over the years; it is a concept that has evolved from my frustration; it is who I am. It is my name.”
Despite his disputes with record companies, Prince was more than willing to help his fellow musicians. Writing under pseudonyms, Prince wrote songs for several musicians and groups, such as Sinead O’Connor, The Bangles and Stevie Nicks.
“My friend is gone,” Nicks tweeted. “This is what it sounds like, when doves cry. He was my dove…”
Prince is just one of the great talents that we have lost in 2016. As he sang in the track “1999,” “life is just a party, and parties weren't meant to last.” While life itself doesn’t last forever, Prince’s music and impact on society certainly will.