Music flowed through the veins of Prince Roger Nelson, a man whose talents captivated the world and left skylines painted purple after his unexpected death on Thursday April 26. Prince left behind a legacy that will never be restricted by genre or demographics.
I can still remember my mother introducing me to the musical legend on our way to school, singing along to songs like “Raspberry Beret.” I will forever be grateful for moments in my life like these, induced by Prince’s unique and uplifting musical style.
The fluidity of his musical endeavors has always been in his highest interests. “When I first started out in the music industry, I was most concerned with freedom. Freedom to produce, freedom to play all the instruments on my records, freedom to say anything I wanted to,” said Prince during his 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction.
His belief in the freedom of creativity has allowed him to personally record his music on his own, singing every vocal part and playing every instrument—including guitars, basses, keyboards, and synthesizers—throughout the majority of his career. After battling Warner Bros. in the 1990s over their mandate of releasing only one album a year—a producing pace too slow for Prince’s liking—he started his own record label, New Power Generation (NPG) Records. Though it did not develop into a full label such as Paisley Park, NPG was used exclusively to release Prince’s albums or side-projects.
It is impossible to classify Prince’s music in one genre. Mostly known for his revolution of funk and sweeping array of pop sounds, Prince also contributed to the new age sound of rock, R&B, and has been described by jazz legend Miles Davis as, “an otherworldly blend of James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Marvin Gaye, Sly Stone, Little Richard, Duke Ellington, and Charlie Chaplin.”
Though he was often mocked for his eccentricity, androgynous appearance, and denial of racial stereotypes, Prince’s awareness of gender and race issues has helped broaden the idea of performance and who has the ability to perform. His appearance and style has influenced artists such as Little Richard and David Bowie, who predeceased Prince by three months.
“If you want to see his influence, all you have to do is look at what’s happening today, where you have Kanye West releasing an album on different platforms and adding to it as he goes along, or Drake saying, ‘You know what, I’ve got a new record and I’m just going to drop it,’” said Jimmy Jam, the producer and longtime associate of Prince. “Those types of things, what the music business turned into; a lot of that is directly related to the artistic freedoms that Prince was looking for,” Jam added.
Although the Prince of Pop has passed, his legacy will live on, as artists are free to creatively indulge in their music, and generations of people are introduced to the man who influenced music as we have come to know it today.
Written By: Deni Balak