Adding to an unfortunately notable list for musical losses for 2016, genre-transcendent Prince has passed away in his Minnesota home, aged 57.
The death of the legendary musician, who has been responsible for more hits than we could list (though here are a few: ‘Purple Rain’, ‘Cream’, ‘Kiss’, ‘When Doves Cry’, ‘Raspberry Beret’), has already inspired an online outpouring of grief and like the loss of Bowie, has inspired fans to revisit his impact on the music industry.
We here at Collective Hub have done the same – here are four reasons we think Prince was the ultimate rule breaker. RIP Prince.
1. He changed his name… to a symbol
Never mind that it was unpronounceable. In defiance of an allegedly long drawn out battle over Prince wanting to release more music than his record label would allow, Prince began performing with the word ‘slave’ written over his face and then gave up his name, changing it to a symbol instead. He later cheekily referred to himself as the Artist Formerly Known as Prince in order to combat the fact no one could pronounce it. He later regained his name – which is his birth name, not a stage name – in the 2000s when the contract finally ceased.
2. He loved to keep people guessing… about everything
Prince’s persona was an important contributing accompaniment to his musical production: the effeminate physicality of Prince was often at odds with his overtly ‘masculine’ lyrics that never danced around the boundaries of appropriateness – they stepped all over them. Anyone remember ‘Sister’, the track that delved into incest?
He loved to create mystique around his gender, sexuality and any other typical identifiers of identity: lyrics like, “Am I black or white, am I straight or gay?” from his 1981 album Controversy is the perfect embodiment of this attitude.
This chosen symbol was also a clever mix of the male and female signs – another example of the way he loved to keep people guessing.
3. He wasn’t afraid to mix music genres to create his own unique sound
The distinctive ‘Prince sound’ may have been unique to him but it was a result of clever adaptation of a range of musical styles, mixed and matched to make his own sound.
Funk, R&B, soul, rock and hip-hop were all a part of his musical sound and even extended his reach to other artists of completing different genres and styles – he was the genius behind Sinead O’Connor’s tear-jerker “Nothing Compares to U”, as well as The Bangles’ “Manic Monday” and Alicia Keys’ “How Come You Don’t Call Me.”
4. He never too himself – or fame – too seriously
From his name change to his refusal to engage with the internet (“the internet is over”, he declared in 2010) to his later release of music on Jay Z’s Tidal, Prince tone is always firmly tongue-in-cheek. He always gave people a sense that fame was never the end game – the end game was his ability to create in the style and the frequency that he wished.
“I’m no different to anyone,” he told NME in 1996. “Yes, I have fame and wealth and talent, but I certainly don’t consider myself any better than anyone who has no fame, wealth or talent. People fascinate me. They’re amazing! Life fascinates me! And I’m no more fascinated by my own life than by anyone else’s.”