He never intended to cause any sorrow, he never meant to cause any pain, but unfortunately that’s all that many fans across the globe can feel now that the legendary musician Prince Rogers Nelson has passed away at the age of 57.
It is difficult to put into words just how astounding of a loss this is to the musical world. In the midst of his Piano & A Microphone tour, it had been made known that Prince was suffering from flu-like symptoms which caused him to postpone several shows and even required an emergency landing while flying on his private jet so the musician could receive medical attention. However, none of us could have possibly expected that his death would be the ultimate outcome.
Prince leaves behind a legacy fraught with misunderstanding and mystery surrounding the enigmatic man himself, but there can be no mistaking the musical genius and tenacity that allowed him to continue delivering for his fans, seemingly without effort. Down to the very fiber of his being, Prince was one of the most counter-culture entertainers to ever grace the stage. You could see it with his very personal sense of style which showed in the outfits he donned on stage and for the red carpet. You could feel it through the sensual, wild energy of his performances that drew the curiosity-or ire-of those who witnessed him. Prince spent his entire career tearing down the standardized images of masculinity and refused to abide by societal norms concerning gender and what “a man” should be. Instead, Prince chose to be the man he wanted to be and never let himself be influenced by anyone other than himself. From the way he sang, the way he performed, down to the way the man walked, everything Prince did, he did because he wanted to and didn’t care what you or anyone else may have thought about it.
In an era where it is apparently critical for African American men to live up to a presumed image of “toughness”, once again Prince never allowed himself to be placed in any kind of simple box. He was never the “typical” African American performer in a sense that he was producing demeaning song lyrics or broadcasted this air of confident dominion over women. Prince instead chose to demonstrate his love of music and express his creativity regardless of what was considered mainstream and popular. This willingness to exhibit what was on his mind didn’t just apply to music either. Unlike the other minority celebrities who, like Prince, seem to transcend their racial confines and come to be loved universally, Prince never distanced himself from the African American community and remained very aware of where he stood and didn’t shy away from taking clear stance. We were able to witness this first hand at the 2015 Grammys when Prince, upon presenting the award for album of the year, stated: “Albums, still matter… Like books and black lives, albums still matter. Tonight and always.”
Whether it is the three dozen plus albums that he released over a career spanning four decades, or his mold shattering sense of self, Prince will live on forever, both in the music world and our culture as a whole. He is yet another icon, joining Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston, who was gone far too soon but still managed to leave an incredible impact in the time he did have.