Prince leaves behind legacy, lessons on individuality

Prince Rogers Nelson died on Thursday April 21 at 10:07 a.m. at his home in Chanhassen, Minnesota at the age of 57. The cause of death has not yet been released. Though this tribute to his death might not be evergreen in the realm of journalism, Prince forever will be. The legendary American songwriter, singer, producer and actor broke boundaries—boundaries that won him seven Grammys, a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score. Prince has not only sold more than 100 million records, but he was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004—the first year he was eligible. His film Purple Rain—in which he starred as a semi-autobiographical character of himself—grossed more than $68 million at the box office, proving that Prince was not just a force to be reckoned with in music alone.

Not only was his music eclectic—as he destroyed barriers in funk, rock, R&B and pop—but it was also sexually promiscuous during a time when it wasn’t the norm. His three records—Dirty Mind, Controversy and 1999—heavily emblazoned his trademark sexual lyrics.

Lust was a huge motif in Prince’s songs. Though he and his contemporaries Madonna and Michael Jackson are and will continue to be considered the most important pop stars of the 1980s, Prince will be the one who is known for incorporating an assortment of expressions of lust in his music. And this is more imperative than his plethora of accolades.

“The most important thing is to be true to yourself, but I also like danger,” Prince said to the Los Angeles Times in 1982. “That’s what’s missing from pop music today. There’s no excitement or mystery.”

That excitement and mystery was perfectly portrayed in his music, such as in his song “Kiss.” “U don’t have to be beautiful to turn me on,” Prince sang in “Kiss,” before screaming, “Ain’t no particular sign I’m more compatible with.” He didn’t care that his songs were received as being sexually promiscuous to the public. This was evident even in his albums’ title names, as illustrated through his album title Dirty Mind.

He transcended other artists as a strong spirit—on and off stage. Never did he feel the need to confine himself to societal norms. Officially, Prince wasn’t gay. It was thoroughly discussed, however, as he loved many of the things society has dictated to be associated with being gay, such as a man wearing heels. Prince, however, never publicly declared his sexual orientation. “Am I straight or gay?” he wrote in his song “Controversy,” leaving the audience without an answer.

“You can’t control how other people see you—so stop caring,” Prince said.

Perhaps this is what he had in mind on his 35th birthday when he changed his name to a symbol—a symbol that merged the astrological symbols for man and woman. He didn’t desire to subject himself to society’s whims. To the public, though, he will forever be known as Prince. He doesn’t need a name like ‘the King of Rock and Roll’—he is a prince of music in name and in embodiment; a prince that demands to be looked up to.

People have and still are learning from the pop icon. Though a notoriously trite proverb, Prince teaches everyone how to be true to themselves. And for that—in addition to his renowned talents—he will be missed.