While the world mourns the passing of one of the most iconic figures in music–hell the universe, I write this in remembrance of a man who’s mark on pop culture will forever be unparalleled. To trace the trajectory of where Prince’s legend began, we must go back to the year of 1984. 1984 was Prince’s signature year. In terms of the pop music landscape, 1984 was arguably one of the greatest years in music history. Prince managed to standout amongst the likes of a young virgin in Madonna, a Tina Turner comeback, Bruce Springsteen going all patriotic, and Michael Jackson’s Thriller ascendancy over the industry was still prevalent, despite being released two years prior. 1984 was such a crowded year, with everybody releasing some of the best music of their careers, it’s miraculous that Prince’s magnum opus Purple Rain, dominated the way it did.
Then again, it’s really not all that miraculous–considering that it was Prince. Prince Rogers Nelson could’ve stopped making music altogether after dropping the equally classic, 1999, back in 1982. Some believed that he had already reached his apex and was just a mere flash in the pan before he authored 1999. That album created awareness of his brilliance, but Purple Rain made us believers. The industry wasn’t ready for Prince, only because he was something they couldn’t understand. He opened up for the Rolling Stones in support of his 1981 album Controversy, only to be booed off the stage. Who exactly was the diminutive man with an insatiable taste for women’s clothes and high heels? His erotic and eccentric behavior was all by design. A method to his unruly madness.
Standing at 5’2″ and who’s roster of women rivals that of his own musical catalog. Aside from the women in his life, Prince was head and shoulders above his peers. Not too many artists can brag about producing, arranging, composing and performing all their music. Prince was a legit one-man band, and single-handedly birthed the Minneapolis sound. When he wasn’t working on his own music, he was penning classics for his groups, The Time and Vanity 6 (later Apollonia 6). His pen game was sick. He made Tevin Campbell sound wiser than his years with “Shhh”. Even his songs covered by other artist became their signature songs: “I Feel For You” by Chaka Khan and “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinead O’Connor, respectively. Just imagine what “Bad” would’ve sounded like if Prince agreed to Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones offer to be featured on the song? The two biggest performers of their generation, and quite frankly, the only pop stars of the ’80s that mattered.
Even when he wasn’t going by his name at all, just a simple symbol , he kept people intrigued. Sure you scratched your head in utter confusion, but you went along with it anyway. People trusted Prince, no matter how unconventional his tactics were. He battled against the music industry, deeming himself a “SLAVE”–and damn near went into exile. Toward the latter part of his career, he discovered his spirituality, becoming a Jehovah’s Witness. He would refrain from playing most of his explicit songs during his spontaneous tour runs.
Prince was so rare. A once in a lifetime talent. He was innovated, provocative, mysterious, he was everything we were not, and everything we aimed to be. It’s hard to conceded the totality of the moment. His presence is forever crystallized in our minds and hearts. A musician that died doing what he loved more than breathing. Call him what you want: Prince, The Purple One, Joey Coco, Alexander Nevermind, Jamie Starr, or The Artist Formally Known as Prince.
Just make sure you add legend right after it.