On Thursday, April 24, 2016, the legendary performer and music icon Prince Rogers Nelson, known for most of his career as Prince, died. The 57-year-old’s death came as a surprise to all. “The singer was found unresponsive in an elevator at Paisley Park Studios in Chanhassen, Minnesota,” says Carver County Sheriff Jim Olson. After the paramedic’s failed attempts at CPR, Prince was pronounced dead just 30 minutes after the call for medical assistance. The cause of death is uncertain; however, it is known that Prince had been battling the flu and as a result had needed to postpone and cancel concerts. An autopsy was performed by the Midwest regional medical examiner; however, the cause of death remains unknown. “It will be at least four weeks before we receive the results of the autopsy” says Yvette Noel-Schure, Prince’s publicist. Noel-Schure also announced that the star’s remains were cremated and Prince’s “most beloved said farewell in a private, beautiful ceremony.”
Prince became a world-renowned superstar in the 1980s. Between 1985 and 1990, Prince released eight albums, one per year, including Purple Rain (1984) (as well as the film of the same name) and Sign O’ the Times (1987) (and, again, the film of the same name) along with the soundtrack for Tim Burton’s Batman. His innovative music style included rock, funk, and jazz; a diverse combination that reached out to a plethora of age groups and all genders. He sold more than 100 million records during his career, and he received seven of the 30 Grammys for which he was nominated. He starred in two more movies during that era: Under the Cherry Moon (1986) and Graffiti Bridge. (1990)
Images and video compilations of the icon’s legendary live shows have floated around social media non-stop since his death last Thursday. News of the star’s death made the front page of the Richmond Times Dispatch, Wall Street Journal, and numerous other newspapers and magazines. Prince left an indelible mark on today’s musicians and performers. There was an overwhelming homage to Prince via Twitter from musicians and celebrities, including Paul McCartney, Alicia Keys, Bruno Mars, President Obama, and many more. Keys’ post eloquently sums up the impact Prince had: “Prince was a gift and a genius. He showed us that we have no limits. His music left me forever changed.”
His music also touched the lives of younger generations. Prince’s performance at the Super Bowl XLI Halftime Show back in 2007 gave today’s teenagers a taste of his talent. His performance consisted of three tracks from his Purple Rain album, along with his famous renditions of “We Will Rock You” by Queen, “All Along the Watchtower” by Bob Dylan, the Foo Fighters song “Best of You,” and “Proud Mary” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. “The first thing that was memorable to me [about Super Bowl XLI] was how [Prince] took the heavy rain and let it enhance his performance… The fact that his guitar was live, the fact that he played songs that weren’t his own, and the fact that there were hardly any special effects showed that he wasn’t performing to promote himself or anyone; he was just playing for the music, and he let the music speak for itself” says Kyle Riopelle (‘17).
Collegiate’s Middle and Upper School Band Instructor, Bryan Hooten, describes Prince as “fiercely brilliant and creative.” Hooten continued to say, “there are few people on earth who combine virtuosic instrumental, vocal, and compositional talents with a powerful visual and social message. He is the last person I can remember who actually played and sang during the Super Bowl Halftime show.” It is undeniable that Prince stood out for the entirety of his career. “No one else really makes music that sounds like his does” says Riopelle. “And because his sound is so original, and because it draws from so many sources of inspiration, it enables anyone to find some aspect of his music that they like… It doesn’t matter what kind of music you play or listen to… anyone can find inspiration in Prince’s work.” Prince touched American art with such diversity and eccentricity. His diverse instrumental and vocal talent, and his fervent passion for music, were rare but incredibly true. Prince’s imprint on music will be forever bold and forever appreciated.