He was a prodigy, a provocateur and a complete game-changer in popular music. It would be difficult to imagine, in fact, what pop and R&B would sound like today had Prince, who died on Thursday at 57, had never recorded or performed.
Like all great artists, Prince was himself a synthesizer of influences; his ranged from Sly Stone to Miles Davis to Joni Mitchell. The music he produced as a result — as a singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist — defied genre, blending a mastery of pop hooks and funk grooves on singles that could be as lush as Purple Rain, as muscular and rocking as Let’s Go Crazy and as ferociously bracing as When Doves Cry — and that was just on one album, 1984’s commercial behemoth Purple Rain.
The Minnesota native — who kept living and working in Minneapolis, at his Paisley Park Studios — burst on the scene in the early ’80s, with albums as notable for their flouting of sexual taboos as they were for their crackling musicality.
In the wake of Black Lives Matter, Prince had also channeled social consciousness into his music, with the sense of joy and inclusiveness that had always distinguished his work. His 2015 song Baltimore responded to the death of Freddie Gray in police custody with just those qualities.
Prince’s productivity never waned; last September he released Hit N Run Phase One, and he had recently announced he was working on a book tracing his life and career.
Source: USA Today | Elysa Gardner, @elysagardner