Thirty-nine studio albums, five soundtrack albums, four live albums, five compilation albums, seventeen video albums, and twelve extended plays — this sort of accomplishment does not happen to just anyone.
The announcement of Prince Rogers Nelson’s death broke the hearts of many who grew up hearing and enjoying his music. His style, perseverance, and talent brought him much success, and helped inspire artists including Alicia Keys, Lenny Kravitz, OutKast, Beck, Daft Punk, and more.
Prince Rogers Nelson was born on June 7, 1958 to John Nelson and Mattie Shaw, who were both performers. Nelson went by the stage name Prince Rogers, and Mattie Shaw was a social worker and jazz singer who performed with the Prince Rogers band. The two later split when Prince was young, but he’d already begun what would turn into a very successful career in music.
At a young age, Prince began playing piano and writing music. He was very talented and taught himself to play piano, drums, and guitar, which helped him to be as successful as he was. As a teenager he was already offered record deals and contracts, but he turned them down because he wanted to be in full control of his music. That feeling stuck with him for the rest of his life.
In 1978, at age 19, Prince was signed to Warner Bros. Records. That same year he produced his debut album titled For You, which was followed by Prince in 1979. His fame took off after he produced his first pop top 20 hit, “I Wanna Be Your Lover.”
Prince became internationally known when 1999 was released in 1982. This album contained songs such as “1999,” which was about the world coming to its supposed end at the start of the 21st century, as well as “Little Red Corvette” and “Delirious.”
One of his most well-known accomplishments was that of his album Purple Rain which featured the band The Revolution, and was released in 1984. The album was the featured soundtrack to the autobiographical movie that was also titled Purple Rain. A huge hit, the movie made over $70 million in the box office, and received an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score.
Prince continued to see success in his music career. Despite conflicts with his record label, he was able to release several albums on his own with continued success under his New Power Generation label. His first album out of contract was Emancipation, which was a three-album collection that essentially celebrated his liberation from the Warner Bros. label. Emancipation eventually went Platinum.
He went under the radar for a few years, but came back in 2004 to perform at the Grammy Awards alongside Beyoncé, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that same year. In 2007 he performed for the Super Bowl XLI, and it fittingly poured rain during his song “Purple Rain.”
2010 was a year of recognition, as Prince was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, was put on the list of Time‘s “100 Most Influential People in the World,” and received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the BET Awards. And, between 2007 and 2010, he released three successful albums as well. Since 2010, Prince has given many concerts, and has released several albums, the most recent being HITnRUN in 2015.
As a successful artist, Prince was adamant about having control over his music. He was of course behind the Lenz v. Universal Musical Group case, which was an attempt to remove a YouTube video of a baby dancing to his song, “Let’s Go Crazy,” but it was unsuccessful. However, though it took time and perseverance, Prince was still one of the few pop artists to have full control over his master recordings.
Unfortunately, his life journey came to an unexpected end on April 21, 2016. The cause of death remains unknown, but will be revealed after the results from his autopsy are researched. Though his death is a sad event, it provides an opportunity to remember his legacy.
Prince left a mark on the world, especially with his music, but even beyond. He was a strong supporter of #BlackLivesMatter and even launched a website called YesWeCode.org. This site, he hoped, would inspire young people to change the world for the better.
He inspired countless artists as well, whose music featured elements borrowed from his music style. These artists include Lenny Kravitz, OutKast, Alicia Keys, Beck, Daft Punk, and others.
Prince even left a mark on ordinary people’s lives as well. His music was the soundtrack to the memories of those who spent their years listening to hits such as “Raspberry Beret” and “When Doves Cry.”
But perhaps the biggest impact was that Prince stayed true to himself, and never gave up on his dreams and goals of having creative freedom. He was not concerned with what people would think of him; he simply wanted to do what he loved, and do it in the way he wanted. Instead of surrendering to conformity, he strived to remain an individual. And ultimately, that was his greatest success.