Remembering 'The Purple One": Prince dead at 57

  • Prince poses for a portrait in sunglasses.
  • Prince performs in Los Angles, Calif., circa 1985.
  • Prince performs in concert in 1986.
  • Prince performs live at the Fabulous Forum on Feb. 19, 1985 in Inglewood, Calif.
  • American singer-songwriter Prince performing on stage, 1986.
  • Prince performs in concert circa 1989 in New York, N.Y.
  • Musician Prince performing at Wembley Arena in August 14, 1986 in London, England. 
  • Prince performs on stage on the Hit N Run-Parade Tour, Wembley Arena, London, August 1986.
  • American rock singer and songwriter Prince plays guitar on stage during a concert, 1985.
  • Prince performs in concert circa 1991 in New York. N.Y.
  • Prince performs during his “Welcome 2 America” tour at Madison Square Garden on February 7, 2011 in New York, N.Y.
  • Prince performs live at the Fabulous Forum on February 19, 1985 in Inglewood, Calif.
  • (L&R) Prince performs in Rotterdam in 1992.
  • Prince performs in the Netherlands in 1995.
  • American singer, songwriter and musician Prince, circa 1985.
  • Musician Prince performs during the “Pepsi Halftime Show” at Super Bowl XLI between the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears on Feb. 4, 2007 at Dolphin Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.

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Prince, one of the most iconic and influential rock and soul stars of the past 40 years, died at age 57 Thursday at his Paisley Park estate in Minnesota.

Even to the casual music fan, Prince was known as “the Purple One,” an eccentric and diminutive musical virtuoso who usually composed every song, and in some cases played every instrument, on his albums, which date back to his debut at age 19 in 1978. His sexually charged persona and lyrics made him a considerable source of controversy over the years, but he also combined his sensual preoccupations with earnest spirituality. And there was no denying the beauty of his remarkable falsetto and gravity-defying electric guitar solos.

Prince’s arrival signaled a sea change in not just popular music, but black artists’ role in it. Alongside Michael Jackson, he played an integral role in breaking down racial barriers on radio and what was once the brand new format of MTV. But Prince’s propensity for gender-bending and reinvention set him apart. 

It’s ironic perhaps that the music world would lose Prince just a few months after the tragic loss of David Bowie. Because he too had a special appeal to audiences who felt like they were outside the mainstream.

His unique fusion of elements from virtually every genre of music (including jazz and rap) made Prince one of kind and a touchstone for many artists who followed in his wake. Besides the slew of artists he helped make household names – The Time, Sheila E. and Vanity, just to name a few – the list of stars who own him a debt, from D’Angelo to The Weeknd, is endless.

The signature “Minneapolis sound” that Prince introduced to America can be heard in the beats of Pharrell Williams and Kanye West. His vocal stylings and playful double entendres have been mimicked endlessly, too, but never topped.

Read more at MSNBC.com.

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