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Culture

The magical moments that defined Prince's musical legacy

© Pascal George, AFP | Prince performs at the Zenith in Paris on August 25, 1986.

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by Leela JACINTO

Latest update : 2018-03-27

Over a career spanning more than four decades, Prince produced some of the defining tunes of the 1980s. His oeuvre – a fusion of funk, rock, soul and punk – will live forever.

In his outrageously flamboyant outfits that could feature anything from tailored purple blazers to feather boas, lace gloves and sequined shirts, Prince was guaranteed to steal the show.

The diminutive Minneapolis native, who stood at just 5 feet 2 inches when not in heels, employed every trick in the pop icon manual to project glamour, ooze charisma and radiate sexuality.

But it was the music – his funky fusion of soul, rock, punk, jazz and even metal, delivered with a libidinous twist – that will forever be Prince’s legacy.

On Thursday, the 57-year-old pop star, who was born Prince Rodgers Nelson, was found dead in his suburban Minneapolis home, devastating fans and fellow musicians across the world.

Born into a musical family – his father was a pianist and songwriter, his mother was a jazz singer – Prince was a musical prodigy.

His professional career kicked off in the 1970s with his eponymously titled album “Prince”, which went platinum in 1979. The album included the single, “I Wanna Be Your Lover”, which reached Number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and made it to the top spot on the Hot Soul Singles chart.

The 1980s: 'A Purple Reign'

But it was the 1980s that came to define Prince. Some would say Prince defined the 1980s.

Superstardom came with his 1984 album “Purple Rain”, which sold more than 13 million copies in the US and spent 24 weeks on the Billboard 200 chart.

The hugely successful rock drama “Purple Rain”, directed by Albert Magnoli and starring Prince and Apollonia Kotero, won the 1985 Academy Award for Best Original Song Score.

The next few years saw Prince churn out a series of mega hits – including “Raspberry Beret”, “Little Red Corvette” and “Kiss” – in rapid succession.

Prince was not just an ace singer-performer with a magic touch. He was also an extraordinary songwriter who wrote not just his own music, but a number of hits performed by some of the biggest artists of his era.

One of his early songs to be taken up by a fellow artist and turned into a hit was “I Feel For You”, which hit the international charts in 1984 – five years after Prince wrote the single – when Chaka Khan recorded the number.

Another mega hit was Sinead O’Connor’s mournful ballad, “Nothing Compares to You”.

The 1980s were Prince’s golden years, a prolific period that produced some of the era’s defining music. The decade was effectively captured in the BBC documentary, “Prince in the 1980s: A Purple Reign”.

Decades later, his career-defining song electrified audiences once again at the 2007 Superbowl, when a cold February rain descended on the artist as he crooned “Purple Rain” to a rapturous audience.

Battling the music industry

Prince was fiercely protective of his creative and personal independence, famously battling his record company over control of his material and even his own name.

Hemmed in by a Warner Bros recording contract, in 1993 he decided to change his name to an unpronounceable symbol.

“Prince is the name that my mother gave me at birth. Warner Bros took the name, trademarked it, and used it as the main marketing tool to promote all of the music that I wrote," Prince said in a press release at the time. "The company owns the name Prince and all related music marketed under Prince ... The only acceptable replacement for my name, and my identity, was [a] symbol with no pronunciation that is a representation of me and what my music is about."

Journalists began referring to him in news articles as "the artist formerly known as Prince". He went back to using the name when his Warner contract expired in 2000.

Prince once wrote "Slave" on his face at a public appearance to protest against not owning his work.

But Prince later appeared to make peace with the music business. "What's happening now is the position that I've always wanted to be in," Prince told The Associated Press in 2014. "I was just trying to get here."

In 2004 Prince was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which hailed him as a musical and social trailblazer.

Date created : 2016-04-21

  • OBITUARY

    Pop music superstar Prince dies at 57

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