On Saturday mornings, I would wake up to the smell of pancakes and the sounds of oldies playing on the radio. Like clockwork the station always played “Kiss” by the time I made it downstairs to the kitchen. There, I watched my mother bust her 80s dance moves before planting a kiss on my cheek. While my peers sang the Jonas Brothers and Hannah Montana, I was trying to figure out the exact time that doves cried. Throughout the years, we learned from Prince’s artistry, we danced to his music, we watched “Purple Rain” on repeat, and, now, we mourn his passing.
As a writer and visual artist, I learned from Prince. I learned that you never compromise or abandon your creativity or your identity for a check or more likes and follows. Prince was a real artist who believed in music’s power. He was talented, brilliant, and wouldn’t deny who he was. Prince pushed against the gender binary in the way he dressed. He wasn’t afraid of representing and performing his sexuality, and this refusal to compromise himself resulted in a successful career. During his lifetime, Prince sold over a million records, won seven Grammys, and won an Academy Award. He was an undeniable cultural icon.
As a black artist, Prince made history. The music video for the “Little Red Corvette” was one of the first black videos that MTV aired frequently. The other, “Billie Jean,” was by no else other than the King of Pop. In addition to crafting his own artistic voice and identity, Prince influenced and helped other artists. “I Feel For You” by Chaka Kan was originally on Prince’s 1979 album.
Prince’s contribution to society extended beyond music. He donated money to Trayvon Martin’s family and he also performed in Baltimore after the city was torn apart from the violent riots following Freddie Gray’s death. Then, last year at the Grammys, Prince vocally stated that Black lives matter. Many celebrities of our time don’t confront our racial issues or tensions in America and choose to ignore them. Prince was more than a musician; he was a racially conscious artist who understood his influence.
Throughout his career, Prince knew that he had fame and success, but he never allowed those things to destroy his artistry. For 18 years, he disputed with Warner Bros. over the right to his music. He was even willing to change his name to the Artist Formerly Known as Prince. He took risks with his creativity because he understood that once an artist lost their creative spirit, they were no longer an artist. This is a lesson that we all should learn from him.
Unlike the rappers and singers of our time, Prince was not here for a quick buck or Instagram fame. His talent and dedication to music allowed him to see through foolery that was accepted as talent. While performing, he kicked Kim Kardashian off his stage. When Trey Songz butchered “Purple Rain”, Prince didn’t fake a smile, we all saw his unamused face through our television screen. As fans we loved every moment of it because Prince was our Purple King of Shade
In the next coming weeks, as we reflect on Prince’s contributions to the world, we are forced to recognize that there will never be an artist or performer like him. We are living in a time where money is more important than talent and where anything will be done for instant gratification. Prince, unlike the one hit wonders of our time, will never be forgotten.
PC: YouTube screenshot