Purple Rain: Prince's Legacy

Flamboyance. Androgyny. Pioneer. Icon. Two artists fit that description, and both have unfortunately left us. The first is David Bowie. The other is Prince.

Four years ago today, we tragically lost Prince. A man who surely needs no introduction, Prince took the world by storm in the 1980s, becoming known for his androgynous style, virtuous guitar work and his defiance of racial stereotypes. His stylistic choices made waves around the world, both in terms of his music and his looks.

Indeed, his image is as iconic, if not more so, than his music, as he was almost totally unique in the way he presented himself. Often wearing high heels, as well as other garments normally associated with women, he broke down the barriers of gender conformity and refused to cave in to those who criticised him. Though not quite going as far as drag, Prince's image would inspire others and help them realise that they don't have to conform to the traditional definitions of gender and the "roles" that each should play, how they should look etc. Prince smashed that door down in clear advocation for a world in which people should look how they want to look, regardless of gender.

But let's not forget his music either. We're talking about a man here who owned over 100 guitars, a frankly ludicrous amount that nobody needs but an amount that proves how much he loved music, and that instrument in particular. A true virtuoso, his music style incorporated elements of pop, rock, funk, r&b, psychedelia and more. In addition, he could play basically any instrument he wanted, and did so on each of his first five records, recording the bass, drums, keyboards, synthesizers and more all on his own. To be a multi-instrumentalist on that scale is remarkable, an ability which most of us can only dream of. A modern man, he was always an early adopter of new technology and was one of the first to use a drum machine in his music.

And what of his singing? An outstanding vocalist, his vast vocal range and ability to switch register in the blink of an eye is a truly rare thing to hear. Plenty of people can sing and sing well, but Prince made it seem effortless. In truth, Prince made everything he did seem effortless, and it's difficult to disagree with Nik Cohn who called him "rock's greatest ever natural talent". It's clear that Prince was born to play music.

Prince and Wendy Melvoin. Prince championed women throughout his career.

Not only an early adopter of digital music technology, Prince's androgynous style and animal rights activism - being a vegetarian and, briefly, a vegan - put him well ahead of his time. Prince was constantly looking to innovate and move forward, a fact made clear by his music, which constantly evolved and expanded.

A philanthropist too, following his death it was revealed that he had been involved in a number of charitable acts, particularly in the 21st century, including an anonymous $12,000 donation to the Louisville Free Public Library system in 2001, and donations to Green For All. Prince never publicly disclosed these donations, which would have garnered him significant amounts of positive press, showing that was also humble in his nature.

Known for working with many women in his entourage, he supported women in music throughout his career and worked with many of them, including Madonna, Sheila E, Stevie Nicks, Celine Dion and more. Beyond the famous names, there was also Gayle Chapman, Lisa Coleman, Wendy Melvoin in his bands and Susan Rogers in the studio, all of whom played a key part in shaping his sound and career.

Throughout his career, he released 39 studio albums and two more posthumously, with combined sales of over 100 million records. Of these, his most famous, undoubtedly, is Purple Rain, the title track of which became his signature song, to the point where his primary colour when it came to his clothing became purple. Pantone have even released a shade of purple into their colour palette in his honour. Prince and purple go together like Western governments and corruption.

This article could go on forever. Prince's legacy spans feminism, animal rights activism, philanthropy, breaking down gender roles, music and a whole lot more. He was a busy man and always looked to better the world in whatever he did. His immense talent seemingly knew no bounds, which is why he became one of the most iconic music artists of all-time. Four years ago today, we lost Prince at the tragically young age of 57. Let's remember him for who he was: a gifted and generous polymath whose work would pave the way for people of the future, in far more ways than one.


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