Prince has died. He was 57 years old.
The news was first reported by TMZ and confirmed by The Associated Press. According to TMZ, the musician’s body was discovered at his Paisley Park Estate early Thursday morning. A cause of death is not yet known.
Update: According to Carver County Sheriff Jim Olson, Prince was found unresponsive in an elevator around 9:45 a.m. CT. First responders attempted to provide lifesaving CPR, but were unable to revive him. He was pronounced dead at 10:07 a.m.
Last Thursday, Prince’s private plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Moline, Illinois, and he was taken by ambulance to a local hospital. It was later revealed that Prince had been suffering from flu-like symptoms. He was discharged from the hospital a few hours later and flew back to his hometown of Chanhassen, Minnesota. The following day, he was spotted riding his bicycle around town and hosted an all-night dance party at Paisley Park, his last public appearance.
Prince had been especially active over the last year. He released a pair of albums, HITnRUN Phase One and HITnRUN Phase Two, and recently launched a brand-new tour dubbed Piano & A Microphone. His last live performance came one week ago today, at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta.
The flamboyantly gifted and famously reclusive artist’s career spanned decades, and his sound was defined by his deft blend of rock, soul, funk, R&B, disco, hip-hop, jazz, and psychedelia. It was a boisterous and often provocative sound all his own. Prince made a name for himself both as a presence to be reckoned with and as a performer of limitless passion and intensity. He treated rock and roll music like a long-term lover, experimenting and fooling around with sights and sounds his entire career. Whether he was giving Dick Clark a hard time at 21 or making silhouetted controversy at the Super Bowl, Prince was a singular force, a feisty personality impossible to ignore. Musically, he was defined by his crazed, balladic, and hyper-sexual hits, like “If you Wanna Be My Lover”, “When You Were Mine”, “1999”, “Purple Rain”, “Sign ‘O’ the Times”, and countless others.
Prince didn’t just make music: He wooed it, made it beautiful, and invited everyone in for a fun time.
His rise to stardom was incredibly quick. Releasing his first album, For You, at just 20 years of age, Prince’s interests and talent were so immediately identifiable. His knack for blending sounds and arranging music was apparent, and his proclivities for the perverse were there for all to hear on “Soft and Wet”. His next albums, the self-titled Prince in ’79 and Dirty Mind in ’80, showed a fully formed and giddily libidinous artist ready to shock his way to the top of the charts.
With 1984’s Purple Rain, Prince entered a whole new galaxy of mega-celebrity. Prince wanted the project to be a game changer, his superstardom project, and sure enough, the artist along with the mighty Revolution delivered purple majesty that played huge with listeners, with cross-over power ballads like the titular hit and “Computer Blue”, along with wily hits like “Take Me With U” and “Let’s Go Crazy”. The tie-in film was a smash success as well, a top-10 box office hit in 1984 that introduced Prince as an offbeat and charming actor.
Hit album after hit album emerged. Parade, Sign ‘O’ The Times, and Paisley Park solidified Prince as a hit-maker. Prince also dabbled in filmmaking post-Purple Rain with directorial efforts such as 1986’s Under the Cherry Moon and 1990’s Graffiti Bridge. Both films had mixed receptions, but the soundtracks were huge.
Prince wasn’t beyond controversy. Whether it was the hyper-sexual lyrics of his music, the constantly rotating bands behind him, or his subsequent battles with Warner over artist independence, the man’s fights were well-documented. At one curious point in 1993, Prince changed his name to the now infamous “Love Symbol” while quickly releasing albums to get out of Warner contracts.
Prince’s second life in the aughts was defined by his reclusiveness, his litigiousness over use of his music, and curiously enough, a barn-burning anecdote from Charlie Murphy on Chappelle’s Show about Prince’s unbelievable ball skills. Prince apparently loved that last thing. Over the last decade, Prince saw his output grow. He released two albums last year alone, became known as an advocate for social activism and black justice, and minted a reputation as a hard-to-see, but utterly transcendent live performer.
Prince accumulated incredible accolades, garnering seven Grammies, a Golden Globe, an Oscar, and in 2004, the artist was inducted in to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
His impact, his personality, his utter charisma, and game-changing sound will be deeply missed.
“Dearly beloved we are gathered here today…”
That line, that classic opener, is so heart-breakingly, unbelievably difficult to finish in this very moment.
Stay tuned to Consequence of Sound for a more extensive tribute to Prince, as we’ll celebrate the thing called Prince’s life. Below, revisit some of his best-known tracks, and enjoy clips of his work and pop-cultural legacy.