Musical 'legacies' — or more to the point, enduring musical legacies — don't present themselves very often. It's an overused term to say the least, one that's lazily bandied about to encompass young pretenders and wide-eyed hopefuls, breaking ground in the ever-changing plain of contemporary music. Amongst the hype, gossip and tedium of today's music aficionados, one influential name has always remained a focal reference point in music chatter old and new: Prince.
Prince's legacy as a musician was embodied throughout a seemingly everlasting career. One that, thankfully, maintained its longevity right through to the present day.
With a staggering list of 39 studio albums, droves of live recordings, multiple collaborations and even remix albums, Prince's artistic canon — which has been credited as a major influence on scenes such as disco hip hop, soul and r'n'b and of course, pop — the likes of his illustrious contribution to music may never quite be seen again.
A young Prince — privately known as Prince Rogers Nelson, named after his father's jazz band – had music running through his blood. He was snapped up by Warner Bros. in 1977 at the age of 18. Despite only reaching No 163 in the US album chart with For You in 1978, Prince then found his stride, releasing an album each year between 1979 and 1981 — Prince, Dirty Mind and Controversy. The trio of albums laid the cornerstones for his trademark, amalgamative sound for the years to come.
His three cult albums and quiet début paved the way for his breakthrough LP, 1999, which entered the top 10 in 1982 amidst a new wave of musicians waking up to the power of video as an anchor for their music. Prince harnessed the allure of his self-image at the right moment, sowing the seeds of iconography at the beginning of modern music's most imitative, impressionable decades – the '80s.
From crooning-favourite Purple Rain (oh, that film) to the lean smoulder of 1988's Lovesexy and the salacious disco of '1999', Prince's music maintained a fresh and funky feel, full of soul and oozing with sleazy character. Even during his more elusive, anachronistic, eccentric leanings of recent years (the millennium turn saw a decline in his music), he maintained enough character and presence to make even the most extrovert of frontmen recoil in shame.
Between his début release in 1978 right up to 1991's Diamonds and Pearls, The Purple One and his band, The Revolution, hardly released a dud record or half-hearted thruster or ballad while he was at the peak of his powers.
Instant gratification (of all kinds) was usually both the subject matter of Prince's canon of work and the resulting, finished sound that came to typify his musical heyday across a 20-year period. It's within that same vein that the Raspberry Beret singer shares a pedestal with musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson and Al Green – their songs feel timeless.
Beyond being merely labelled 'classic', Prince's beautifully crafted music did not simply bear the hallmarks of writing prowess, but set the blueprint for scores of musicians and pretenders.
Prince's songwriting wasn't just timeless, but reflected the music of the day. Although many feel his output from the mid-90s onward started to wane, he was still a mighty backbone for the further two decades of popular music that emerged since his megastardom days.
More than just an influence, Prince's prolific oeuvre saw him strut alongside a myriad of fashions, genres and scenes, with the artist cherry-picking and soaking up the best bits of all of it, while retaining his untreated, electrifying sound.
Modern music is running out of these unique performers and artists and sadly, we have lost yet another enduring musician.