Even though it’s almost a week later, it’s still difficult to process the fact that 2016 has claimed yet another musical giant. In this case, Prince, whose pop culture imprint was immense thanks to a combination of otherworldly talent, sheer chutzpah, hypnotic mystique and a larger-than-life persona that found him enjoying success in the worlds of recorded music, film, television and live performances.
Given how shrouded and uber-controlling Prince was about his public image, rumors were swirling as to the cause of death at press time that ranged from complications from influenza or fallout from chem trails causing a fatal reaction to a possible opiate overdose that followed his refusal to undergo hip replacement surgery and blood transfusions that ran contrary to his beliefs as a Jehovah’s Witness.
None of that matters given what the Minnesota native left behind. And not unlike David Bowie, a fellow icon who predeceased him earlier in the year, Prince’s creative talents not only found him leaving behind quite the impressive canon, but his talents often lent themselves to either writing for other artists (The Bangles, Sheena Easton, Sheila E.) or them having hits with his songs (Chaka Khan, Sinead O’Connor, Alicia Keys).
And that’s not even scratching the surface of his complicated relationship with Hollywood (Purple Rain, Graffiti Bridge) and the oddest television appearances he’d make (American Bandstand with Dick Clark, Bryant Gumbell’s Today Show farewell).
Prince’s prolific creative nature resulted in a canon consisting of 39 studio albums, five soundtrack albums, four live albums and five compilations. And that’s not even including the vast vault of unreleased material that’s rumored to have enough material for a century’s worth of releases that includes sessions he’s done with myriad artists including Sheila E., The Time, Angie Stone, Bonnie Raitt and Miles Davis. Highlights in the Prince catalog include:
- Dirty Mind (1980)
- 1999 (1982)
- Purple Rain (1984)
- Parade (1986)
- Sign O’ The Times (1987)
- The Love Symbol Album (1992)
- Musicology (2004)
- 3121 (2006)
Purple Rain (1984)
The film that blew Prince up and heralded his arrival as an entertainment superstar, Purple Rain was semi-autobiographical and featured Prince playing the title role of The Kid. While the plot is fairly threadbare, the live performances are what wound up representing a significant aspect of Prince’s greatness, and the movie landed the Oscar for Best Original Score.
Under The Cherry Moon (1986)
One of Prince’s few major failures, this project found him doing double duty as the star and director. His Christopher Tracy was a gigolo ripping off wealthy French women who changes his ways upon meeting Kristin Scott Thomas, who was making her feature film debut.
Sign o’ The Times (1987)
This concert film was originally supposed to use footage from shows in Amsterdam and Belgium that was deemed unsuitable, and the concert was restaged at Paisley Park. His backup band included former Revolution keyboardist Dr. Fink, Sheila E. and saxophonist Eric Leeds.
Graffiti Bridge (1990)
Prince directed and starred in the sequel to Purple Rain that critically and commercially fared closer to Under the Cherry Moon than its cinematic predecessor.
Pop Culture Moments
While Prince didn’t appear on the comedian’s Comedy Central show, an installment of the running segment “Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories” recounted an anecdote where Murphy, as a member of his older brother Eddie’s posse, wound up going back to Paisley Park circa Purple Rain at the invite of Prince. Here, the Purple One and the Revolution challenged the Murphy crew to a pickup basketball game, where the latter was soundly trounced before going back inside for a pancake breakfast. It’s a story that Prince admitted was true on a radio interview years later.
Prince’s appearance on a 1997 episode of this sequel to The Muppet Show opened with the cast serenading him with a version of “Delirious” and included his delivering a gorgeous reading of “Starfish and Coffee.” The Minneapolis native even composed and performed a song specifically for this episode.
Super Bowl XLI Halftime Show
Not only did Prince wind up playing the press conference for his appearance, but played a halftime set on a stage shaped as his symbol accompanied by a string section and dancers dressed as aliens. As rain dramatically came down on him at the Miami site of the Super Bowl, Prince served up a blistering set that included his “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Baby, I’m a Star,” Jimi Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watchtower,” the Foo Fighters’ “Best of Me” and a finale of “Purple Rain” that have many ranking this as one of the best televised live performances ever.
On this 2014 post-Super Bowl episode, Prince played himself where the New Girl gang was going to crash a party he was having. Not only did he wind up losing a game of ping-pong at the end of the episode, but counseled Zooey Deschanel’s Jess and her relationship woes with these words of wisdom, “Anything beautiful’s worth getting hurt for. You know who said that? Me.”