On June 7, 1958, the world was blessed to receive an incomparable talent with the birth of Prince Rogers Nelson.
Although we’d soon come to know him solely by his first name, in addition to aka’s like “The Purple One,” The Artist Formerly Known As and even just as a symbol, his time on this Earth as a celebrated entertainer ended far too soon following his April 2016 death at the age of 57.
On what would’ve been his 64th birthday today, we remember all that made Prince a globally-recognized Black music icon both in life and in memoriam.
Throughout his time on top, Prince broke records, gained accolades and shifted the culture of Black music in general on a musical and even financial level. His fight for ownership over master recordings made him a true standout in the industry at a time when he stood alone; today many artists don’t even sign deals if it doesn’t include a form of ownership or equity. That can be directly traced back to Prince — the name change wasn’t just for showmanship! — but there’s so much more to his story beyond the music. From his well-documented fashion prowess to acting in the cult classic 1984 film Purple Rain, Prince gave a new definition to the term Renaissance Man that to this day has left a void filled by no one.
Although this is a birthday that he won’t be here physically to celebrate with those upholding his memory today, the legacy Prince left behind is strong enough to continuing inspiring people for decades to come.
Coinciding with Black Music Month, we selected 10 moments throughout The Purple One’s career that remind us how truly missed Prince will always be. Check it out below:
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Happy eternal birthday, Prince!
1. Dropping His Very First Single, “Soft & Wet” (1978)
Although barely cracking the Billboard Hot 100, “Soft & Wet” was a top 20 smash on the Hot Soul Singles chart and proved that he was making music for the people.
2. Breaking Into The Top 10 With ‘1999’ (1982)
Even after five albums and critical acclaim, by the early ’80s Prince still hadn’t seen the chart success of core contemporary Michael Jackson. That all changed with 1999, his first album to reach top 10 on the Billboard 200 chart at #9. The title track, along with fan-favorite “Little Red Corvette,” helped propel the album to quadruple Platinum status by the time 1999 actually came around.
3. The Release Of ‘Purple Rain’ – Both The Movie & Album (1984)
It can be argued, but Prince truly became the artist that he’s revered as today with his well-rounded production on the epic rock musical known as Purple Rain. Sure the plot had holes and displayed subpar acting in certain scenes, but what that movie and accompanying album meant to Black culture still resonates whenever the title track or “When Doves Cry” is played. Not to mention, it got him his first chart-topping album, an Oscar for “Best Original Song Score” and NAACP Image Award for “Outstanding Actor.”
4. Producing The Soundtrack For ‘Batman’ (1989)
Aside from topping the Billboard 200 for six weeks and garnering yet another Billboard Hot 100 #1 with “Batdance,” Prince’s production on the soundtrack for a blockbuster juggernaut like Batman ultimately proved that he was a multidimensional superstar that could even get down in Gotham City. If only he actually played Two-Face in the film!
5. Taking Acting Seriously With ‘Graffiti Bridge’ (1990)
While some may argue about whether or not Graffiti Bridge is a proper follow-up to Purple Rain, at its core it reminds us that Prince was in no way doing films for just flash-in-the-pan Hollywood success. Although this ultimately was his last theatrical release, there’s no telling if he was planning on pulling a Clint Eastwood and getting back into the game.
6. The Love Symbol #2 Era (1992 – 2000)Source:Getty
Although originally meant to represent both the masculine and feminine energy in his artistry, then later in protest during a years-spanning feud with his label Warner Bros., the Love Symbol #2 now holds significant meaning to Prince as a creative who simply can’t be defined. It has since become synonymous with his legacy.
7. Performing At The GRAMMYs With A Newly-Solo Beyoncé (2004)
There’s something really powerful about seeing a legend embrace a young talent that’s destined for the same fate. When Prince was joined by former Destiny’s Child lead singer Beyoncé Knowles, many couldn’t have predicted that her breakout single at the time, “Crazy In Love,” would lead to her status today as “Queen Bey” of the music industry. For that reason alone, watching Prince embrace her early and even allow her to duet on some of his greatest hits is just historic in itself.
8. Getting Inducted Into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2004)Source:Getty
As with any musician, becoming a Rock & Roll Hall of Famer is a dream that isn’t an easy accomplishment by a long shot. That’s why Prince’s 2004 induction ceremony was so monumental and, dare we say it, about damn time!
9. The Super Bowl XLI Halftime Show (2007)
It’s standard that the Super Bowl Halftime Show be reserved for only the most legendary performers in music. Thus, it came as no surprise that Prince was not only invited to spearhead the 2007 show but also tear down the house with a handful of classic hits. There are no words — just watch!
10. His Final Concert, ‘The Piano & a Microphone Tour’ (2016)
Even with the premature ending of The Piano & a Microphone Tour due to Prince’s death on April 21, 2016, the visuals, vocals and presentation alone show that he was far from finished.
May the soul of The Purple One forever shine bright.