Once in a period someone comes along with talent so immense that it staggers the imagination. Such was the case of the late, great all-around musician/performer/philanthropist Prince Rogers Nelson. Prince made his transition on Thursday, April 25 at the age of 57 in his home, Paisley Park, in Minnesota. According to reports, he was found unresponsive in an elevator. An autopsy concluded that he died from an overdose of pain medication prescribed to relieve hip discomfort, from which he had suffered for years. Earlier reports had said that he suffered from the flu.
There were several very interesting things that have come out since Prince’s very untimely, and very, very surprising death. Though he was known for changing his name to a symbol due to a skirmish with a record company, and though he was known for eccentric dress and wildly innovative talent, it was less known that he was a great philanthropist. Prince’s wealth at the time of his demise totaled about $300 million, a tidy sum that is set to grow exponentially due to a deal that he made just prior to his passing, along with a boost in sales of his music post-death. But with all of this, his greatest legacy just might be the impact that he had on those around him. Prince apparently had a heart as big and wide as his obvious genius.
Prince made music for the love of it, reportedly pinning his first song at the age of 7. At the time of his death he had a large archive of work that had never been published or heard by the general public. Both of his parents were accomplished musicians, and his only surviving full blood sister is also a singer. So Prince was no doubt steeped in music from his head to his toes. But it is now apparent that his philanthropic activities highly augmented the personal satisfaction that he enjoyed as a musician. It is said that he was always there for his friends in need and also gave to other causes. He was an angel that provided funding for Chicago educator Marva Collins’ excellent school for years, and it is said that he was the first to introduce the brilliantly talented Misty Copeland to the world. He also produced work with the great Chaka Khan and the dynamic Mavis Staples. He boosted the careers of Sheila E, of Morris Day and the Time, and the recently deceased Vanity. He wrote a lot of music for others of varying genres and refused to pigeon-hole himself. While doing this, he was very modest and unassuming. He did not brag or seek the spotlight for his good deeds, which is why so many people were/are absolutely surprised about the phenomenal scale of his giving that is now being revealed. Moreover, the great Prince refused to be held to standards shared by others as to how he should behave, dress or present himself. He was known for his falsetto singing, but he was also known for having a deep, melodious bass voice. He was proficient on many instruments, some say at least 27. He played almost ALL of the instruments on his first hit album.
The outpouring of veneration for this great man is evidence of the love that he shared with the world; people from all walks of life celebrated him upon hearing of his passing. It seemed as though the whole world turned the color purple for just one moment – skies were turned purple in his honor, water was turned purple, buildings dotted the landscape with purple lighting, purple balloons were ever-present around his home, and people everywhere wore purple clothing in his honor. Prince’s love of purple became widely evident in his mega-hit – Purple Rain, both the movie and the soundtrack. And since that time, he has practically owned that royal color, with some even dubbing him “His Purpleness.” In this regard, he reigned well as the Prince of Purple.
All of this aside: it can be said that the quality of one’s life can be shown by the legacy that prevails when one is no longer in the flesh. Prince Rogers Nelson’s musical and philanthropic legacies will be felt for years to come. He helped re-define popular music and helped those who have contributed to it. May he rest in Perfect Peace.