Today the world lost a legend. He was an icon in the music industry. He was a gifted individual that most humans had never been able to surmount, except for maybe one.* The man we lost today, at the age of 57, was a Minneapolis-born musician known as Prince.
The pop icon blended soul and rock n roll to create masterpieces. He was known for hits such as “Little Red Corvette” and “Let’s Go Crazy”, but my favorite Prince song as a kid was “1999 (Party Like It’s 1999)”. He also had a movie career, starring in the film “Purple Rain.” Prince defied the norms of sexuality. He had an androgynous fashion sense and wore some strange outfits and accessories. (Think of it as if Lady Gaga and Boy George decided to swap clothes with each other, mixing and matching outrageous outfits.) The best way to put it was Prince was a bad ass. Billboard ranked 40 of his Number 1 hits and placed the 1984 song “When Doves Cry” at the very top, which spent five weeks at Billboard’s Number 1. Something that was monumental and stood out for me about Prince was his numerous names, which I somewhat related to.
The man had many names. Prince Rogers Nelson, The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, and Prince. It made me feel slightly better to know that even a famous person was known by various names, too, but still was respected. The amount of names people have called me by surpasses most humans. (I think the current count for me is 20.) While he chose different names and a symbol, most of the names I was known by was not chosen by me.
I have four legal names — first, middle and two last names — which were given to me at birth. Of those names, two were brutally butchered by teachers and government officials. The few times I chose to make up my own name, they never stuck. There was one decent nickname that people from Drama Club in high school called me, Frenchie, but that lasted for one semester and no one ever called me that again. I always wanted to change my name. As a minor, my mother told me that when I turned 18, I could get it legally changed to the letter “X” if I really wanted. That idea sounded great to me. It was simple and no one could mess it up. I wanted to finally have a say in my name and to stand out for being different ON PURPOSE.
How difficult was it for Prince to change his name? Did his fans have a hard time keeping up with what he was being called? I was too young at the time to know. Apparently, in the ’90s he changed his name to a symbol as a big “eff-you” to Warner Bros, his record label. I remember the singer-turned-music producer/reality TV star (of the moment) Sean Combs went through a similar situation, changing his name to Puff Daddy, Puffy, then to P. Diddy and now simply Diddy. His fans were confused, but no one really cared.
After years of listening to his music, watching his performances and collaborations, I realized that Prince was a human like no other. He was like an extraterrestrial that was sent down to Earth to blow our minds and challenge our perceptions of music, sexuality and identity. He will be greatly missed and I feel privileged to have been alive during his time.
*English musician David Bowie, who passed away this year from cancer.