Prince, the enigmatic singer-songwriter and one-man show, died Thursday at the age of 57 at Paisley Park, his compound in Chanhassen, Minnesota, according to his publicist.
Throughout his storied and prolific career, Prince, born Prince Rogers Nelson, became widely known as a virtuoso of his craft, combining funk, rhythm and blues and rock throughout his songs. From his origins in the late 1970s to his most recent arena tour just a year ago, Prince often combatted the traditions of the music business, taking charge of his image and career.
Known as a sex symbol and music prodigy, Prince recorded almost every note of his music on his own. Once he walked on stage, he acted as a conductor, following the aesthetic of artists such as James Brown, Little Richard and Jimi Hendrix to create a keenly precise experience for his fans.
Following the news of his death, fans have shared their memories of the iconic artist. Austin radio station 96.3 RnB honored him by playing back-to-back hits, and Snapchat released a “Purple Rain” filter. To celebrate his storied career, The Daily Texan has assembled a short list of some of his greatest songwriting achievements, from the triumphant to the subtle moments that made his career so legendary.
“Purple Rain” (1984)
Prince’s undisputed master work, Purple Rain, told a fictionalized account of his own story – a young, gifted boy with the ambition to take on the world. The song of the same name unified race, sex and music to create songs that teased the accepted norms, catapulting Prince to superstar status.
“When Doves Cry” (1984)
Another track off of Purple Rain, “When Doves Cry” is Prince’s best-selling song. It doesn’t just shine in the sales department, though — the track tells the story of parental difficulties and a love affair. Surprisingly, the song lacks a bass line, but it’s unnoticeable on a first listen when the guitar solo intro kicks in.
“Raspberry Beret” (1985)
Though “Raspberry Beret” was recorded in 1982, Prince reworked the song to include finger cymbals, harmonica, cello and violin, giving the track a pop feel different from his previous work. Released as the first single for the 1985 album “Around the World,” the feel-good song addresses young love and rose to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Consisting of a simple 12-bar-blues verse, Prince actually wrote this song for the funk band Mazarati but took it back after hearing their version. He replaced the lead vocals and added his own lead guitar, threw it on his 1986 album, Parade, and the song became an instant hit.
“Sign o’ the Times” (1987)
Constructed almost entirely on a sampling synthesizer, “Sign o’ the Times” used the stock sounds of Prince’s Fairlight CMI machine to write a hit that addresses socio-political issues, including AIDS, poverty and drug abuse. This single shows Prince’s ability to merge modern rhythm and rhythm and blues with classic blues.