Flame Obituaries: Prince

The world suffered another major loss as Prince (born Prince Rogers Nelson) died unexpectedly, aged 57, on April 21, 2016. Prince integrated a wide variety of musical genres into his work including funk, rock, R&B, soul, psychedelia and pop. He sold more than 100 million records and became one of the best-selling artists of all time, winning 7 Grammy Awards, an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award. Rolling Stone ranked Prince 27 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

Prince was much more than a ‘pop star’; he was an innovator, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer and actor, inspiring the world ever since his debut album, For You, released in 1978 when he was just 18 years old. His striking and unforgettable stage presence, extravagant dress and makeup and wide vocal range were the most remarkable aspects of Prince’s persona but what made Prince really stand out was the way in which he defied the norms of modern society by breaking gender standards and being openly sexual through his songs, which created a range of reactions from audiences. Similarly to David Bowie, Prince was the centre of attention during the 1980s androgynous uprising, posing in bikini briefs, stockings, high heeled boots and frequently styling heavy eyeliner. Prince’s most profound way of publicising his androgyny was through his genderfluid symbol and the colour purple which he flamboyantly flaunted.

The star was born in Minneapolis on June 7, 1958 to Mattie Della and John Lewis Nelson, both in the music industry. His mother was a jazz singer and his father was a pianist and songwriter. Prince was named after his father’s stage name – Prince Rogers, who performed in the Prince Rogers Trio. Prince wrote his first song on his father’s piano when he was just 7 years old and named it “Funk Machine”. When Prince was 10 years old, his parents filed a divorce and Prince repeatedly switched between living with his mother and stepfather and his father but he later moved in with the Anderson family, Prince’s neighbors. As he grew older, he continued to create music by playing in the school band. The band was heavily influenced by artists such as Jimi Hendrix and Earth, Wind and Fire.

One of Prince’s most iconic events in his life was the changing of his name. There was a stage where Prince seemed to come up with a new alias every few years, resulting in rebranding which represented his artistic growth. Whenever Prince felt the need to reinvent himself, he would change his name and reappear with a new sound. Prince’s aliases and ever changing group names included; Prince. Prince and the Revolution. Prince and the New Power Generation. The Artist Formerly Known as Prince. The Artist. And of course:

Credits to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_(musician)

He changed his name to the picture above in 1993 during an ongoing contractual dispute with Warner Bros.  At the time of Prince’s name change, he appeared in tabloids as ‘The Artist Formerly Known as Prince’. The unpronounceable symbol depicts the traditional male and female symbol combined, and soon became knows as the ‘Symbol of Love’. Prince stated that, “It is an unpronounceable symbol whose meaning has not been identified. It’s all about thinking in new ways, tuning in 2 a new free-quency”. The symbol was essentially a sign of rebellion against his record label, Warner Bros who he signed with as a teenager in 1977, but the symbol also meant that he has the chance to be unidentifiable in terms of gender. In 2000, he returned to his birth name; Prince.


Prince’s Best Known Albums:

Unfortunately, due to Prince’s hatred for the internet, links for the following albums are difficult to find.

  • Dirty Mind, 1980
  • Controversy, 1981
  • 1999, 1982
  • Purple Rain, 1984
  • Parade, 1986
  • Around The World In A Day, 1985
  • Sign ‘O’ The Times, 1987

“If you ever lose someone dear to you, never say the words, “they’re gone. They’ll come back.” – Prince, 1998

What Prince Meant To The UNIS Community:

“Just reminds me of the past. I remember buying his album ‘Sign o the Times’ in my final year at university and being blown away by the title track and the track ‘Slow Love’. It just reminds me of where I was. One of my favourites Prince tracks is the melancholic and beautiful ‘Sometimes it Snows in April’.” – Mr Whatley


“I love Prince. I don’t mean I love his musicianship, or his voice, or his style, or his songwriting, or his versatility – though, yes, I do love all of those qualities about him.

What I mean is that I love him like a best friend, a priceless mentor, a family member. He went beyond being a musician and pop culture figure for me. He changed my life. He changed how I saw the world, he helped connect me to things that matter to me to this day, and he inspired me.

In his song “Sometimes It Snows in April” he sings, “Always cry for love / Never cry for pain.”

I have cried a lot in the past week.” – Mr Hart


“Musically, I think it is key to note that many of his songs were about intimacy. Yes, the romantic kind, but mostly just about those honest moments of ripping through the facade and getting to the real: his, his characters, couples, whole crowds of people partying down. It was about personally engaging in the life we want. Ownership.

And he was funny.  He had a sense of humor that showed through. Even though he took many things seriously, he himself was not one of them.

Prince, with his bold existence, allowed for any possibility of expression. He was a constant paradox; at once effeminate and at the same time a most masculine force. He was beautiful and gorgeous while simultaneously being profane and ugly. He never cared about a definition cast upon him and, in most situations, no one could ever define him even if they tried. He liked purple.” – Ms Kerry


“Prince was a true original and I am utterly crushed that he is gone. He and David Bowie (whose passing two months ago unites with this horrible news to provide a devastating one-two psychological gut punch) both had, to quote an obituary I read in the Washington Post, an “expansive, almost luxuriant vision of what it meant to be a man.”

Prince’s art will speak for itself throughout the ages. His ability to meld genres together into a singular sound has few equals in modern popular music. When reflecting on his music, many people will probably remember his lyrics and voice first because they are so iconic, but don’t forget that this man was on top of it all a masterful musician. He completely shredded on the guitar. And I mean SHREDDED! I’m serious … go watch him play guitar and prepare to have your mind blown. Many times he performed every single instrument on his albums in addition to composing, arranging and producing every song. He was immaculate and wild, a perfectionist and completely raw at the same time.

Above all, though, Prince has always been there and that’s why it’s so hard to see him go. Many artists have been around as long as him, but he occupied such a unique spot in my love for music that this one hits really hard. I never saw Prince perform live in person but I always knew I would someday. Now that opportunity is gone and that hole in my soul that will never be filled. I’ve spent the past weekend listening to his music for hours on end while singing, crying, dancing and just focusing on the singular artist known as Prince, Formerly Known as Prince and always to be known as Prince. There is something strangely poetic about the fact he died in an elevator. Think about it for a minute.

We’re all excited

But we don’t know why

Maybe it’s ’cause

We’re all gonna die

And when we do

What’s it all for?

You better live now

Before the grim reaper come knocking on your door”. – Mr Garland


“When we are young, we all pore over certain music. It helps us define who we are, and this music transcends a collection of sounds and becomes an emotional landscape that we use to frame our own lives. Our soundtrack. The bigger a dent these artists make on this emotional landscape the harder it is to come to terms with their loss. Prince was a creator of worlds and his loss, along with the loss of David Bowie is bittersweet. On one hand we have to celebrate the wealth of creative energy and joy these artists unleashed on this world, and on the other we have to mourn that there will never be another like them.

‘And if the elevator tries to break you down. Go Crazy. Punch a higher floor.’” – Mr Moir