News / April 2016

How Prince Changed the World

The late, great musical genius smashed stereotypes and empowered millions to own their individuality.

“Freak.”
“Fag.”
“Fuckin’ weirdo.”

Though there are few who’d pipe up this week, in the wake of his passing, and level this sort of heinous insult at the artist known as Prince, anyone sentient during the 1980s will recall the barrage of hate the purple one was subjected to during his hey-day.

Although his devoted fans were legion, the close-minded looked at this impish individual of indeterminate race, dressed in gender-blending mish-mash of flamboyant haberdashery, his sexuality seemingly ambiguous, even his voice an exercise in contrasts — at times a squealing feminine falsetto, at others an all-man panther-like growl — and they just couldn’t get a handle on the guy. So they spat vitriol. Tried to put him in a box.

“Freak, fag, fuckin’ weirdo…”

What so troubled the mouth-breathing haters — and conversely, one of the key things his fans deeply loved — was Prince’s utter individuality. Using a tricky wingding sybol as his moniker for a time, ‘The Artist Formerly Known As…’ was subjected to a whole new wave of scorn. But if there was ever anyone to walk the earth for whom a mere mix of standard, everyday letters wouldn’t do, who needed a bespoke hieroglyph to sum up their bright, shining, divine, individual, genius Prince-ness, it was this man.

Prince could not be categorised. His personal style, his personal brand, were uniquely ‘Prince’. There’s no one genre you could file his music under — the style he cooked up, a sweet’n’salty soup of funk, soul, rock, psychedelia, electro and blues, wholly his own. Amazingly, famously, he made his music entirely as an individual, playing every instrument on his records, which were credited “Produced, arranged, composed and performed by Prince.” He was, literally, a one-man band.

He was one of a kind.

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Christian Barker

Christian Barker is The Rake's Asia editor-at-large, a frequent contributor to this site, and an enthusiastic consumer of fine whiskies, sashimi and classic disco music - ideally in unison.