Prince’s legacy transcends pop

Daily Editorial Board

On Thursday, Prince — the Minnesota native whose flamboyant persona and genre-transcending sound left lasting impressions on the music industry — died at his Paisley Park estate in Chanhassen. He was 57.

Fiercely loyal to the state that gave him his start, the “Purple Rain” singer’s career spanned four decades, earning him seven Grammys and an Academy Award.

Unafraid of taboo subjects, Prince marked his musical oeuvre with diversity and candor. In “Little Red Corvette,” he sings unabashedly about casual sex; in “Sign ’O’ the Times,” he riffs on the AIDS epidemic, drug addiction and inner-city crime; in “Ronnie, talk to Russia,” the singer entreats President Ronald Reagan to parley with Soviet Union Chairman Leonid Brezhnev.

A straight, black man, Prince spurned conformity by wearing high heels, makeup and bikini bottoms. And yet, he allowed his identity to be plural and interpretative — a prodigious triumph for a demographic often pigeonholed by hyper-masculinity.

In and out of the music industry, Prince was a resolute vanguard for liberated expression. He scrawled “slave” on his face to protest recording company restrictions, and campaigned against police brutality in Baltimore. At the Grammys in 2015, he quipped, “Like books and black lives, albums still matter.”

In the days since Prince’s death, the world has felt the impact of his loss. As we construct his legacy, we ought to focus not just on Prince’s virtuosic musical abilities, but the way he was an active social and political agent — advocating for unconventionality, zeal and love.