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Expert Comment: The lasting legacy of Prince's purple reign

purple guitar Friday 22 April 2016

Dr Veronica Skrimsjö, Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in Popular Music, reflects on Prince's prolific back catalogue and his incomparable contribution to the music industry and popular culture. 

Last night we were dealt yet another blow when the news broke of Prince’s sudden passing at the age of 57. Reactions poured in instantly, with some people wondering if George R. R. Martin (author behind A Song of Ice and Fire, a.k.a. Game of Thrones, where key, beloved character are notoriously killed off) is writing the course of 2016.

Prince released his first LP in 1978, and has since released albums on an almost yearly basis, whilst still touring and writing songs for others artists regularly. To put this into context: in an eight year period (2008-2015) Adele released three albums – in the same period Prince released seven. The cultural legacy left behind by Prince via his records is significant, but, just like Bowie, the legacy of his aesthetic will cross boundaries and affect people far beyond his musical reach. Prince wrote songs about sex and race, elation and… well, more sex. He wore spectacularly outrageous outfits, proudly sported an afro and frequently had female musicians backing him (most recently 3rdeyegirl). Prince was the voice of several generations and remained relevant to many different audiences. Come the summer of 2016, and many of us are left wondering who can replace the cultural void left behind by the deaths of recent months.

Now we are forced to come to terms with the changing musical and cultural landscape. Much of the Western cultural heritage and identity has been forged via musicians who reached prominence during the mid-late 1960s-late 1970s. Whilst many of these iconic figures are still alive, we have reached a point in time where we are faced with the physical mortality of these culturally immortal musicians. The cultural matrix by which we understand this world is changing, but hopefully popular music will find the people to replace what we have lost. Yet again, I call for us to don our spandex suits, but this time, let’s make sure they’re purple and paired with high-heeled boots.

Dr Veronica Skrimsjö, Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow at Liverpool Hope University, who teaches on Liverpool Hope’s Beatles, Popular Music and Society MA

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