Nothing matters more than reputation. How people perceive you is the rhythm of life. Get it right, and you’ll bask in harmonious delight. Get it wrong, and you’ll forever be off-key. No one understood this better than Prince.
Through his life and art, he showed us, in the most audaciously authentic way, how to successfully balance freedom and control.
For more than three decades, Prince intentionally appealed to every demographic and musical temperament. And he did it by being true to himself.
Influenced by all genres of music growing up, Prince created a unique, hybrid mixture of black funk, white rock, pop and new wave—the “Minneapolis sound.” Renowned for his controversial lyrics and legendary live performances, his unconventional persona truly set him apart from every other entertainer.
Shying away from interviews, product endorsements and public appearances, Prince danced to the music of his own making. From the days of his groundbreaking album and movie “Purple Rain,” to the moments before his untimely death, he most certainly had what it takes to get through this thing called life.
On those rare occasions when he would speak to the media, he had a lot to say—but only about who he was, not who others wanted him to be.
When Rolling Stone featured him in a cover story, they compared him to Jimi Hendrix. Prince’s reply? That’s “only because he’s black.”
During a live interview, Larry King, after affectionately calling Prince “weird,” asked if Prince thought he should have done more interviews to better manage his reputation. Prince replied, “No. I did what I wanted to do.”
In other words, he allowed his music and talent to speak for themselves, refusing to be pigeonholed by anyone.
Not only did Prince create his own personal brand, he was the master of reinvention. The most famous of which occurred in the early ’90s when, in response to disputes with his record label Warner Brothers, he changed his name to a glyph (aka “The Love Symbol”) and performed with the word “Slave” on his face. He reverted back to his Christian name, Prince, in 2000.
But more than anything, he expertly managed his reputation by refusing to be goaded by others.
When Chris Rock pressed Prince about potential rivalries with other musicians, he beautifully sidestepped the issue by saying that the rivalry mindset was alien to him.
In Oprah’s 1996 interview with Prince, she helped him sum up his feelings about life and his legacy when she asked, “What do you want people to know about you?”
Prince’s answer: “The music.”
We do know your music, Mr. Nelson. More important, millions of us love it. And we’re saddened to think that we may never know anyone else like you.