What Prince Taught Us


“Despite everything, no one can dictate who you are to other people.”

In the time since his death, there have been many articles and interviews characterizing Prince as an artist, a cultural icon, and an unconventional societal symbol. Despite his proclivity for controversy, one universally held belief is that he maximized his creative license as an originator.

While everyone can sing along to hits, such as “Purple Rain” and “When Doves Cry,” what distinguished Prince as a musical legend were songs that pushed societal limits without advancing an ideological agenda. Songs such as, “Controversy,” “Uptown,” and “The Morning Papers” displayed some of Prince’s objections to society, and revealed once more his knack for rebellion. Whether it be questioning sexuality, challenging racial norms, or dressing in a nonconformist fashion, it was clear that the lyrical visionary was determined to define his style.

Following suit, one of the most encouraging results of this generation is the growing number of people showing the courage to be who they are, despite societal restrictions. Our society is undergoing the onerous process of progress in an effort to make our country a beacon of inclusivity. This is the only way to have a truly liberated society, in which nobody has to veil their true self. 

If we are to be successful in our quest for cultural advancement, one thing is evident: we need more artists. While the main political focus of recent years has been to encourage kids to opt into the fields of math and science, other areas of culture should not suffer. The purpose of this piece is not to derail initiatives that promote math and science, but to assure artists of all kinds that we need their contributions, and we need them now more than ever.

We need individuals to use their talents to express the confined feelings of our culture, and to promote ideas that are groundbreaking and controversial. We need talented minds and gifted hands to do the hard work of discovery and innovation that disrupt societal complacency, in an effort toward progress.

In an age where charlatans masquerade as artists for fame and wealth, we need the inspired spirit of true artists to persevere and rise above. 

While the masses may be uncomfortable at times accepting an individual’s artistic process, it is quintessential that we, as a society, promote artistic ingenuity. We have a responsibility to defend against pejorative forces that demonize eccentricity and scrutinize originality. 

Acquiescence is not an option for the liberated mind. Genius often results from a lack of orthodoxy; the foundation for all that is great, or ever was, originated from the uninhibited freedom of intellectual expression. 

And that is what Prince taught us.

Writer’s Note: February 4, 2007, in Dolphin Stadium, the rain poured on the Super Bowl halftime stage. Unfazed and unfiltered, Prince, nearing the end of his final set, belted out the famous chorus from “Purple Rain” as millions of Americans wailed in unison, in a moment that showed the world the power of music. And really, that was all the evidence we needed.


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