Most of us are familiar with Prince’s music catalog, at least some of it, but his most important contributions were non-musical.
Much like David Bowie, Prince was uncompromising in his self expression, always doing what he wanted and following his own artistic path. He broke the mold of what a successful black artist had to look and sound like, and reinvented his look and sound numerous times throughout his career. He also fought hard for artist rights, his own as well as the rights of others. He stood up against the major label system that resulted in many acts feeling like their contracts were the equivalent of modern day slavery. He was vocal about artists maintaining the rights to their recorded material, and fought hard to get the rights to his own material back from the major label that owned them.
He stood up for social justice with strong stances on police brutality, like he did when Freddie Gray was murdered. This is something not all artists have the guts to do. Some artists are more worried about corporate endorsements than staying true to who they are and what they believe in, and Prince was never about all that. He Literally changed the game when he changed his name to the symbol. Many people didn’t understand the move, and it was often mocked, but that move allowed him to stay true to his artistic vision and keep releasing music for his fans when the major label he was signed to was trying to force him to slow production to boost demand.
He was also such an important figure in the careers of acts ranging from The Time, whose first major break was in Purple Rain, to Sinead O’Connor (Prince wrote “Nothing Compares 2 U”, her only real hit). If it wasn’t for Prince, we wouldn’t know names like Sheila E., Morris Day and The Time, Vanity 6 and toward the latter part of his career, he had an all female backing band called 3rdeyegirl, and featured their musicianship heavily in his music during that period.
Prince’s influence on music is huge, way bigger than most people even realize. He had such an impact on so many genres of music, and was one of The Greatest musicians of all time. The after life just got a little more entertaining. He was gone way too soon, but the impact he made while he was here will forever change music.