Prince Rogers Nelson left what we celebrate as “this thing called life” on April 21, 2016. Prince’s legacy will remain eternal in this life and in the after-life. When news broke of Prince’s death, I was numb at the thought of his passing too soon. People from around the world are celebrating his life and legacy. Prince Rogers Nelson (1958-2016) deserves all the accolades for his life, legacy, music and message. From multi-talented musician, singer, song writer, record producer, actor, to film director, there will never be another musical genius like Prince in our lifetime.
Prince was more than a musician. In the words of President Obama, Prince was a “creative icon.” As one Twitter user, “@ElusiveJ eloquently stated, “Thinking about how we mourn artists we’ve never met. We don’t cry because we knew them, we cry because they helped us know ourselves.” And Prince’s music, message and life helped us to know ourselves and who we should become in this thing called life.
I first saw Prince in concert in Maryland in 1984. However, I will always remember his 2015 benefit Rally for Peace concert in my native Baltimore following the Freddie Gray unrest. From the proceeds of the concert and live streaming, Prince contributed $35,000 to Open Society Instituter- Baltimore’s Justice Fund. He also contributed $30,000 to Youth Works, a summer jobs program for Baltimore youth—creating 20 jobs for Baltimore youth. And the NAACP’s Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics received an undisclosed amount, pursuant to an agreement with Prince. He created a song to commemorate the life of Freddie Gray—bringing further attention to Gray’s death at the hands of Baltimore police.
As a lawyer, I can’t but help appreciate Prince’s long fought legal fight beginning in the 1990’s to retain ownership over the rights to his masters’ catalog. He even changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol in denouncing the inability to retain the rights to his back catalog—with the word “Slave” written on his face. And in 2014, he was able to strike a deal to regain control over his back catalog from Warner Brothers due to copyright laws. His music spanned decades and reached multiple generations—worldwide.
Media outlets are now searching for the cause of Prince’s death. For me, it is unimportant to know how Prince died. It is only important to know how he lived his life with integrity and purpose. His music will go on for an eternity. No one word or one song can sum up Prince. His legacy will remain alive in the hearts of those whom he affected through his music. And Prince affected just about everyone on this side of heaven.