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A Brief History of Prince Being Prince

on April 21, 2017, 1:30pm
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This feature was originally published in September of 2015. We’re reposting to mark one year since Prince’s passing.

It’s not like he didn’t warn us. “I’m just a crazy fool, lost in the world of love,” sings a 19-year-old Prince Roger Nelson on “Crazy You”, the fourth song on his 1978 debut, For You. In the nearly 40 years since, the Purple One has unleashed the crazy in every way imaginable, injecting his singular personality (or maybe personalities) into some of the most brilliant recordings and truly bizarre career moves anyone has ever made. Only he’s not crazy, this funky five-foot-three Midwestern rock ‘n’ soul preacher-teacher sex deity. He’s eccentric, superhuman, supernatural, and maybe even extraterrestrial, but there’s logic to what he does. It’s just not our logic.

As Prince returna with HitNRun — by some counts his 38th studio album, streaming exclusively on Tidal — we celebrate some of the weird-ass moments that, for better and for worse, have made the guy such a riot to roll with. Who but Prince could emerge as a race- and gender-defying one-man band from Minneapolis and proceed to create his own freaky-sexy universe of spin-off acts (Morris Day and the Time, Vanity 6, The Family), star in a self-mythologizing blockbuster biopic, dare U 2 accept a new form of English language, scare the pants off Tipper Gore, charm the pants off Carmen Electra, compose a rad set of songs about Batman, do battle with one of the biggest record companies in the world, and pen a decent song about being reincarnated as a dolphin — all before his 40th birthday?

“There’ll never be another like me,” he sang on MPLSoUND, one of three 2009 albums he bundled together and sold exclusively at Target, of all places. He wasn’t kidding. On any given night, Prince will turn up in your town, dance like James Brown, wail like Jimi Hendrix, and shoot the J like Michael Jordan. He’s called himself the Purple Yoda, but Jedi masters have nothing on this guy.

Click ahead for a brief history of Prince being Prince.


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