When Prince Rogers Nelson died on April 21, 2016, the world knew it had lost a musical icon. As the third anniversary of Prince’s death approaches, it’s safe to say his legacy will live on, both through his own music and as an influence on countless other musicians.
It wasn’t just the music world that was touched by Prince and mourned his passing, as support for the legendary musician popped up at unlikely places, such as Terminal Tower in Cleveland, which used purple lights after he died. Los Angeles City Hall was washed in purple, as was San Francisco City Hall. Even NASA Tweeted a photo of a purple nebula in his honor.
By coincidence, places such as Niagara Falls and the Eiffel Tower were already scheduled to be bathed in purple in honor of Queen Elizabeth II turning 90 on the day Prince died.
Then there were the musicians, which ran the gamut from Pantera and Kill Devil Hill’s Rex Brown to the cast of “Hamilton” performing “Let’s Go Crazy.” Everybody from Slash of Guns ‘n Roses fame to Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour took to social media to express sadness. Even the enigmatic Buckethead swapped his usual KFC hat for a purple one and played “Purple Rain,” in concert the day Prince died.
Sheila E. spoke for most everybody with one short Tweet.
“My heart is broken. There are no words. I love you!”
The musicians who list Prince as an influence is quite lengthy and runs from country performers to those who are best known for heavy metal.
“I’m beyond shocked to be reading the devastating news that one of my biggest influences Prince, has died suddenly,” John 5, best known as lead guitarist for Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie, wrote on Facebook. “I had the privilege of talking to Prince around 2000. He wanted me to come to Paisley Park and do some recording. I was making a record with Manson at the time and couldn’t break away. A true innovator, a true artist, a true legend and someone that will be terribly missed.”
His songs have been covered from LeAnn Rimes to the Dixie Chicks to Patti Smith to the Foo Fighters. And there are likely many more to come.
Prince’s biggest influence was on the other bands he was associated with the 1980s, such as Morris Day & The Time, Sheila E., Apollonia, Vanity 6 and others in what became known as the “Minneapolis Sound.”
Day and Sheila E. both played portions of Prince songs during their performances last year at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday and it’s no coincidence the two were paired together, as they have come to embrace the Prince connection. The two are performing “A Purple Celebration Starring Morris Day & The Time and Sheila E.” on April 20 in Hammond, Indiana.
Other artists had no problem recording Prince’s songs and he had no problem writing songs with or for other people and a number of performers have Prince to thank for penning some of their most recognizable tracks, such as “Manic Monday” by The Bangles or “Nothing Compares 2 U,” which was first performed by The Family and then became a monster hit for Sinead O’ Connor.
Stevie Nicks and Prince co-wrote “Stand Back” and other songs Prince wrote were Madonna’s “Love Song,” Kenny Rogers’ “You’re My Love” and Cyndi Lauper’s “When You Were Mine.”
Despite being a superstar in every sense of the word, Prince’s musical talents have always been underrated. In 2003, Rolling Stone came out with its list of top 100 guitarists and Prince was nowhere to be found.
The following year he turned in what is known as one of the greatest guitar solos ever at the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony on George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” which Rolling Stone called “The single greatest musical moment at any Rock Hall induction ceremony in its history.”
Prince came out at No. 33 on Rolling Stone’s updated list of the greatest 100 guitarists of all-time.
Performers such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bruno Mars, Beyonce and Justin Timberlake are quick to point out the influence Prince has had on them over the years. Same goes for Beck, Muse, Lenny Kravitz and Pharrell just to scratch the surface.
Even though Timberlake and Prince had some feuds over the years and many Prince fans weren’t happy with JT paying tribute to Prince during his Super Bowl performance, there’s little doubt how much Timberlake looked up to the man, as he shared on Instagram.
“They say don’t meet your idols... That they let you down. But, some of my greatest, funniest (yes, he was hilarious), and most prolific encounters and conversations about music came from the moments that I spent with him. It would be silly to say that he has inspired our music... It’s beyond that. He’s somewhere within every song I’ve ever written.
“I am sad, but I will smile when I think of every second that I had the fortune of being in his company. We have lost our greatest living musician. But his music will never die.”