Five years after the death of Prince; his music remains alive

The legacy of Prince seems stronger than ever, five years after his death, says Stevie G in his Downtown column
Five years after the death of Prince; his music remains alive

Prince died in 2016, aged 57, but was so productive that many of his songs have yet to be released.

It's five years since the death of Prince and his legacy seems more powerful than ever. He was acclaimed during his lifetime and in death, but the music world took for granted his incessant productivity, and there will be plenty of music from his vaults for many years yet.

The latest release is Welcome 2 America, and it drops this July. The title track is out and finds Prince in typically prophetic mood, discussing political division, disinformation, and racial injustice. I’m not sure why we didn’t get this music in 2010, but it makes sense to release it in this political and social climate.

Welcome 2 America is a powerful, spoken-word piece in which Prince dissects social media, celebrity culture, and corporate monopolies in the music industry, before concluding that “America is land of the free, and home of the slave”.

The Prince estate is now in partnership with Sony and Legacy recordings and the reissues have been coming thick and fast. With Welcome 2 America, there’s the usual deluxe editions, including unreleased concert footage, plus limited-edition vinyl versions satisfying the needs of music collectors or Prince fanatics.

The Prince estate and Sony have partnered up on many releases since 2018, including global distribution of Prince’s post-1995 work and also widespread distribution of 12 catalog albums from his 1978-1996 heyday. There will be no shortage of Prince material going forward.

His legendary vaults are full of unreleased music and the handbrake is off. Prince was notoriously protective of his music and he fought long, tiring battles against record companies and, indeed, the internet.

Prince was a pioneer in being one of the first big-name artists to develop a relationship with his fans by distributing his work through the internet.

But it was ultimately an uneasy relationship, and as the internet went wild, Prince started to be more protective of his work.

He was a control freak, but it was his music and therefore his prerogative.

In this streaming era, artists only get a tiny percentage of earnings and Prince foresaw that before most people did. We can only speculate as to what he would think of his music being released now. One thing is for sure, though: The music remains top notch.

Also, the albums so far have been released with respect and care and fans will now benefit as much as the estate and the record companies. Prince’s music is now properly on streaming platforms and Prince will continue to influence generations of music artists and fans.

What is his legacy five years on? Prince is one of the greatest artists of all time. Time hasn’t changed that and while you could never compare his pop impact to Michael Jackson’s, the Minneapolis artist was the bigger genius. He wrote and produced everything and was prolific to the end, plus he played multiple instruments on nearly every album. He produced numerous classics for other artists and was great at discovering new talent and nurturing them, though his controlling nature meant that, sometimes, the relationships ended early.

Prince wasn’t as good a dancer as Michael and MJ had extra star quality on stage, but Prince was one of the greatest live acts of all time, too, and he often played for an extra few hours at after-shows, during long, gruelling tours. His love and passion for music could not be extinguished.

Like any artist, Prince wasn’t perfect, but the Michael Jackson legacy has been damaged by further allegations in recent years.

Sure, it doesn’t diminish his own great music, but it’s hard to look at Michael as favourably these days. With Prince, we have no such problems.

His influence continues to be everywhere, across all music and arts.

The reason I’m using Michael Jackson as a comparison is because there are so few performers you could put next to Prince. Not now, not then, and not ever. He will be remembered as one of the greatest artists of all time, and in 100 years’ time they will still be talking about him and celebrating his music and life.

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