The world lost music icon Prince five years ago.
Regarded as one of the greatest musicians of all time, the seven-time Grammy winner and fashion icon died April 21, 2016 at his Minneapolis compound at age 57. Public data released six weeks after his death showed he died of an accidental fentanyl overdose.
Later this year, Prince’s “Welcome 2 America” album, which he created in 2010 but never released, will be shared. His estate dubbed the music “a powerful creative statement that documents Prince’s concerns, hopes, and visions for a shifting society, presciently foreshadowing an era of political division, disinformation, and a renewed fight for racial justice.” The title track is out now and the album drops July 30.
We’re looking back on his illustrious career through interviews he gave to USA TODAY over the years. Some of his most notable quotes:
On his love of experimentation: “Making hits is the easiest thing I could do. But it’s like taking a ribbon for a race someone else won. I can’t do that. I can’t repeat myself.”
On the sheer volume of his work: “I can’t wait four years between records. What am I going to do for four years? I’d just fill up the vault with more songs.”
On the bond with his band: “When Jon Bon Jovi asked me if he could do a song with my band, I went, ‘What? No!’ It was like he wanted to make love to my woman.”
On his movie ‘Graffiti Bridge’ being a critical failure: “(It was) one of the purest, most spiritual, uplifting things I’ve ever done. It was non-violent, positive and had no blatant sex scenes. Maybe it will take people 30 years to get it. They trashed ‘The Wizard of Oz’ at first, too.”
On negative attitudes poisoning the entertainment industry: “I always see myself described as arrogant or pretentious. I just do what I want. I don’t consider that arrogance. We should stop arguing and stop attacking each other. The first time I heard Yoko Ono sing, I went, ‘Hey, you got to quit that — today!’ But I had to stop myself. How can I say she shouldn’t sing? Maybe she feels a strong need to express herself.”
On collaborating with women: “Women want to work with me more often than men. Women understand me better. They’re less threatened by me.”
On the lack of music education: “Nobody’s learning how to make music, how to read and write it, and how to play. I worry that we’re raising a whole generation that’s going to turn out nothing but samples and rehashes.”
On negotiating out of his contract with Warner Bros.: “This is what freedom sounds like. When I saw light at the end of the tunnel, I made a beeline for it. This is the most exciting time of my life. There was nothing in the way when I recorded (‘Emancipation’). Nobody looked over my shoulder. Nothing was remixed, censored, chopped down or edited.”
On the deterioration of his relationship with Warner: “I don’t think it’s their place to talk me into or out of things. Nobody should run our creative flowers out of the business or break their spirit or tell them how to create. Artists don’t like business. We like being successful and sharing an experience with an audience. In Mozart’s time, word of mouth built an audience. People found him and heard him play. Then someone came along and said, `We can sell this experience.’ Right there, you got trouble. Music comes from the spirit, but where does the guy selling music come from?”
On the male-female glyph that replaced his name: “My name is the eye of me. It doesn’t have a sound. It looks beautiful and makes me feel beautiful. Prince had too much baggage.”
On plotting a long future: “Not to sound cosmic, but I’ve made plans for the next 3,000 years. Before, it was only three days at a time.”
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On record deals: “Contracts that bind people are based in distrust. That’s why the ‘con’ is in there. … You’re giving away your legacy for something that is valueless. Money runs out. Music appreciates like real estate.”
On selling his music directly: “I don’t really take a stance on piracy. If I was only getting a few pennies off every album, I’d be worried. But I get $7 a pop for every album that sells for $10. That’s enough.”
On the dying craft of live musicianship: “You can’t bring a prerecorded event to the stage. You have to be able to vibe off the audience and let a song marinate. Keep it alive! Where can you see a real band anymore? You can’t get a machine to play like my drummer.”
On dropping the cruder songs from his set list after becoming a Jehovah’s Witness: “I have an older, more sophisticated audience now. And the 13-year-olds hear enough depraved culture. They don’t need to hear me do ‘Sexy M.F.’ or ‘Erotic City.’ I choose not to do those songs. That’s not where my head is now.”
On living solo: “I’m single, celibate and sexy. I feel free.”
On why he issues cease-and-desist orders when his content is posted: “YouTube is the hippest network, and they abuse copyright right and left. You see a song like ‘Purple Rain’ turned into ‘Pure Cocaine’; what should my response be? I chase the money to find out who’s behind it. It’s a matter of principle. I don’t want my music bastardized.”
On signing with Tidal to distribute his music: “Jay Z didn’t want to get the same wages (as everyone else). God’s not broke, why should we be? I’m not mad at anybody for being successful.”
On being asked to hear his new album in his entirety: “Did you bring money?”
Contributing: Edna Gundersen and Arienne Thompson, USA TODAY.