What people say when they talk about Prince


Prince at 36th NAACP Image Awards
Prince performs onstage at the 36th NAACP Image Awards at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on March 19, 2005, in Los Angeles. That night, Prince was honored with the Vanguard Award. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

In the wake of Prince's death on April 21, 2016, thousands of tributes and remembrances were shared by fellow musicians, celebrities, and his devoted fans. Here's a wide-ranging sampling of the heartfelt homages that celebrate Prince's life and legacy.

Sheila E.

"I met Prince when I was a girl who had dreams of the impossible, when he was a boy who was bold, brash and incredible. We became friends, and more than we knew we would ever be, to each other and to the world. We drifted together, apart and forever in a sea of sound and energy that I had never known existed until discovered through the boldness and brashness of the music and a man I came to love, admire and respect. We, all of us who worked, played and created with this Prince, often experienced a certainty that, for a moment or forever, together, we had achieved the impossible and landed upon a foundation that would be everlasting — if not in reality, definitely in our memories."
(Related: Sheila E sprints through rigorous, cathartic Prince tribute at Orchestra Hall)

James Samuel "Jimmy Jam" Harris III

"The Twin Cities were a great place to grow up, musically. It was a great smorgasbord. There was a vibrant arts scene, and it was very inspiring. And there were people he knew. Prince liked being in a place where he was comfortable, and he was comfortable there. It didn't surprise me that he never left Minnesota. We lived Minneapolis. And he was always very fashionable. I remember when he came up with wearing the purple trench coat in the '80s. He just always looked like a rock star. He had this big Afro, and even if you didn't know who he was, you'd just look at him and think, 'That kid has to be a star.'"

Paul Westerberg

"My first recollection of seeing him was a dress rehearsal for one of his early tours. I was next to another musician, a couple other guys that were up-and-comers and that thought they were hot sh*t, and we were watching Prince. The guy turned to me and said, 'I'm fucking embarrassed to be alive.' And that's how I felt. He was so good. It was like, 'What are we doing? This guy is, like, on a different planet than we are.' It was showmanship, it was rock & roll, it was fun, it was great. I think it helped everyone around. It made us all think that Minneapolis wasn't the dour town that we tried to pretend it was. He was like a ray of light in a very cautious place. He was a star. He made no bones about it. He was glitz to a place that wasn't used to it...I've spent more time with Bob Dylan, and I've got to say that I was more in awe of Prince. I can't think of anyone better — an all-around composer, musician, guitarist, star, showman, the whole package, anyone better. If Elvis wrote all of his songs and played guitar, it still wouldn't quite be there. He'd play Jimi Hendrix-style, between his legs and behind his back. And then he'd do the splits. He could put the guitar down, and Jimi would become James Brown. He could hold the crowd like Mick Jagger, but could Mick Jagger play the piano like that? And then, lyrically, there's something like, 'When Doves Cry.' There's obviously more going on there than meets the booty."

André Cymone

"His legacy? I think his music is his immortality. That sums it up. It's hard to say; he did so much. He recorded so much music. What I remember most is just his personality. There was just a lot more to him than what people saw. I've heard people say it; everybody who really knew him knows he was a funny dude. Very funny. He had a very interesting sense of humor. As kids we had a lot of fun. To be able to do what we loved and be able to actually be successful at it, especially at the age we were at, it was like a dream come true I'm sure for him and definitely for me."
(Related: André Cymone live on the Local Show)

Janelle Monáe

"I lost a true friend and confidante, a mentor, a laughing buddy, an artistic father, my ping pong pal, my biking partner, my dance partner, and my musical hero. I am thank for the time God let us borrow you...I'll miss watching you show us what it looks like to be the greatest rock star in the world. Thank you for never letting your mystery overshadow your kindness. Thank you for choosing freedom over fear. Thank you for being a selfless giver of knowledge and wisdom to so many young artists, including myself. I would not know half of what I do had it not been for your guidance. You understood us weirdos and encouraged us to remain unique. You were a protector of the vanguard and fought to protect our creativity always. You were an encourager of young women in leadership roles, making me believe I should run for president. Outside of you giving us your time, your timeless music, and your timeless performances, the greatest gift you have given me was your affirmation."
(Related: Interview: Janelle Monáe, The Electric Lady)

Neko Case

"Saying that I 'love' Prince just doesn't cover it. Prince was the Bowie of my generation, and they were the best of all generations. Sigh. It makes me shiver when I think of all the people who might not have found the bravery to make art if it weren't for Prince and Bowie...Prince wrote songs re: love + lust + human emotion. Sang TO women, not at them. He valued us. Showed men it was cool to SHOW feelings. HUGE."

Matt "Dr. Fink" Fink (of The Revolution)

"[Prince] knew he needed us other musicians around to inject some ideas and energy into the music, but he really did all of the lyrical and melodic content of those songs by himself. He was just born with this mind that music just poured out of, and he couldn't shut it off."

President Barack Obama

"Few artists have influenced the sound and trajectory of popular music more distinctly, or touched quite so many people with their talent. As one of the most gifted and prolific musicians of our time, Prince did it all. Funk. R&B. Rock and roll. He was a virtuoso instrumentalist, a brilliant bandleader, and an electrifying performer. 'A strong spirit transcends rules,' Prince once said — and nobody's spirit was stronger, bolder, or more creative."

Frank Ocean

"I'm not even gonna say rest in peace because it's bigger than death. I never met the man (I was too nervous the one time I saw him) and I never saw him play live, regrettably. I only know the legends I've heard from folks and what I've heard and seen from his deep catalog of propellant t, fearless, virtuosic work. My assessment is that he learned early on how little value to assign to someone else's opinion of you. An infectious sentiment that seemed soaked into his clothes, his hair, his walk, his guitar and his primal scream. He wrote my favorite song of all time, 'When You Were Mine.' It's a simple song with a simple melody that makes you wish you thought of it first, even though you never would have — a flirtatious brand of genius that feels approachable. He was a straight black man who played his first televised set in bikini bottoms and knee-high heeled boots, epic. He made me feel more comfortable with how I identify sexually simply by his display of freedom from and irreverence for obviously archaic ideas like gender conformity, etc. He moved me to be more daring and intuitive with my own work by his demonstration — his denial of the prevailing model...His fight for his intellectual property — 'Slave' written across the forehead, name changed to a symbol...An all-out rebellion against exploitation. A vanguard and genius by every metric I know of who affected many in a way that will outrun oblivion for a long while. I'm proud to be a Prince fan(stan) for life."


"He was and is our #1 idol. Without him we would have never picked up instruments, started writing songs, or become a band. He is and will always be the most inspiring musician in our lives. We will miss you forever, Prince, nothing compares 2 u." (Related: Este Haim opens up about her Prince obsession)

Stevie Wonder

"Prince's music was so picturesque that even I could see it. I could see his boss Mr. McGee, who thought Prince was never going to be sh*t. I could see Old Man Johnson's farm. I could see that 'Purple Rain' too. Prince's songs were that vivid, the images were that strong...By following his own path, Prince took music to a whole other place, like the Beatles did. He wanted to change the way things were, like Marvin Gaye did. When you do that, you have to be very sure of yourself."

Justin Timberlake

"It would be silly to say that he 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."


"He's the world's greatest ever — and I say ever — performer. Living, dead, male, female, whatever — he embodies the antics and discipline of James Brown, mixed with the guitar virtuoso of Jimi Hendrix, and every woman diva singer rolled into one, and he makes it all his own. You can be a great songwriter, you can be a great musician, you can be a great lyricist, you can be a great performer, you can be a great dancer, you can be a great guitar player, you can be a great singer — and you can do it all in high heels. But he was great at all of those."

Stevie Nicks

"My friend is gone...This is what it sounds like when doves cry. He was my dove."
(Related: Review and photos: Stevie Nicks and the Pretenders, at Xcel Energy Center, share the love and celebrate Prince)

Lenny Waronker (former Warner Bros. executive)

"He had total command of not only the songs but of the production and the ability to do it all on his own. There was no technology. You didn't have drum machines, you didn't have anything — the only other person I can think of that was really capable of doing that was Stevie Wonder."

Lenny Kravitz

"He broke down all the barriers of what a black artist was supposed to be. The music was revolutionary. Just by being himself — through his music, his fashion, his attitude, his unique sound — he showed me where I could go. It expanded my vision. It opened the field for me...Prince's legacy is that of a true creative genius — of a person who poured out more creativity than maybe anybody else. He was a vessel — an instrument himself...He kept his integrity until the end. He did what he wanted, how he wanted, whether the fans went with him or didn't. Even if it was challenging, even if he went out and didn't play the hits. Whatever he did, he did it because he felt it — because he believed in it. He's right there with Mozart, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix. He's right there with the best that ever lived."


"He was singular in his music — he was his own genre — and that same singularity extended to everything in his life...Prince was a great drummer, and he was always marching to his own beat."

Sources: Entertainment Weekly; Celebrating Prince: 1958-2016; Rolling Stone; Prince: An Artist's Life 1958-2016; Instagram; Billboard; Dazed Digital; Minneapolis Star-Tribune; Pitchfork; Twitter.