Prince in the Spotlight: His Best Pop Culture Moments | NBC New York

Prince in the Spotlight: His Best Pop Culture Moments

"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life"



    Iconoclast, influencer, American royalty, legend: Just a handful of the descriptors used on social media to describe singer-songwriter Prince as news of his death broke.

    The artist born Prince Rogers Nelson and known simply as Prince (or briefly as an unpronounceable symbol in the 1990s) died Thursday at his home in suburban Minneapolis. He was 57.

    With a vocal range that flew from deep bass to falsetto, Prince electrified the 1980s MTV generation with his infectious mix of pop, funk and rock, and rode the new wave of gender-ambiguous fashion that dominated the decade of excess through career looks that never failed to excite and, more often than not, to titillate.

    He sold over 100 million records worldwide, won seven Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe and an Academy Award. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.

    "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life," Prince says at the beginning of "Let's Go Crazy" from 1984's "Purple Rain." 

    His fans gathered – collectively or in spirit Thursday – to mark the passing of one of music's greatest performers. Here, pop culture moments that will live on now that Prince has left the stage. 

    Party Like it's "1999"
    Released in October of 1982, the album "1999" was Prince's first top 10 album on the Billboard 200 chart (peaking at number 9) and became the fifth best-selling album of 1983, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008 and featured "Little Red Corvette," "Delirious" and the titular anthem.

    According to the Rolling Stone Album Guide, "'1999' may be Prince's most influential album: Its synth-and-drum machine-heavy arrangements codified the Minneapolis sound that loomed over mid-'80s R&B and pop, not to mention the next two decades' worth of electro, house, and techno." 

    The Reign of "Purple Rain"
    Released in 1984 to accompany the movie of the same name, "Purple Rain" sold over 20 million copies worldwide, earned the singer two Grammy Awards in 1985, and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2011. 

    The seemingly autobiographical movie set in the Minneapolis club scene and hit-heavy album propelled him to the central point of the pop culture radar of the time. Prince starred in the movie along with Apollonia, The Time, his band The Revolution, and actor Clarence Williams III. The film has grossed over $65 million at the box office and the soundtrack album spent 24 weeks atop the chart and sold over 13 million copies.

    In 1984, Prince simultaneously had the number one album ("Purple Rain"), number one song ("When Doves Cry"), and the number one movie ("Purple Rain"). 

    "Purple Rain" was awarded the Best Music, Original Song Score Academy Award in 1985. 

    Cinema Royalty
    After the success of "Purple Rain," Prince's influence on the big screen only grew. At the time of his passing, website lists the performer with 166 soundtrack credits and 8 acting credits (most notably "Purple Rain," "Under the Cherry Moon" and "Graffiti Bridge" – all of which he starred in). 


    Prince's eleventh studio album was also the soundtrack to the first big screen reboot of the Caped Crusader. Released in 1989, "Batman" provided the music for the film of the same name starring Michael Keaton as the titular hero and Jack Nicholson as the Joker. Though "Batdance" is the most recalled number one hit single from the album, "Batman" stands as a prime example of the performer's cross-media reach. It reached No. 1 on the Billboard Album Chart and has sold over 11 million copies worldwide. 

    In Good Company
    Performing a medley of his hits "Purple Rain," "Baby I'm A Star," and "Let's Go Crazy," Prince opened the Grammy Awards in 2004 alongside Beyonce. That performance counts among hundreds of collaborations for the performer, ranging from duets to songwriter and production credits.

    One of his most memorable live performances occurred in 2004 when he took the stage with Tom Petty, Steve Winwood and Jeff Lynne to help honor George Harrison's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The incredibly powerful rendition of The Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" featured a one-for-the-ages guitar solo by Prince.  

    Setting the Bar at the Super Bowl
    While the Colts pounded the Bears at Super Bowl XLI in 2007, more memorable was the halftime show with Prince as the headline act. As a driving rain fell, Prince captivated and entertained, seemlessly working through a medley of his hits including "Let’s Go Crazy," "Baby I’m a Star," and "Purple Rain," as well as covers of Queen’s "We Will Rock You," Creedance Clearwater Revival’s "Proud Mary" and Bob Dylan’s "All Along the Watchtower."  

    A performance for the ages, every subsequent halftime act is judged by comparison.

    In a clip posted by the NFL, halftime show production designer Bruce Rodgers remembers someone breaking the news to Prince that he'd have to play in the rain. "Prince was like, 'Can you make it rain harder?'" Rodgers says. Watch the video here.