Accessibility links

Millennials Dig 80s Musical Icon Prince

  • Catherine Maddux

FILE - Singer Prince performs at the 1985 Grammy awards ceremony in Los Angeles on Feb. 26, 1985.

FILE - Singer Prince performs at the 1985 Grammy awards ceremony in Los Angeles on Feb. 26, 1985.

He was all shoulder pads, high heels and perfect hair. His lithe athletic body seemed to glide across the stage, spinning and jumping into the splits. Singing in a sexy almost feminine falsetto voice and always in motion, he radiated unabashed sexuality.

Prince performs on stage during the Purple Rain Tour in 1984. (Richard E. Aaron, Redferns)

Prince performs on stage during the Purple Rain Tour in 1984. (Richard E. Aaron, Redferns)

Prince, a Minnesota native born Prince Rogers Nelson, was arguably THE icon of the ‘80s music scene in America. For those of us who were in our 20s, his songs were like wallpaper, playing in the background of our lives.

His image, his songs and performances seemed imbued with special powers: it was nearly impossible not to sing, sway and shake to his music.

​News of his death on April 21st was not just a shock. It was simply impossible. It came via my work email from my sister:

Sent: Thursday, April 21, 2016 1:03 PM
To: Kay Maddux <kmaddux@VOANews.com>
Subject: Prince died! : (

I scanned the cable news to be certain, then grabbed my smartphone, tapped my iTunes app, found my collection of Prince and played one song after another.

Meanwhile, Twitter was ablaze in an outpouring of grief, which made me wonder: is Prince meaningful only to middle-aged fans like myself? Is this a nostalgia that older people alone are prone to?

Or, was Prince like the Beatles, James Brown, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones? Was he the kind of artist who transcends generations?

Do American millennials "get" Prince?

Screenshot of Prince in his 1984 video of "When Doves Cry." (photo credit: Prince Roger Nelson

Screenshot of Prince in his 1984 video of "When Doves Cry." (photo credit: Prince Roger Nelson


I went looking for answers on the Internet, where millennials tend to hang out, and found this blog by Ryan M. Shepard, a journalism student at American University:

Millennials Love Prince Too
A legend that will never be forgotten
April 25, 2016

“As a millennial, I love Prince because without him...I don’t know. I may not have grown up or been alive for his peak as a musician, but I still connect with the sound, the music, and the person. I don’t want to be Prince, but I want to be as unapologetic in my life as he was in his. I want to be me and not need to apologize for it or feel like I’m making someone uncomfortable. And most importantly, I want to love whatever I do in life as much as Prince loved music. If I can do that, I’ll be set.”

Then, this video was uploaded on USA Today, featuring the reactions and opinions of 20 somethings after learning of Prince's death. I also found this:

On WNYC Studio’s popular podcast 2DopeQueens, millennial hosts Jessica Williams and Pheobe Robinson paid their respects.

Jessica: “I seen Purple Rain, a thousand, a million bajillion times…it’s so good… ha hahaha .. it’s like omg I love you.”

Phoebe: “And [he’s] writing like 2 songs a day. That’s like INsane. I would love to be that talented. He plays like all his instruments, and he could dance."

Jessica: “And he has such style!”

Phoebe: “Yeah and he knew how to wear a…tunic.”

Jessica: “And he has his aesthetic, and he like wasn’t afraid to like play with society’s standards of gender.”

Phoebe: “Exactly and like sexuality. Just felt very like… “

Jessica: “Natural.”

Phoebe: “And it was very future.”

Newspapers leadings with the death of Prince are displayed, April 22, 2016.

Newspapers leadings with the death of Prince are displayed, April 22, 2016.


Admittedly, this is not a scientific study. But it does provide a clue that Prince, the beloved “son” of Minnesota, remains an artistic force who resonates beyond his own generation.

When I turned in my draft for an edit, my very sharp colleague rolled her eyes.

“I could have told you the answer to that," she said.

"The day Prince died, my millennial daughter texted: ‘Worst day ever!’"

XS
SM
MD
LG