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Why Prince’s passing hits home

As fans continue to mourn the passing of the music legend who died April 21, USC scholars reflect on his legacy — and our emotions

Prince in concert
Prince performs an iconic set in pouring rain during half-time of Super Bowl XLI on Feb. 4, 2007, in Miami. (Photo/Anthony Correia/Shutterstock)

To say that Prince was a musical prodigy is no exaggeration. He is reported to have mastered at least 27 instruments, all of which he played on his 1978 debut album For You. He easily moved between rock ’n’ roll, pop, R&B and funk. And when he passed away April 21 at 57, accolades poured in and emotions ran high.


No surprise that his passing has affected so many so much

“Music triggers powerful emotions, and music sets the emotional context for many of the important events of our lives … Because music plays such a central role in both informal and ceremonial aspects of human culture, specific artists, genres and pieces of music often have the power to trigger vivid episodic memories — highly personal and meaningful recollections of experienced events and relationships.”

MARY HELEN IMMORDINO-YANG
Neuroscientist and USC associate professor of education, psychology and neuroscience


Capturing the human condition

“Prince’s death seems almost unfathomable, given how much his music and performances were so radiant with life and something almost, already otherworldly.”

KAREN TONGSON
USC associate professor of English and gender studies


RELATED: Remembering Prince, virtuoso and provocateur


Singular appeal

“For the generation who came of age in the ’80s, Prince was like David Bowie for the people a little older than us — transgressive, sexy, edgy and mercurial. I especially remember ‘Kiss,’ which had such a sexual essence, and ‘Raspberry Beret,’ which had an escapist lightness. The film Purple Rain was heavy and operatic; the entourage at the Academy Awards that year showed the influence of my idol, Stevie Nicks, whose hit song ‘Stand Back’ was inspired by the rock drive of Prince’s ‘Little Red Corvette.’ ”

CHRIS FREEMAN
USC professor (teaching) of English


Honoring a star

“It’s an often overused metaphor, the star that burns brightly and not for long — but I can see why in this case it is fitting.”

CLIFFORD JOHNSON
USC professor of physics and astronomy, on NASA’s recognizing Prince’s death by releasing a photo of a purple crab nebula – what’s left behind when a bright star dies out

Purple nebula

NASA posted this purple nebula on its Twitter account April 21 in honor of Prince’s passing. (Photo/Courtesy of NASA)

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