Prince turned pro in 1977, signing a six figure contract with Warner Bros. Forty years later, this special issue of the Journal of African American Studies, devoted to one of the world's most talented artists, coincides with that anniversary. In 1978, Prince released, For You, a valiant, but not wildly commercially successful freshman effort. On that album however, listeners were introduced to a virtuoso, as Prince played every instrument and sang all the vocals, something unheard of, then and now. To put into context, one year later Michael Jackson released the hugely popular Off the Wall, which, was indebted to more than 35 musicians along with nearly 20 composers and arrangers. Despite its limited commercial appeal, For You set the tone from the outset. Prince would produce, oversee and control all aspects of his artistry. On the day Prince died, April 21, 2016 and in the weeks and months that followed, musicians and writers the world over, tried to express verbally, musically and in written form the meaning of this great loss. Prince was one of the world's most talented musicians and arguably the most talented since World War I. This special issue is the first academic journal to place Prince at the center of scholarly analysis, either before or since his transition. This collection of academics and writers has produced a body of work that is as nearly as fresh, original and mind-bending as Prince's music. Readers will be prompted to view Prince through lenses previously unconsidered.
Journal of African American Studies