Prince‘s mastery in the recording studio was matched only by his artistic prowess in the visual medium. In a cosmic coincidence that changed the course of pop music and his career, the singer — who was found dead Thursday (April 21) at age 57 at his Minnesota home — broke through to the mainstream in 1982 with the album 1999, released less than a year after the launch of MTV.
While Michael Jackson is often credited with breaking the racial barrier at the network with his “Billie Jean” video, it was Prince who was one of the few black artists to garner early play on the then-almost-exclusively white video network.
The singer’s combination of raw sexuality mixed with androgyny and a striking wardrobe — not to mention a keen eye for eye-catching visuals — helped make him, along with Jackson and Madonna, one of the most iconic and celebrated video artists of the decade. It’s a sad irony, then, that due to the singer’s quirky business practices, none of his iconic clips — from “Controversy,” to “Purple Rain,” “1999,” “Little Red Corvette,” “When Doves Cry,” “Raspberry Beret” and “Kiss” — are available online.
The singer’s legacy survives on the Internet, though, in a number of funny, touching and bizarre tributes to his look and sound from his many celebrity admirers. Here are some of our favorites:
Fred Armisen playing the Purple One on Saturday Night Live:
Though we might like to forget the time Shaquille O’Neal tried his hand at an impression:
Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell played a stripped-down cover of “Nothing Compares 2 U” at SiriusXM last year:
The Chappelle’s Show tribute to Prince’s basketball prowess:
Though Prince and Michael Jackson were long thought to be at professional odds, in a rare clip from 1983, the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, managed to get both of them onstage to perform (though not together) during a show at the Beverly Theater in Los Angeles: