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Prince created the soundtrack for my life

In this May 19, 2013, photo, Prince performs at the Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Prince, widely acclaimed as one of the most inventive and influential musicians of his era with hits including ‘Little Red Corvette,’ ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ and ‘When Doves Cry,’ was found dead at his home on Thursday, April 21, 2016, in suburban Minneapolis. He was 57.
In this May 19, 2013, photo, Prince performs at the Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Prince, widely acclaimed as one of the most inventive and influential musicians of his era with hits including ‘Little Red Corvette,’ ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ and ‘When Doves Cry,’ was found dead at his home on Thursday, April 21, 2016, in suburban Minneapolis. He was 57. Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

You can measure the longevity and artistry of a musician’s career by how often his or her music becomes the soundtrack of your life.

Prince’s music fit that bill for me. In my late 20s, I was at a cast party after a play at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., when someone put on “I Would Die 4 U” and people screamed in delight, running to the dance floor.

In the late afternoon of New Year’s Eve 1998, I drove frantically around West Los Angeles intent on finding a CD with Prince’s “1999” on it to take to a friend’s party. I got it. My goal was to play it at midnight as 1999 dawned and we watched fireworks burst in the sky. I can’t remember at which hour it actually got played. What difference did it make? It had come out ages before – 1982. I was just happy I had found it in a record store (this was back in the day) on what to me seemed the most magical night you could play it.

I know I’m just one of the legions of fans forever mesmerized by his music’s exuberance and edginess. But I’m also not alone in thinking a lot of what he did was hokey.

The name change made me roll my eyes. Some of his weird fashion get-ups were just … weird. I remember the movie “Purple Rain” as filled with great music but also vaguely sexist. There was Prince cavorting with the Amazonian actress, Apollonia – who dwarfed his slight frame – and forcing her to strip down in one scene.

Years later, he redeemed himself in my eyes by working with Bonnie Raitt, the wonderful blues and folk-rock singer and guitarist, as she set about remaking her career and eventually becoming the music star she deserved to be.

That’s perhaps another sign of his artistry – that he influenced fans and artists alike over the course of his too-short 57 years. On the day of his death, it’s worth remembering that a lot of what he did was experimental and pushed boundaries – a lesson that one-note techno-pop songsters could take.

Carla Hall is a member of the Los Angeles Times editorial board.

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