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Prince, a Gender-Bending Original, Dead at 57

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Prince, who changed popular music with his sexually frank music and gender-fluid image, has died at age 57, his publicist confirmed to the Associated Press.

The Grammy- and Oscar-winning singer had been battling illness as of late, though no cause of death has been confirmed.

A proud Minneapolis native, Prince released his first album, For You, in 1978. His musical and dance talents highlighted a love of R&B, soul, funk, and jazz. His succeeding albums, including Prince, Dirty Mind, and Controversy, increased his fame. His 1982 album, 1999, would serve as his breakthrough, which included the legendary title track and the single "Little Red Corvette." He would find more success with his film Purple Rain and other albums, including Sign o' the Times and Diamonds and Pearls.

Part of Prince's appeal stemmed from his very direct lyrics about sex and desire as well as flashy costumes, which included items more often worn by his female contemporaries like Madonna: bikini bottoms, crop tops, chaps, and high heels. In the 1980s and early '90s, the artist was very comfortable sexualizing his image and upending how male artists could look and act.

On his 1981 album Controversy, Prince sang, "Am I black or white, am I straight or gay?"

Prince's take on LGBT issues has been hard to pin down. He toned down his sexual image somewhat in 1997, when he became a Jehovah's Witness. When The New Yorker asked him his thoughts on same-sex marriage in 2008, he reportedly tapped a Bible and said, "God came to Earth and saw people sticking it wherever and doing it with whatever, and he just cleared it all out. He was like, 'Enough.'"

Prince was reportedly furious at that characterization, saying the reporter did not use a tape recorder and he was misquoted.

More recently, Prince was accused of recording antibisexual lyrics on his 2013 single "Da Bourgeosie." Though, with lyrics like "You was all wrapped up around her waist… last time I checked, you said you left the dirty world… Well it appears that wasn't the case," that's also been called subjective.

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