Nelson was born in Minneapolis but became a worldwide phenomenon.
Harriette Cole is the Founder of DreamLeapers. She knew, wrote about and eventually worked for Prince for his Welcome2America tour. She joined MPR News host Kerri Miller for a conversation about Prince's legacy.
"I spent a lot of time with Prince behind the scenes, and I watched how he saw people," Cole said. "And, he would consistently notice the greatness in people and call it forth."
Prince personally mentored dozens of artists like Janelle Monae, Sinead O'Conner, and dancer Misty Copeland.
He also inspired a generation of young, black artists in Minnesota. Toki Wright, an Emmy Award-winning musician and head of the multimedia company Soul Tools Entertainment, is one of them.
"What black Minnesotan figure can you think of being spoken on in the national arena or national spotlight before 1985?" Wright said. "You didn't hear about anybody else."
NPR music correspondent and critic Ann Powers noted, "One thing that's been discussed a lot since Prince left us is how aware [we've become] of the challenges he faced as a fully independent visionary, genius, African-American musician in an industry and in a country, that has constantly limited the possibilities for people of color...even as the music itself is founded on African American creativity."
"I think in retrospect we can see that much of this intense need to control every situation he was in had to do with his desire and determination to maintain control, dignity, freedom, liberty within in his creative life, professional life...within all aspects of his life," Powers added.
Prince was fearless when it came to his stage presence, experimenting with new sounds and taking business risks.
For Wright, Prince distributing his own music marks a turning point in the industry. "Soundcloud is so big and Bandcamp is so big today, without people like Prince....without Prince specifically, [it was unbelievable] to even think that I could just give my music directly to the people who want to hear it and not have to go through middle people."
When people did get in the way, Prince was willing to step in. Cole recounts being on tour with Prince when he fired promoters for trying to raise ticket prices. "He wanted the people to come," Cole said. Being at one of his shows, "felt like going to church with him," she continued.
"There's nothing more utopian than the audience at a Prince show," Powers said. "That audience is just love, and it's people of all different shapes, sizes, shades of sexual orientation, whatever, sharing a space and sharing joy and beauty. Prince shows taught me the power of music to paint a better world."