Rhapsody in Black

Prince is an icon for a new form of classical music

Black and white photograph of Prince taken by Robert Whitman near the "Music Wall" mural on the side of the Schmitt Music building in downtown Minneapolis.Alan Freed

Rhapsody in Black - Prince


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October 20, 2022

Pop superstar Prince was far more than the chart-topping musician everyone loved. He was a modern-day composer who explored and was an expert in many styles of music. He was mostly self-taught, but his music teacher focused on music theory and making music fun. While most would place Prince in the genre of pop music, his music is classical but “not in the narrow sense of Western classical music," professor Richard Elliott says. "It is in a more liberated and liberating understanding and extension of the varied streams of a Black classical music tradition that incorporated gospel, jazz, R&B, rock and roll, soul, funk, hip hop and more.”

Musical selections from Prince

Prince & The Revolution - “When Doves Cry”

Prince was a master when it came to collaboration. He worked with many groups and individuals which included the New Power Generation, Madhouse and Sheila E. The most iconic version of Prince was his time with the Revolution. His work with the group spawned the hits “Purple Rain,” “Raspberry Beret” and “When Doves Cry.“

“Manic Monday”

The compositional output of Prince was extremely high. Even after his death, there are many completed works that are still being released. One specific type of work is songs that he wrote and later handed off to another musical group. These works include Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U,” Kenny Rogers’ “You’re My Love,” No Doubt’s “Waiting Room,” and the Bangles’ “Manic Monday.”

“Mary Don't You Weep”

Prince spoke a lot about social issues in his music. In the video for “Mary Don’t You Weep,“ he especially depicts the activist work he did in Baltimore in 2015. At the beginning of the video, he states “The system is broken. It’s going to take young people to fix it this time. We need new ideas, new life.” In 2015 he released a documentary-style video that focused on the need for more compassion and peace.


Host: Tesfa Wondemagegnehu

Producer: Dan Nass

Writers: Andrea Blain and Scott Blankenship

Additional music selections: Jeffrey Yelverton

Executive Producer: Julie Amacher