In his own words: 10 things Prince taught us

One of the great ironies with Prince is that he put so much music into the world - 39 studio albums in 38 years, as well as scores of songs recorded by other artists - and yet he remained such an enigma. On news of his death on 21 April, Brian Wilson poignantly and simply tweeted: "I'm shocked to hear that Prince passed at such a young age. Musically, he could do it all: sing, play, arrange and produce. Love & Mercy." Those are things we can say with absolute certainty, but as rapper Theophilus London added: "Love U prince. U taught us everything."

Across Prince's 39 albums is an explosion of creativity - rivalled by only a very select few in the history of popular music - and there was also much we could learn from the times when he spoke to the press. Such moments were rare, and he could often be flippant and mischievous in interviews, running circles round journalists, usually preferring to let his music do the talking. But not always. Here are 10 quotes from throughout his career that are chock full of foresight, humour and wisdom.

1. Stay true to yourself

All the groups in America seem to do exactly the same as each other

"All the groups in America seem to do just exactly the same as each other - which is to get on the radio, try to be witty, say the most sickening things they can think of and gross out the interviewer. They think that's going to make them big and cool. They're a little too concerned with keeping up the payment on the Rolls Royce when really they should be busying themselves with doing something that's true to their own selves. Obviously the new wave thing has brought back a lot of that greater reality. There are so many of those groups that there is just no way many of them can make it in those vast commercial terms. So they have no choice but to write what's inside of them."

1981, NME

All the groups in America seem to do exactly the same as each other

2. Enrich, never degrade

We have to take responsibility for things we have sung in the past

"I like positivity, I like the truth. I like the brothers who are gonna enrich and not degrade. Why would I want to listen to music about b******* and shooting people? It’s just somebody’s idea of what 'b******' are. See, Eve [hip hop guest on 1999 album Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic] changed her groove up for me, and that says something about me and it says something about her, and it says something about the record industry that will accept that. And yes, we all have to take responsibility for things we may have sung in the past. I take responsibility by changing."

2000, Mojo

We have to take responsibility for things we have sung in the past

3. The harder you work, the better you'll get

You don’t need a record company to turn you into anything

"Larry King asked me once, 'Didn't you need a record company to make it?' But that has nothing to do with it. I was well-known starting out, we had a great band and every time we played, we got better. We also had studio work, so the more we recorded the better we got. This is what you’ve got to do, and if you've got great folk around you and a good teacher, you're going to excel at it. You don’t need a record company to turn you into anything. It wasn't like they were directing our flow whatsoever, you know. I had autonomous control from the very beginning to make my album.”

2015, The Guardian

You don’t need a record company to turn you into anything

4. Preparation is the key to success

You can't go out there unless you've got the show in shape

"Oh, you can't go out there unless you've got the show completely in shape. It can look pretty wild onstage, but everyone knows exactly where they're supposed to be. That was a lesson I had to learn from when I was starting out. When we first went out behind 1999, The Time, who were opening for us, beat us up every night. They would laugh about it; it was a joke to them. Our show wasn't together. I had to stop the tour and get things tightened up. Now me and the band have a certain relationship with each other, and every night we make the audience part of that."

2004, The Word

You can't go out there unless you've got the show in shape

5. Stay fascinated by everything, everyone and yourself

I don’t consider myself better than anyone

“I had a massive ego. Massive. But that’s not such a bad thing. Because at least you’re aspiring to be something, you consider yourself great because you want to be great… I’m no different to anyone. Yes, I have fame and wealth and talent, but I certainly don’t consider myself any better than anyone who has no fame, wealth or talent. People fascinate me. They’re amazing! Life fascinates me! And I’m no more fascinated by my own life than by anyone else’s.”

1996, NME

I don’t consider myself better than anyone

6. Refuse all titles

I don't want to be the CEO of anything

"I let the spirit guide me, where I am in my life, though it has to be more than music. I'll only work with people I like, nice people who are comfortable to be around. I'm not the president of a record company. I don't want to be the CEO of anything. No titles. The minute you've accepted a title you're a slave to it. You're no longer free... Also, if you don't own your masters, your masters own you. Underline that. The more people you allow to come between you and your music, the further it moves away from you. This isn't your business, it's your life.

1998, Mojo

I don't want to be the CEO of anything

7. Ignore all critics

I hate reading about what some guy thinks

"There's nothing a critic can tell me that I can learn from. If they were musicians, maybe. But I hate reading about what some guy sitting at a desk thinks about me. You know, 'He's back, and he's black,' or 'He's back, and he's bad.' Whew! Now, on [1990 film/soundtrack album] Graffiti Bridge, they're saying I'm back and more traditional. Well, 'Thieves in the Temple' and 'Tick, Tick, Bang' don't sound like nothing I've ever done before."

1990, Rolling Stone

I hate reading about what some guy thinks

8. Genre means nothing

Music is all just based on colours and sounds

“You have to understand that those terms are just language. I have a bunch of great stars on my new album - No Doubt, Sheryl Crow, Ani DiFranco - but it’s almost like you wouldn’t notice. Gwen Stefani is just a cool sister to me. I put her on a track on the album I thought she’d be good on, and she blends right in. The more I think about it, the more music is all just based on colours and sounds… Miles [Davis] wasn’t thinking in terms of bridging. People wanted to play with him because they knew he wasn’t going to bow to any rules. A strong spirit transcends rules."

2000, Mojo

Music is all just based on colours and sounds

9. Never repeat yourself

My friend worries that I'll short-circuit

"One of my friends worries that I'll short-circuit. We always say I'll make the final fade on a song one time and... It just gets more and more interesting every day. More than anything else, I try not to repeat myself. It's the hardest thing in the world to do - there's only so many notes one human being can muster. I write a lot more than people think I do, and I try not to copy that. I think that's the problem with the music industry today. When a person does get a hit, they try to do it again the same way. I don't think I've ever done that."

1985, Rolling Stone

My friend worries that I'll short-circuit

10. Enjoy growing older

We are put here for a reason

“I love growing older. You can figure things out quicker because you've seen how things happen in the past and so you watch the results a certain action will have. Also, the older I get the closer I am to where I'm going, which is a better place. We all have a purpose within us. We are put here for a reason. My talent is God-given, but the music is made by me. I make the choices that make the music."

1996, The Times

We are put here for a reason

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