Written By: LIFE Staff

Prince’s ballad “Sea of Everything” from 20Ten, his 35th album begins by evoking the power of an image. “I see your picture wherever I go / I’m not here to lecture, just letting you know,” the ballad begins. “I know you’re busy, the world’s calling you…”

The world, it seems, will always be calling for Prince and for any new pictures of him.

In music’s never-ending search for authenticity and genius, few can match Prince’s talents as a musician or songwriter. As LIFE observed in 1992, his music “sprang from that fundamental basement playroom where all rock is gestated. He drew into a single voice the various sounds of James Brown, Jimi Hendrix and Funkadelic, which he pressed into the thunder of Purple Rain. Prince remembered two basic facts about rock: It’s dance music, and its signature emotion is longing, romantic yearning.”

LIFE combed through its archives of hundreds of candid Prince photos to give a closer look at the beloved Purple One. LIFE photographer Gjon Mili once wrote that the best portrait is when the subject is “free and easy…in the line of the body.” By that logic, it was impossible for Prince to take a bad picture.

This gallery was produced in partnership with Spotify as part of their year-long “Black History Is Happening Now” platform. Click here for curated playlists, videos, podcasts and more that celebrate Black achievements and culture beyond Black History Month.

American singer, songwriter and musician Prince, circa 1985

Prince on tour for Purple Rain, 1985.

The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Al Pacino/Prince

Prince plays guitar on his Purple Rain tour in Inglewood, California, February. 17, 1985

The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

American singer, songwriter and musician Prince, circa 1985

Prince, circa 1985

The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Musician Prince playing guitar during his Purple Rain tour. Long Beach, California, March 10, 1985.

Prince playing guitar during his Purple Rain tour. Long Beach, California, March 10, 1985.

The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Al Pacino/Prince

Prince during a Purple Rain tour performance in Los Angeles, March 1985

The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Al Pacino/Prince

Prince, in a beaded cape, attends the 57th Annual Academy Awards in Los Angeles on March 25, 1985. He won an Oscar that year for Purple Rain

The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Musician Prince out in Hollywood, California, January 12, 1986.

Prince out in Hollywood, California, January 12, 1986.

The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

American musician Prince (1958 - 2016) performs onstage during a pre-tour concert at the Wiltern Theatre, Los Angeles, California, May 30, 1986

Prince during a pre-tour concert at the Wiltern Theatre, Los Angeles, May 30, 1986

The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Musician Prince and an unidentified girlfriend are attending "M Butterfly" on Broadway. He is wearing a jacket with Minneapolis printed on the sleeve which is trademarked for his "Love Sexy 88 tour". New York, NY, September 23, 1988.

Musician Prince and an unidentified girlfriend are attending “M Butterfly” on Broadway, September 23, 1988.

The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Prince

Prince on his Lovesexy tour in 1988.

The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Al Pacino/Prince

Prince signs records on his Lovesexy tour, 1988.

The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Prince

Prince on stage under a banner that reads “No War,” circa 1988

The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

More Like This

arts & entertainment

Jaws: The Shark Movie That Changed the World

arts & entertainment

Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s First Wrappings, 1968

arts & entertainment

The Beatles: Shining On

arts & entertainment

Gone With the Wind: The Great American Movie

arts & entertainment

Little Women: Quietly Revolutionary

Mister Rogers arts & entertainment

Mister Rogers’ Beautiful Days