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.”
Although Prince passed away two years ago this April, his contributions to culture continue. In a recent interview with the Guardian, Janelle Monáe said that her new album Dirty Computer (set to release on April 27) features sounds she was “collecting” with her friend Prince. And on her new single, “Make Me Feel,” with its synth hook and yearning lyrics, that influence is clear.
This week, 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.