The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Prince never apologized for who he was. For that, he was an inspiration.

Musician Prince during Apollo Theater’s 75th anniversary gala in New York in 2009. Prince died on April 21 at 57. (Lucas Jackso/Reuters)

With the tragic news that Prince died Thursday morning, tributes for the music icon started pouring in on social media. Fans credited the late singer with showing them how to live life fearlessly without concern for what anyone else thought. By being eclectic and nonconformist, he made it cool to be different.

Prince could be controversial, too, but that in and of itself was an inspiration for many. When he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, singer Alicia Keys said, “Because of him, I’ve never wanted to be like anyone but myself. Because of his music, my music has wings to be different,” according to a 2004 Rolling Stone profile.

Reflecting on that, Prince said, “Despite everything, no one can dictate who you are to other people.”

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Whether defying established norms in music, race or gender, Prince was always pushing the boundaries of societal acceptance. His songs embodied that spirit.

One woman on Twitter, @grrlaction, wrote a string of moving tweets describing how much Prince had meant to her.

“Prince was fierce, he was free, and he was always just beautifully and unabashedly himself,” she tweeted. “He came into my life at a time when I desperately needed someone to tell me that being all of those things was okay. And sometimes I still need someone to tell me that, so he can’t be gone, okay? Please?”

Here is another from her, and from other fans, explaining why Prince was their inspiration:

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