Prince Rogers Nelson stood just over 5 feet tall but left a giant footprint in the music industry and American pop culture.
Now, five years after his death at 57, the nation may be on the verge of bestowing one of its highest civilian honors to him posthumously — the Congressional Gold Medal.
Minnesota's congressional delegation, closely divided among Democrats and Republicans and often at odds with one another, has come together to unanimously offer a resolution that would award that honor.
"The world is a whole lot cooler because Prince was in it," said U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who together with Rep. Ilhan Omar is leading the resolution. "He touched our hearts, opened our minds and made us want to dance. With this legislation, we honor his memory and contributions as a composer, performer, and music innovator."
Prince pioneered what came to be known as the "Minneapolis sound," drawing on a heady combination of pop, jazz, rhythm and blues, funk, hip-hop and other musical styles. His talent was explosive enough to earn the Minneapolis-born artist a major record contract by age 19. He would go on to produce 39 albums, sell 150 million records and be awarded seven Grammys, an Oscar and a Golden Globe. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, among other honors.
But his impact went beyond music. Mostly self-taught, he mastered guitar, drums, synthesizer and other instruments and rewrote the rules for what rock stars could sound and look like. His death from an accidental fentanyl overdose does not diminish his achievements, but serves only to remind us we are all human. Throughout his life, Prince used his gifts to enrich the world, bringing people together through his music.
The congressional medal requires a two-thirds vote by the House and Senate. Some may question whether an entertainer is deserving of such an honor. They shouldn't. Contributions come from all walks of life. Past winners include everyone from President George Washington to baseball player Roberto Clemente. Westerns novelist Louis L'Amour and movie star John Wayne were awarded Gold Medals, as were the Navajo Code Talkers. Notable Minnesota recipients include former Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey and civil rights activist Roy Wilkins.
Honoring Prince's accomplishments and impact on the world with a congressional Gold Medal would be a fitting tribute to the life of this remarkable man.