Was Sexuality All He Ever Needed? Exploring Context and Currency in Prince’s Controversy

Prince reportedly told his one-time guitarist, Dez Dickerson, that he and his other bandmates needed to choose a stage persona. And that Prince himself would portray pure sex. It was a risky move for the musician/singer/songwriter. Consider this. The Sexual Revolution was over. The 1980s heralded the arrival of Reaganomics and the emerging HIV/AIDS crisis. It is useful to situate the sexual politics of Controversy (1981) in this moment and consider its enduring appeal for several reasons. His sonic and visual elements—funk, glam, punk, pop, R&B, and sexual persona—extended the conceits of Dirty Mind and delivered an inventive, experimental album that set the stage for future pop explorations uniquely his own.

Steven G Fullwood

Steven G Fullwood is a documentarian, archivist and writer. He is the co-founder of the Nomadic Archivists Project, an initiative that partners with organizations, institutions, and individuals to establish, preserve, and enhance collections that explore the African Diasporic experience. His published works include Black Gay Genius (2014), To Be Left with the Body (2008), and Carry the Word: A Bibliography of Black LGBTQ Books (2007). He is the former assistant curator of the Manuscripts, Archives & Rare Books Division at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. In 1998, he founded the In the Life Archive (ITLA) to aid in the preservation of materials produced by LGBTQ people of African descent housed at the Schomburg Center.

Nomadic Archivists Project (NAP)