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Prince doesn’t necessarily spring to mind when you think about suitable role models for children.
Music for sexy time? Absolutely. Songs to get the party started? Sure. But could the man behind "Darling Nikki" and "Sexy MF" be a positive role model for my kids? The more I thought about it, the more I realized: Definitely yes.
I'm sad that my sons will grow up in a world without Prince, but they will certainly grow up with his music — and his example. Here are six things I hope my sons learn from Prince:
1. Be yourself. Could there be advice more hokey than this? I rolled my eyes at it during my teen years; I’m sure my mom rolled her eyes at it, and my children’s grandchildren probably will do the same. But Prince lived it. He was the ultimate oddball: this feminine little dude didn’t look like anyone else and didn’t sound like anyone else. He made being odd and different THE coolest thing.
2. Respect women; they are your equals. Raising two boys with my husband, I’m outnumbered. My sons are 2 and 6, and one of our jobs as parents is raising them to be men who respect women. In a macho rock industry where female artists are all too often stuck as backup singers, Prince stood out. Sheila E. kept the beat; Prince mentored and featured female artists in way no other male rock star did, from Wendy and Lisa to Apollonia and Vanity and Sheena Easton. His last band, 3rdeyegirl, was all-women. Women rocked for Prince offstage too; in a 2013 Billboard magazine interview, he mentioned he employed a legal team composed entirely of black women. (“And you know they’re sharp,” he said with a laugh — yes, Prince, and my sons will know, too.)
3. Do not let anyone define you. To be honest, I hope my sons don’t take this quite as far as Prince did. I mean, the man changed his name to a symbol. The crazy-amazing thing was, we all pretty much went along with it, because he had the courage of his convictions. He REFUSED to let anyone define him. I respect that, and while I hope my sons stick with the names I chose for them, I also hope they never let anyone else label them.
4. Remember your roots. As much as Prince was a spectacularly original artist who transcended labels, he never forgot his roots. He was a Minneapolis boy; he could have easily fled for a more glamorous life on one of the coasts, but he bloomed where he was planted. He lived, and died, in Minnesota, and the state (rightly) loved him for it.
5. Attitude is everything… Remember the Prince strut? I don’t think we could ever forget it. He strutted into every room like he owned it. One of the reasons he was able to succeed as such a creative, original voice for so long was his amazing confidence. He believed in himself; you could tell it the moment you saw him and that made us believe in him, too.
6. But know your craft! Yes, a confident attitude will take you far, but when you get that spotlight you better know what you’re doing. Prince was a master musician. Behind the brilliant guitar riffs, the unforgettable songs and the spectacular showmanship were thousands of hours of hard work and practice. Wanna strut like Prince? Fine, but first go practice your guitar scales, young man.
Rebecca Dube is the head of TODAY Parents, Digital and a senior editor at TODAY.com. She doesn't plan on playing "Darling Nikki" for her sons anytime soon (or ever), but "Let's Go Crazy" is definitely in the morning wake-up playlist.