Past recipients of the highest civilian honor bestowed by Congress include George Washington, the Wright Brothers, Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama.
Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a refugee from Somalia, one of the first Muslim women to enter Congress and a co-sponsor of the resolution to honor Prince, said he showed her “it was OK to be a short, Black kid from Minneapolis and still change the world”.
Born Prince Rogers Nelson, in the 1970s Prince pioneered the Minneapolis sound, a subgenre of funk rock that incorporates elements of synth-pop and new wave.
In a prolific career that spanned nearly four decades and made his flamboyant and androgynous persona world famous, Prince released 39 studio albums and sold more than 150m records, making him among the bestselling musicians of all time. His hits include Purple Rain, Kiss, When Doves Cry and Let’s Go Crazy, all of which made Billboard’s Hot 100 charts.
Prince died on 21 April 2016 at the age of 57 of an accidental fentanyl overdose at his Paisley Park estate in Chanhassen, Minnesota.
Introducing the resolution to honor him, the Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar, a former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, said: “The world is a whole lot cooler because Prince was in it – 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. Purple reigns in Minnesota today and every day because of him.”
The resolution noted that Prince was “widely regarded as one of the greatest musicians of his generation”, having won seven Grammy awards, six American Music Awards, an Oscar for the score to the movie Purple Rain and a Golden Globe.
“I remember when I first came to America being captivated by Prince’s music and impact on the culture,” said Omar. “He not only changed the arc of music history; he put Minneapolis on the map.”
Under congressional rules, the resolution will require the support of at least two-thirds of the Senate and the House before it can be signed into law by Joe Biden.
If the medal is approved, the bill asks that it be given to the Smithsonian Institution and be made available for display, especially at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
In July, a Prince album recorded in 2010, Welcome 2 America, was posthumously released through NPG Records.