News of Prince’s death today at the age of 57 shocked and saddened fans around the world. He was a groundbreaking musician, who continuously redefined himself sonically, was incredibly prolific, and gave some of the most iconic performances of all time, including his 2007 stint on the Super Bowl stage and a 2004 performance of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The singer was influential in many realms outside of music as well—his shapeshifting style is said to have done for the ’80s what Bowie’s style did for the ’70s, though his sartorial influence, much like Bowie’s, reached far beyond the decade of its origin. His androgynous appearance, dress, and behavior served as a groundbreaking redefinition of what it meant to be both a man and a sex symbol. He was also not shy when it came to sex or his aforementioned sex appeal, pushing boundaries on both with songs like “Darling Nikki“, ultra-sexy ensembles including a nipple-baring leotard worn in 1979, sultry stage moves that made prior sex symbols like Elvis look laughably tame, and several incredibly risqué album covers.
A retrospective of these cover images reveals that the performer may have even predicted and pioneered one of today’s most buzzed-about trends: the naked selfie. The unabashed body confidence he displayed is controversial even today, decades later, as evidenced by the efforts of modern mainstream celebrities to normalize that same self-assurance when it comes to their physical form. Long before Kim Kardashian West was provoking outrage by publishing nude photos of herself to Instagram, the naked image Prince chose for the cover of his album Lovesexy caused retailers to wrap the record in black paper before stocking it to their shelves. Click through to see more of Prince’s most provocative cover snaps.