Sad news comes across the Internet of the tragically early death of Prince, age 57, and still in the fullness of a protean musical career that fused soul and rock n’ roll with incandescent showmanship and virtuoso guitar work. From the unlikely outpost of Minneapolis, his first club hits featured young urban characters seeking sexual redemption from alienation. In the 1980s he refined a pop sensibility informed by political consciousness, alternating party songs with social protest on 1999 (1982) and Sign o’ the Times (1987). His songs melded James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, and P-Funk and also carry the melodic imagination of the Beatles, Miles Davis, and Joni Mitchell. In an era in which music, like much of the culture, became divided into separate camps, Prince was one of the great synthesizers, combining influences, genres and identities into a stream of sound that is as American as Route 66: drop the clutch on Prince’s classic “Little Red Corvette” and let him drive you away.