Prince Rogers Nelson — known the world over as Prince, TAFKAP, The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, the Purple One, and a whole load of other pseudonyms — died at the age of 57 today. Google quickly transformed its homepage to reflect the death of the singular pop musician in the United States with a single, yet appropriate, Google doodle: a purple typeface with falling purple rain.
“We are gathered here today/To get through this thing called life,” Google tweeted in the announcement of the doodle at 7:33 p.m.
News of his death quickly spread after TMZ first reported it, and the AP and other sources close to Prince confirmed. Twitter users flocked to a tweet from April 15 that said simply “I am #transformed” (closing in on 30,000 likes and 35,000 retweets), and tributes of everything from his music to his comic book history sprung up.
Google was just one of the companies to pay tribute to the musician.
Google’s done other in-memoriam-themed doodles, but the company rarely responds so immediately. Many of the most memorable are tributes to historic figures such as Thomas Edison, Nelson Mandela, Charlie Chaplin, and Gregor Mendel. Those were either posted on what would have been the person’s birthday or the date of their death. Even Michael Jackson didn’t get a special doodle the day he died, but he did get one on what would have been his 51st birthday.
One example of Google responding to a death in real time was the day Steve Jobs died in 2011 — but rather than a doodle, Jobs received a mention below the search bar.
The doodles started in 1998 when the Google founders put a stick figure behind the second “o.” It was an “out of the office” message, per the Google doodle history page. By 2003, Google moved to recognizing famous historic birthdays and dates.
Today’s doodles have come a long way from simple stick figures. the daily doodle has a much broader base of subject matter, animation, and user submissions.
Other tributes include posts from The New Yorker, NASA, and the New York City subway.