My understanding is that Prince did not live an outlandish life. I always had the impression that Prince was a hard working artist who did not drink or do drugs. I read an interview/article about him in the New Yorker once that gave me the impression he was living in an alternate reality bubble largely because of his celebrity. But otherwise I got the impression (form that article and others I've read about him) that he was simply a hardworking artist who preferred to be in the studio making music.
I've been a fan of his music since his first hit song in 1978, Soft and Wet, which came out four years before Purple Rain (1982). The next album was bigger, featuring the song I wanna be your lover
[dailymotion.com], when he was 21. As I recall reading, he was a multi-instrumentalist and as a teenager he spent most of his free time composing music. He was a music geek.
His music became better over the next couple years. Dirty Mind was amazing. There has never been an album like it before or since. If you haven't heard it and you're an eclectic music omnivore then listen to it. It's fantastic. Features songs like Head, which is about the sex act. It's an album that shows him exploring his voice, he is exploring PERSONAS in songwriting (in the true sense of the word, not the illiterate sense it's used by the SEO world), and the further development of his sound.
Then came the album, Controversy. This was an experimental album. He was testing and challenging his songwriting skills in this album. It's really cool to listen to this album and realize that here is a man bursting with ideas, choosing to explore musical ideas and lyrics that weren't pop. He had intellectual muscle and here you see Prince flexing them for the BEAUTY of it. Not necessarily to sell records but to just create something beautiful, although a little eccentric or edgy. I consider it edgy.
Controversy and Dirty Mind are my two favorite albums. He did many cool albums afterwards, like Sign "O" the Times which also shows him exploring his creative abilities and totally blowing away his contemporaries. There are very few artists of his caliber who created so many great works. There are artists who did one, two, five iconic songs. But Prince is among the greats, like the Beatles, the Stones and Buddy Holly. Mick Jagger said about Prince that " His talent was limitless."
I am shocked and saddened by his passing.