Often when one thinks about legacy, it’s understood to be a gift or bequest that’s handed down, endowed, or conveyed, from one person to another, after they’ve passed. However, legacy is more about sharing the things that were learned – not earned – and instilling values as opposed to material wealth. Influence and inspiration are also a part of a person’s legacy, and that can be put into play while still one is still alive.

September 4, 1981 brought about a new legacy, one that would ultimately impact the entertainment industry and permeate popular culture for years to come. On that summer morning, Beyoncé Giselle Knowles was born in Houston, Texas. Since then, she has created a legacy that is unparalleled. She rose to fame in the late 1990’s as the lead singer of Destiny’s Child – one of the highest-selling girl groups of all time, along with a lucrative acting career, appearing in films such as Austin Powers in GoldmemberThe Pink PantherDreamgirlsCadillac Records and The Lion King.

It wasn’t until 2003 that her music career – and life – truly blossomed. In June of that year, Beyoncé released her debut solo studio album, Dangerously in Love. In the years that followed, the Texas native rose to icon status, becoming one of the most respected figures in the world. Embarking on a solo career allowed Beyoncé to grow both personally and professionally, and it gave her the opportunity to create a legacy outside of Destiny’s Child.

Since her last solo project, Beyoncé has released a compilation album with her husband entitled Everything is Love. She also created Homecoming, a documentary and concert film focused on her 2018 Coachella performances, and voiced Nala in the remake of The Lion King. This led to the curation of the film’s soundtrack The Lion King: The Gift, as well as the visual album Black is King.

Her numerous accolades and achievements in almost every field of human endeavor show why Beyoncé is revered by so many people. Her legacy thus far is undeniable, and she has accomplished more in her 40 years on this earth that most have done in a lifetime. In celebration of Beyoncé’s 40th birthday, we look back at her solo albums and the impact they’ve left on the music industry, as well as their parallels to the entertainer’s own life.

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