Prince (musician)

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Prince (born Prince Rogers Nelson on June 7, 1958), known as File:Princesymbol.png from 1993–2000, is a popular and influential singer, songwriter, record producer, and multi-instrumentalist. His music has spanned myriad styles including funk, pop, rock, R&B/soul, and hip hop, and is regarded as the definition of "The Minneapolis Sound". Some commentators regard the quality and versatility of Prince's music as being indicative of musical genius.



Uptown: Early years

File:Prince 1977.jpg
A young Prince composing in 1977

Prince Rogers Nelson was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota at Mount Sinai Hospital to John L. Nelson and Mattie Shaw. John L. Nelson played in a jazz trio The Prince Rogers Trio, hence Prince's birth name. There are a number of myths regarding Prince's ethnicity and gender, some spread by Prince himself. The most pervasive is that he is the child of a black father and white mother, a myth later bolstered by the cult film Purple Rain starring Prince, Morris Day of The Time, and pop singer Apollonia. Prince's parents are, in fact, African-American.

Prince's parents separated and he had a troubled relationship with his stepfather causing him to run away from home. He lived briefly with his father, who bought him his first guitar. Later, Prince moved in with a neighborhood family, the Andersons, and became friends with their son, Andre Anderson (later called Andre Cymone).

Prince and Anderson joined Prince's cousin Charles Smith in a band called Grand Central, formed in junior high school. By the time Prince had entered high school, Grand Central evolved into Champagne and started playing original music already drawing on a range of influences including Sun Ra, Sly Stone, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana and Joni Mitchell.

Prince became involved in "Uptown", a 1970s underground funk scene in Minneapolis (centering around the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis) which also spawned Flyte Tyme, Jellybean Johnson, Terry Lewis and Alexander O'Neal. In 1976, he started working on a demo with producer Chris Moon in a Minneapolis studio. He also had the patronage of Owen Husney, to whom Moon introduced him, allowing him to produce a quality demo. Husney started contacting major labels and ran a campaign promoting Prince as a star of the future, resulting in a bidding war eventually won by Warner Bros., who offered him a long-term contract.

Controversy: Early career 1975–1983

File:Prince Shower.jpg
Poster included with 1981's Controversy

Pepe Willie, husband of Prince's cousin, was an influential presence in Prince's early career. Willie acted as mentor and manager, along with Husney, for Prince in the Grand Central days, and employed Prince in the studio for his own recordings. In 1977, Willie formed 94 East, a band with Marcy Ingvoldstad and Kristie Lazenberry. Willie enlisted the talents of Prince and Andre Cymone as session musicians for their studio recordings, and in 1986 released the re-recorded tracks (except for Prince and Cymone's parts) from 1975–1977 as Minneapolis Genius. In 1995, the original recordings with Prince and Cymone were released by Willie as 94 East featuring Prince, Symbolic Beginning.

Prince's first album for Warner Bros, released in 1978, was titled For You. The majority of the album was written and performed by Prince. Prince spent twice his initial advance recording the first album, which sold modestly, making the bottom reaches of the Billboard 200, while the single "Soft and Wet" performed well on the R&B charts.

By 1979, Prince had recruited his first backing band with Cymone on bass, Gayle Chapman and Matt Fink on keyboards, Bobby Z on drums and Dez Dickerson on guitar. He recorded his second, self-titled album still mostly on his own, which made the Billboard 200 and contained two R&B hits in "Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?" and "I Wanna Be Your Lover".

Prince first attracted attention for the colorful clothes he put on his 5 ft 2 inch frame (1.57 m). In his early years, he liked to dress in a suspender belt and lacy women's lingerie; this bought him some trouble as an opening act for The Rolling Stones in 1980, where he was infamously pelted with garbage whilst wearing underwear and a trenchcoat.

In 1980, Prince released Dirty Mind, a solo effort released using the original demos. On stage, Lisa Coleman replaced Chapman in the band, who felt the sexually explicit lyrics and stage antics of Prince's concerts conflicted with her religious beliefs. Dirty Mind was particularly notable for its sexually explicit material, such as in the songs "Head" and "Sister".

Prince supported Rick James in a 1980 tour with the label "punk funk" being applied to both artists, although it didn't sit comfortably with Prince. He recorded the album Controversy, released in 1981, with the single of the same name making international charts for the first time.

Prince also wrote, produced, and in some instances performed on, the debut album for The Time, containing former members of Flyte Tyme, including frontman Morris Day. In the coming decade, Prince would also collaborate with Vanity (of Vanity 6), Apollonia (of Apollonia 6) and Sheila E. He also composed material, using former bandmates as another outlet for his prolific output. He also wrote hits for artists such as Sheena Easton and The Bangles and his songs would be covered in hit versions by artists as diverse as Chaka Khan, Tom Jones with The Art of Noise and Sinéad O'Connor. O'Connor's cover of a song Prince initially wrote for The Family, "Nothing Compares 2 U", was a huge commercial success in 1990.

Purple Rain: Chart success 1983–1993

Prince was backed in the 80s by The Revolution, and in the 90s by the New Power Generation. He also worked on different occasions with famous jazz and funk musicians, such as Miles Davis, Larry Graham and Maceo Parker. Prince has also recorded with Ani DiFranco, Madonna, Kate Bush, Rosie Gaines and Gwen Stefani.

In 1982 Prince released the 1999 album which proved to be a breakthrough album both in the U.S. and internationally, selling over three million copies. The title track made a protest about nuclear proliferation and become his first top ten hit internationally. With "Little Red Corvette" he joined Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie as part of the first wave of black artists on MTV and "Delirious" also went top ten on the Billboard Hot 100. The album was placed at number 6 in The Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop critics poll.

Stevie Nicks related a story in a television interview that she had come up with her 1983 song "[Stand Back]" after being inspired by the synthesizer part in "Little Red Corvette." When it was time to record the song, it happened that Prince was in Los Angeles near her recording studio. She called his people and soon afterwards Prince came by the studio, sat down at the synthesizer, and played the song-opening riff.

File:Prince PurpleRainMovie.jpg
The original theatrical poster for Purple Rain (1984).

Purple Rain (along with the film of the same name) sold over thirteen million copies in the U.S. and spend 24 weeks at the top of the Billboard 200. The film, while dismissed by humorist-critic Joe Queenan as "sexist, juvenile, and moronic", grossed over U.S.$80 million in the United States alone. However, Purple Rain would prove to be Prince's only cinematic success. Although Prince would later direct and star in Under The Cherry Moon (1986) and Graffiti Bridge (1990), both films were met with critical derision and public indifference.

Two songs from Purple Rain, "When Doves Cry" and "Let's Go Crazy" would both top the U.S. singles charts and be hits around the world, while the title track would go to number two on the Billboard Hot 100. Simultaneously, Prince held the spot of Number 1 film, Number 1 single, and Number 1 album in the U.S. Prince won the Academy Award for Best Original Song Score for Purple Rain, and the album ranks in the top 100 of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, released in late 2003. When she overheard her 12 year-old daughter, Karenna, playing "Darling Nikki" (whose lyrics include "I met her in a hotel lobby/masturbating with a magazine"), Tipper Gore founded the Parents Music Resource Center, which has spurred the use of "explicit lyric" stickers and imprints on album covers.

In 1985, after the US Purple Rain Tour, Prince gave up live performances and making videos on the release of Around The World In A Day, which went to the top of the U.S. album charts for three weeks. Prince's ban on videos ended as the album stalled in the charts with a video for "Raspberry Beret" which reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100.

In 1986, Prince released the album Parade as a soundtrack to the film Under The Cherry Moon. The album went to number 3 on the Billboard 200 album chart and number two on the R&B album charts. The first single, "Kiss", would top the Billboard Hot 100. At the same time, "Manic Monday" by The Bangles reached number 2 on the Hot 100, which Prince had written under the pseudonym "Christopher". Following the film and album, Prince returned to touring with a stripped-down show.

Some of Prince's music mixes spirituality and sensuality. "I Would Die 4 U", refers to Jesus. "The Cross", off Sign O' The Times, is a stronger reference to Prince's Christian beliefs. Sign O' The Times, released in 1987 as a double album, reached the top 10 of the Billboard 200 and met with some critical-acclaim, reaching the top 100 of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list, et al.

Following the album, Prince launched the Sign O' The Times Tour in Europe. At the end of the last tour, Prince disbanded The Revolution, parting ways with Wendy Melvoin, Lisa Coleman, Bobby Z, and Mark "Brown Mark" Brown. The so-called "Counter-Revolution" retained Matt Fink on keyboards, and added Boni Boyer on keyboards, Sheila E on drums, Levi Seacer, Jr. on bass, and Miko Weaver on guitar. In 1987, a live concert film was shot of the Sign O' The Times Tour in Rotterdam and Antwerp. Portions were re-recorded and the performances mimed in the soundstage of his newly-opened Paisley Park Studios complex in Chanhassen, Minnesota. Housing three complete recording studios, and a complete soundstage for performances and video production, the studios have been Prince's playground since their opening. Situated near his home in Minnesota, Paisley Park has allowed Prince to record at the drop of a hat.

The controversial cover to 1988's Lovesexy

In 1987, Prince also recorded The Black Album, a funk-oriented album whose erotically-charged lyrics were considered so blatant that it was not officially released. The album circulated through the bootleg underground music world until it was finally given an official release in 1994. The 1988 album Lovesexy was Prince's spiritual answer to the dark message of The Black Album. Lovesexy was a disappointment in its chart performance, only reaching number 11 on the Billboard 200. The Lovesexy Tour in the U.S. also proved to be commercial disappointment. Prince lost money as dates failed to sell out. Prince recouped his losses with the European and Japanese legs of the tour.

In 1989, Prince would record the soundtrack for Batman, which would return him to the top of the U.S. album charts, with the single and worldwide hit "Batdance" reaching the top of the Billboard Hot 100. Prince next released the film sequel to Purple Rain, titled Graffiti Bridge, which performed poorly at the box office. The soundtrack featured Prince on one side and other artists such as Tevin Campbell, Mavis Staples of the Staple Singers, and Morris Day and The Time. It would reach a chart peak of number 6 in the U.S. and number one in the UK.

The Diamonds And Pearls album in 1991 gave Prince album charts success with the song "Cream" giving him his fifth U.S. number one single. Diamonds And Pearls also marked the debut of the New Power Generation featuring rapper Tony M, Rosie Gaines on vocals, Michael Bland on drums, Levi Seacer and Kirk Johnson on guitar, Sonny T on bass, and Tommy Barbarella on keyboards.

In 1992, Prince worked on Kate Bush's album, The Red Shoes. Collaborating chiefly on the song "Why Should I Love You", Prince added bass, guitar, keyboards, his vocals and other arrangements to the mix. This would be the final "Prince" credit, until 2000. Kate Bush reciprocated in 1996 and is featured on background vocals on the Emancipation track, "My Computer".

Prince's 12th album was entitled "File:Princesymbol.png", dubbed by critics as The Love Symbol Album. It reached the top ten of the U.S. album charts. In 1993, he would change his name to File:Princesymbol.png which marked the start of a decade of decline. The symbol is said to be a melding of the symbols for male and female. Due to File:Princesymbol.png being unpronounceable, he was often referred to as "The artist formerly known as Prince," "TAFKAP," or simply "The Artist."

Chaos and Disorder: 1994–2003

Prince released a greatest hits package in 1993 which flopped. In 1994, The Black Album was released by Warner Bros. in an attempt to capitalize on its underground success. Following that disappointing release, Warner Bros. released the final album of "Prince" material, Come, which was moderately successful, selling over 500,000 copies. Prince pushed to have his next album The Gold Experience released simultaneously as "File:Princesymbol.png" material. As a test case, Warner Bros. allowed the single "The Most Beautiful Girl In The World" to be released via a small, independent distributor, Bellmark. The release was successful, reaching number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 1 in the UK, but this was not to be a forerunner of what was to come. Warner Bros. still resisted releasing The Gold Experience, fearing poor sales and citing "market saturation" as a defense. A battle between Warner Bros. and File:Princesymbol.png ensued, struggling over the artistic and financial control of File:Princesymbol.png's output. During that time, File:Princesymbol.png appeared in public only with the word 'SLAVE' written on his cheek. When eventually released, The Gold Experience failed to sell well, despite reaching the top 10 of the Billboard 200 initially.

The Chaos And Disorder album of 1996 was his final album of new material for Warner Bros., and was one of his least successful. File:Princesymbol.png attempted a major comeback later that year, when, free of any further contractual obligations to Warner Bros., he released Emancipation. The album was released via his own NPG Records with distribution through EMI. While certified Platinum by the RIAA, critics pointed out that the sprawling 36-song, 3-CD set (each disk was exactly 60 minutes long) lacked focus.

File:Princesymbol.png released Crystal Ball, a 4-CD collection of unreleased material, in 1998. The distribution of this album was shambolic, with some fans pre-ordering the album on his website up to a year before it was eventually shipped to them, and months after the record had gone on sale in retail stores. The Newpower Soul album released three months later failed to make much of an impression on the charts.

In 1999, File:Princesymbol.png once again teamed up with a major record label, this time Arista Records, for a new album, Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic. However, it also failed to make much of a commercial impression. A few months earlier, Warner Bros. had also released The Vault: Old Friends 4 Sale, a collection of unreleased material recorded by Prince throughout his career, and his final recording commitment on his contract with Warner Bros. The greatest success he had during the year was with the single "1999: The New Master", released in time for Prince to collect a small portion of the sales dollars Warner Bros. had been seeing for the album and singles of the original 1999. Both critics and fans panned The New Master, declaring it unimaginative.

In May 2000, File:Princesymbol.png started to use the name 'Prince' after his publishing contract with Warner Chappell expired. In a press conference stating that he was now free from undesirable relationships associated with the name "Prince", he formally reverted to his original name and opened the door to endless "The Artist Formerly Known As The Artist Formerly Known As Prince" digs. However, Prince still uses the symbol as a logo occassionally, and continues to play a File:Princesymbol.png-shaped guitar.

For the next three years, Prince primarily released new music through his Internet subscription services, first, and now He also released two jazz-influenced albums, The Rainbow Children in 2001 and the all-instrumental N.E.W.S in 2003. He has also sought to engage more successfully with his fan base via the NPG Music Club, pre-concert sound checks, and at yearly "celebrations" at Paisley Park. Fans are invited into Prince's studios for tours, interviews, discussions, new music listening sessions and performances by Prince, related artists, and guests (including Alicia Keys, The Time, Erykah Badu, Nikka Costa, George Clinton and others).

In 2002, he released his first-ever live record, One Nite Alone... Live!, which featured live recordings from the One Nite Alone tour. The 3-CD box set, which included the after show disc It Ain't Over!, failed to perform well in the charts.

Musicology: 2004 to present

In March 2004, Prince was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In April 2004, he released Musicology, which rose to the Top 5 of the album charts in the U.S., UK, Germany, Australia, and several other countries. Pollstar named him both the top draw and top grossing concert Artist in America that same year. With $87.4 million, Prince was the No. 1 tour of 2004. The Purple One played 96 marathon shows at an average ticket price of $61. [1] Musicology went on to win two Grammys for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance and Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance. [2]

In December 2004, Prince was chosen by Rolling Stone magazine's readers as the best male performer and most welcome comeback. During that same month, Prince was named #5 on the Top Pop Artists of the Past 25 Years chart. [3]

In February 2005, Rolling Stone magazine published the list of top money makers of 2004; Prince was on top with estimated net earnings of $56.5 million [4]

In March 2005, Prince won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Album (Musicology) and a Vanguard Award. [5]

In April 2005, Prince played guitar (along with En Vogue singing backing vocals) on Stevie Wonder's first new single in years, "So What The Fuss". The single debuted at #13 on the Billboard Adult R&B chart.[6] Despite rumours of an appearance or duet with Stevie Wonder at Live 8 in Philadelphia, Prince did not perform at the concert.

In July of the same year, the Prince-penned Vanity 6 hit "Nasty Girl", became a club hit in Europe. Covered by Brooklyn-born Inaya Day, the single reached #9 on the UK charts.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, "SST" and "Brand New Orleans" were recorded early Friday morning, September 2, at Prince's Paisley Park Studios in Minneapolis and released through his NPG Music Club the following day. Prince played all the instruments and sang all vocals. Sony Records released "SST" October 25 on CD.

Prince's upcoming single "Te Amo Corazon" (Dec. 13)

On December 9 it was reported that Prince signed a recording deal with Universal Records to release his next album, 3121.

The debut single from the album is to be "Te Amo Corazon", the video for which stars actress Mia Maestro and was directed by Salma Hayek. The video, which was shot in Marrakesh, became available online December 13 via Prince's NPG Music Club website. A press conference in Los Angeles was scheduled for that same evening.

Prince is expected to tour sometime next year.


For a detailed listing of albums, singles, and production/songwriting work Prince has done for other musicians, please see Prince discography.

Top Twenty albums

The following albums reached the Top Twenty on either the U.S. Billboard 200 albums chart, or the UK Albums Chart.

Year Album U.S. UK
1982 1999 9 -
1984 Purple Rain 1 7
1985 Around The World In A Day 1 5
1986 Parade 3 4
1987 Sign 'O' The Times 6 4
1988 Lovesexy 11 1
1989 Batman 1 1
1990 Graffiti Bridge 6 1
1991 Diamonds And Pearls 3 2
1992 File:Princesymbol.png a.k.a. Love Symbol 5 1
1993 The Hits/The B-Sides 19 4
1993 The Hits 1 - 5
1993 The Hits 2 - 5
1994 The Beautiful Experience - 18
1994 Come 15 1
1995 The Gold Experience 6 4
1996 Chaos And Disorder - 14
1996 Emancipation 11 18
1999 Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic 18 -
2001 The Very Best Of Prince - 2
2004 Musicology 3 3

Top Ten singles

The following singles reached the Top Ten on one or more of the following charts: the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, the U.S. Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart, the U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart, and the UK singles chart.

Year Song U.S. U.S. R&B U.S. Dance UK Album
1979 "I Wanna Be Your Lover" 11 1 2 - Prince
1979 "Sexy Dancer" - - 2 - Prince
1980 "Uptown" - 5 5 - Dirty Mind
1980 "Dirty Mind" - - 5 - Dirty Mind
1980 "Controversy" 70 3 1 - Controversy
1980 "Let's Work" - 9 1 - Controversy
1982 "1999" - 4 1 25 1999
1983 "Little Red Corvette" 6 - - - 1999
1983 "Delirious" 8 - - - 1999
1984 "When Doves Cry" 1 1 1 4 Purple Rain
1984 "Let's Go Crazy" (with The Revolution) 1 1 1 7 Purple Rain
1984 "Purple Rain" (with The Revolution) 2 4 - 8 Purple Rain
1984 "I Would Die 4 U" (with The Revolution) 8 - - - Purple Rain
1985 "1999" / "Little Red Corvette" (re-issue) - - - 2 -
1985 "Raspberry Beret" (with The Revolution) 2 3 4 25 Around the World In a Day
1985 "Pop Life" (with The Revolution) 7 8 5 - Around the World In a Day
1986 "Kiss" (with The Revolution) 1 1 1 6 Parade
1987 "Sign 'O' the Times" 3 1 2 10 Sign 'O' the Times
1987 "U Got The Look" (with Sheena Easton) 2 - - 11 Sign 'O' the Times
1987 "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man" 10 - 4 29 Sign 'O' the Times
1987 "Hot Thing" - - 4 - Sign 'O' the Times
1988 "Alphabet St." 8 3 - 9 Lovesexy
1989 "Batdance" 1 1 1 2 Batman
1989 "Partyman" - 5 - 14 Batman
1989 "Scandalous" - 5 - - Batman
1990 "Thieves In The Temple" 6 1 9 7 Grafitti Bridge
1991 "Gett Off" (with The New Power Generation) - 6 1 4 Diamonds and Pearls
1991 "Cream" (with The New Power Generation) 1 - - 15 Diamonds and Pearls
1991 "Diamonds and Pearls"
(with The New Power Generation)
3 1 - - Diamonds and Pearls
1992 "Insatiable" (with The New Power Generation) - 3 - - Diamonds and Pearls
1992 "Sexy M.F." (with The New Power Generation) - - - 4 File:Princesymbol.png
1992 "My Name Is Prince"
(with The New Power Generation)
- - 9 7 File:Princesymbol.png
1992 "7" (with The New Power Generation) 7 - - - File:Princesymbol.png
1993 "Controversy" (re-issue) - - - 5 -
1994 "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World"
(as "File:Princesymbol.png")
3 2 - 1 The Beautiful Experience
1994 "Letitgo" - 10 - - Come
1995 "File:Prince.eye.gifHate U" (as "File:Princesymbol.png") - 3 - - The Gold Experience
1995 "Gold" (as "File:Princesymbol.png") - - - 10 The Gold Experience
1998 "1999" (December 1998 re-issue) - - - 10 -






  • Jamie Starr / The Starr ★ Company - early producer of The Time, Vanity 6, etc.
  • Joey Coco - producer/writer of songs for Kenny Rogers, etc.
  • Alexander Nevermind - producer/writer of songs for artists in the mid-1980s (among them Sheena Easton)
  • Christopher Tracy - writer of "Manic Monday" for The Bangles
  • Paisley Park - used in the early 1990s for various projects
  • Tora Tora - on the NPG's Exodus album
  • Azifwekaré - bum on the song "Style"
  • File:Princesymbol.png - adopted as official name (1993-2000)
  • TAFKAP, The Artist (Formerly Known As Prince) - given by journalists during the File:Princesymbol.png period
  • Gemini - on the Batman album
  • Camille - speeded voice on "Housequake", "Shockadelica", etc.
  • The Kid - Prince's semi-autobiographical persona in "Purple Rain".


See also

External links

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