Prince Rogers Nelson was born June 7, 1958, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Mattie Della Nelson (née Shaw; 1933–2002) and John Lewis Nelson (1916–2001).
Prince used many aliases including Jamie Starr, Alexander Nevermind, Joey Coco, The Artist Formerly Known as Prince and of course .
The Early Years
Prince’s father John was a songwriter and pianist, and his mother Mattie was a jazz singer. John’s stage name was Prince Rogers, and he performed with a jazz group called the Prince Rogers Trio. In a 1991 interview John Lewis Nelson said, “I named my son Prince because I wanted him to do everything I wanted to do.”
Prince was a child prodigy and self-taught on dozens of instruments, from the piano to the guitar, bass and drums. He wrote his first tune, “Funk Machine”, on his father’s piano when he was seven.
When he was 10, his parents separated and from then he sometimes lived with his father and sometimes with his mother and stepfather. He then moved into the home of neighbors the Anderson’s and became friends with their son Andre, who later became known as Andre Cymone.
Prince and Andre joined Prince’s cousin Charles Smith in a band called Grand Central, when they were attending Minneapolis’ Central High School. Prince played piano and guitar for the band, which performed at clubs and parties in the Minneapolis area. Grand Central later changed its name to Champagne.
Records, films and concerts
He released his debut album, For You, at 20 years old, followed by Prince (1979), Dirty Mind (1980) and Controversy (1981). His breakthrough came in 1982 with the double album 1999.
Based on the success of 1999, he persuaded Warner Bros to fund a film – Purple Rain, a loosely autobiographical story of a struggling musician from a broken home.
Critics raved over the incendiary concert footage and the film spawned some of his most memorable songs. Five singles were released from the soundtrack – two of which, When Doves Cry and Let’s Go Crazy, went to number one on the Billboard chart, while Purple Rain went to number two.
Purple Rain is a sprawling, impassioned ballad with a guitar solo as memorable as any and remained his signature song, and one of the most recognisable rock anthems in history.
Before releasing Purple Rain, Prince contacted Journey to check that they were OK with it due to the similarities with their song “Faithfully”. Singer/songwriter Jonathan Cain told Billboard Magazine that he was notified in early 1984 that Prince wanted to speak with him. Cain took a call from Prince, who told him, “I want to play something for you, and I want you to check it out. The chord changes are close to ‘Faithfully’ and I don’t want you to sue me.” After listening, Cain says, “I thought it was an amazing tune, and I told him, ‘Man, I’m just super-flattered that you even called. It shows you’re that classy of a guy. Good luck with the song. I know it’s gonna be a hit.’
There are definitely similarities! What do you think?
Prince went on to win an Oscar for original score for Purple Rain in 1985.
His next album, Around the World In A Day (the first album I ever bought) alienated fans who wanted another rock record, but it contained the classic single Raspberry Beret.
Prince continued to confound expectations with the sparse funk of Parade, featuring the hit song Kiss, and the social commentary of 1987’s Sign O The Times.
He also continued to make moves into the movies. He starred as a gigolo in 1986’s Under the Cherry Moon, wooing Kristen Scott Thomas in the South of France, but the film floundered (I loved it!); while 1990’s Graffiti Bridge, a sequel to Purple Rain, was nominated for five Golden Raspberries.
The hits kept coming – Alphabet Street, U Got The Look, Diamonds and Pearls, Get Off, My Name Is Prince, Cream… He looked unstoppable.
Then, in 1993, he announced he was retiring and changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol designed to depict both male and female genders. He soon became known The Artist Formerly Known As Prince.
The move was in protest to his record label, Warner Bros. Prince wanted to own the master tapes to his own songs, and to be allowed to release more material, more often, but Warner Bros wanted him to do more promotional work and release less.
Relations deteriorated to the point where he appeared with the word “Slave” written on his face – while the success of The Most Beautiful Girl In The World (his only UK number one, released independently) only made matters worse.
After completing his contractual agreements with Warner’s, he left the label and signed with Arista Records.
By the early 2000’s, the symbol was no longer relevant and he went back being called Prince.
He was famously flamboyant, and would stun dedicated audiences the world over with impromptu concerts, unlikely solo cover versions, and extravagant outfits.
It was often said that his incredible vocal range masked the fact that he was one of the greatest guitarists of his generation.
One of his most famous numbers was recorded by another artist. Originally a cast-off given for his side project, The Family, Nothing Compares 2 U was covered by Sinead O’Connor in 1990, catapulting her to the top of the charts and into the public eye, partly due to its accompanying music video which featured the protagonist breaking down in tears.
Prince later joked that the song “bought me a house”- but he reclaimed it as his own, performing it on every tour from the mid-90s onwards.
He still holds a record at London’s O2 arena for his 21-night residency in 2007 (I was there for one night).
“I got so many hits we don’t have time to play them all,” he frequently told the audience – but he made a decent attempt. Journalists recorded that he played a total of 504 songs to audiences of half a million.
He was prolific until his final days, working on yet another new album and playing shows in the US just a week before he died.
He is said to have a cache of unreleased music in “the vault” of his sprawling Paisley Park mansion that would fill 100 records.
Prince died at Paisley Park on April 21, 2016, at the age of 57.
He was a musical genius. He has sold over 100 million records worldwide, won seven Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe Award and an Oscar for the film Purple Rain. In 2004, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the first year of his eligibility. Rolling Stone magazine ranked Prince at number 27 on its list of 100 Greatest Artists – “the most influential artists of the rock & roll era”.
Discography (from Wikipedia):-
- For You (1978)
- Prince (1979)
- Dirty Mind (1980)
- Controversy (1981)
- 1999 (1982)
- Purple Rain (1984)
- Around the World in a Day (1985)
- Parade (1986)
- Sign o’ the Times (1987)
- Lovesexy (1988)
- Batman (1989)
- Graffiti Bridge (1990)
- Diamonds and Pearls (1991)
- (Love Symbol Album) (1992)
- Come (1994)
- The Black Album (1994)
- The Gold Experience (1995)
- Chaos and Disorder (1996)
- Emancipation (1996)
- Crystal Ball (1998)
- The Truth (1998)
- The Vault: Old Friends 4 Sale (1999)
- Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic (1999)
- The Rainbow Children (2001)
- One Nite Alone… (2002)
- Xpectation (2003)
- N.E.W.S (2003)
- Musicology (2004)
- The Chocolate Invasion (2004)
- The Slaughterhouse (2004)
- 3121 (2006)
- Planet Earth (2007)
- Lotusflower (2009)
- MPLSound (2009)
- 20Ten (2010)
- Plectrumelectrum (2014)
- Art Official Age (2014)
- HITnRUN Phase One (2015)
- HITnRUN Phase Two (2015)
- More have been released since his death but these are the ones he released!
RIP Prince Rogers Nelson – 1958 to 2016
Its now one year since Prince died, after taking an accidental overdose of painkillers, and I still can’t believe he is gone.
His untimely death robbed the world of a truly original genius, who broke musical rules and defied musical styles without breaking a sweat.
President Obama called his death a “remarkable loss”, and said he listened to Purple Rain “just to get warmed up” in the morning.
The medical examiners concluded that Prince died from an accidental overdose and confirmed that numerous opioid painkillers were found at Paisley Park shortly after his death.
Some of the pills that were discovered had prescriptions in the name of his friend and bodyguard. But no evidence has been given about the source of the fentanyl that actually killed him.
Court documents show some of the pills found at Prince’s home were labelled “Watson 853”, an opioid painkiller acetaminophen-hydrocodone, used in the treatment of pain, rheumatoid arthritis and coughs. They also show that “numerous narcotic controlled substance pills” were discovered in various containers, including vitamin bottles.
Prince, like Michael Jackson, died, or was killed, by “yes”, both had nobody left in their lives who had the courage to say “no” to them and so they both died from overdoses of prescription drugs. At least in the case of the King of Pop somebody, his personal physician Conrad Murray, was prosecuted for his death, but so far no-one has been charged over Prince’s death.
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