Prince

Prince
Prince. Photo by Neil Lupin / Redferns

Born

Prince Rogers Nelson - June 7, 1958 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

 

Died

April 21, 2016 in Chanhassen, Minnesota.

 

Growing Up and Early Career

Prince grew up as the son of an accomplished Jazz musician. By his early teen years, he formed his first band, Grand Central, and included friends Andre Cymone and Morris Day. The band changed its name to Champagne but fell apart before releasing any recordings.

At the age of 19, Prince was signed to Warner Bros. and released his first album For You in 1978. "Soft and Wet," a single from the album, was a minor R&B hit.

 

First Success

1979's Prince was a significant success placing the single "I Wanna Be Your Lover" inside the pop top 20. The sexual frankness of his next album Dirty Mind turned off some pop audiences but the sheer eclecticism of the music impressed critics and is considered one of the best albums of his career. 1981's Controversy, Prince's 4th album in 4 years, included the #1 dance hit title single. Leading into his next album, Prince was a favorite of critics but had not yet reached wide pop success.

 

Quote from Prince

From MTV interview in 1986:

"James Brown played a big influence in my style. When I was about 10 years old, my stepdad put me on stage with him, and I danced a little bit until the bodyguard took me off."

 

Pop Star

Prince became one of the biggest pop stars of the 1980s releasing most of his biggest hits during the decade.

At the end of 1982 Prince previewed his most adventurous project yet with the single "1999." It was followed by a 2 disc collection that included the top 10 pop hits "Little Red Corvette" and "Delirious." In 1984 the world gave in to Prince's Purple Rain project. It was a boxoffice hit, but the music was bigger, spending an incredible 24 weeks at #1 on the album chart and including 2 #1 hit singles, "When Doves Cry" and "Let's Go Crazy."

 

Top Prince Hits

  • "Little Red Corvette" 
  • "When Doves Cry" 
  • "Let's Go Crazy"
  • "Purple Rain" 
  • "Raspberry Beret"
  • "Kiss"
  • "Sign O' the Times" 
  • "U Got the Look"
  • "Batdance" 
  • "Cream"
  • "The Most Beautiful Girl In the World" 

 

The End of the 80s for Prince

After Purple Rain, Prince closed out the decade of the 80s with a string of groundbreaking pop hits. "Raspberry Beret" rode a wave of pop psychedelia to #2. Another double album Sign O' the Times included the massive hits "Sign O' the Times" and "U Got the Look." Prince finished the decade with the soundtrack to the movie Batman including the #1 pop hit "Batdance."

 

Trivia Fact About Prince

Using the pseudonym Alexander Nevermind, Prince wrote the hits "Manic Monday" for the Bangles and "Sugar Walls" for Sheena Easton.

 

The 1990s

The 1990's were a difficult decade for Prince filled with legal battles with his record label Warner Bros. For a period of time he claimed that Prince had retired and he performed with an unpronouncable symbol as a name. In 1996 Prince's contractual obligations with Warner Bros. finally came to an end, and he released the 3-disc Emancipation in celebration. Prince was once again in control of his own work, but he had sacrificed his commercial success.

 

A New Century and Rebirth for Prince

With the release of the 2001 album The Rainbow Children, Prince's commercial clout had fallen so far that his album did not even reach the top 100 of the pop album chart. However, that all changed in 2004. Prince launched a world concert tour and a new album titled Musicology. The album was given away free to those who attended the concerts. With the giveaways being counted as sales, Musicology reached #3 on the pop albums chart and eventually over 6 million copies were distributed worldwide. In early 2006 Prince released the single "Black Sweat" in advance of a new album 3121.

Final Hit Albums and Death

In 2014 Prince finally made peace once again with the Warner Bros. record label after 18 years of estrangement. In celebration he released two albums simultaneously.

Plectrumelectrum was a collaboration with his new touring band 3rdeyegirl. The other Art Official Age was a solo album. Both reached the top 10 on the album chart.

On the morning of April 21, 2016, Prince was found dead at his home in Minnesota. He was 57 years old.