THE world of entertainment was yesterday thrown into mourning, as iconic musician, Prince Rogers Nelson died at his Paisley Park studio in Chanhassen, Minnesota, his publicist has confirmed.
Popularly known as Prince, the American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and actor, was a major figure in popular music for over three decades. Prince was renowned as an innovator and was widely known for his eclectic work, flamboyant stage presence, and wide vocal range. He was widely regarded as the pioneer of Minneapolis sound. His music combined rock, R&B, soul, funk, hip-hop, disco, psychedelia, jazz, and pop.
Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Prince developed an interest in music at an early age, writing his first song at age seven. After recording songs with his cousin’s band 94 East, 19-year-old Prince recorded several unsuccessful demo tapes before releasing his debut album For You in 1978, under the guidance of manager Owen Husney. His 1979 album Prince went platinum due to the success of the singles “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?” and “I Wanna Be Your Lover”. His next three records—Dirty Mind (1980), Controversy (1981), and 1999 (1982)—continued his success, showcasing Prince’s trademark of prominently sexual lyrics and incorporation of elements of funk, dance, and rock music. In 1984, he began referring to his backup band as The Revolution and released Purple Rain, which served as the soundtrack to his film debut of the same name. A prolific songwriter, Prince in the 1980s wrote songs for and produced work by many other acts, often under pseudonyms.
After releasing the albums Around the World in a Day (1985) and Parade (1986), The Revolution disbanded and Prince released the critically acclaimed double album Sign “O” the Times (1987) as a solo artist. He released three more solo albums before debuting The New Power Generation band in 1991. He changed his stage name in 1993 to an unpronounceable symbol (Prince logo.svg), also known as the “Love Symbol”. He then began releasing new albums at a faster pace to remove himself from contractual obligations to Warner Bros.; he released five records between 1994 and 1996 before signing with Arista Records in 1998. In 2000, he began referring to himself as “Prince” again. He has released 15 albums since then, including his latest, HITnRUN Phase One, which was first released exclusively on the Tidal streaming service on September 7, 2015 before being released on CD on September 15, 2015 by NPG Records.
Prince has sold over 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling artists of all time. He has won seven Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe, and an Academy Award. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, the first year of his eligibility. Rolling Stone has ranked Prince at number 27 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
He died at his Paisley Park recording studio and home in Chanhassen, Minnesota, near Minneapolis, on April 21, 2016, after suffering flu-like symptoms for several weeks.
Son of Mattie Della (Shaw) and John Lewis Nelson. His parents were both African-American and his family ancestry is centered in Louisiana, with all four of his grandparents hailing from that state. Prince’s father was a pianist and songwriter and his mother was a jazz singer. Prince was named after his father, whose stage name was Prince Rogers, and who performed with a jazz group called the Prince Rogers Trio. In a 1991 interview with A Current Affair, Prince’s father said, “I named my son Prince because I wanted him to do everything I wanted to do”. Prince’s childhood nickname was Skipper.
In a PBS interview, Prince told Tavis Smiley that he was “born epileptic” and “used to have seizures” when he was young. During the interview, he also said: “My mother told me one day I walked in to her and said, ‘Mom, I’m not going to be sick anymore,’ and she said, ‘Why?’ and I said, ‘Because an angel told me so’.”
Prince’s sister Tika Evene (usually called Tyka) was born in 1960. Both siblings developed a keen interest in music, and their father encouraged this. Prince wrote his first tune, “Funk Machine”, on his father’s piano when he was seven. When Prince was ten years old, his parents separated. Prince constantly switched homes following the separation, sometimes living with his father and sometimes with his mother and stepfather. Finally, he moved into the home of neighbors named the Andersons and befriended their son Andre Anderson, who later became known as André Cymone.
Prince and Anderson joined Prince’s cousin Charles Smith in a band called Grand Central while they were attending Minneapolis’s Central High School. Smith was later replaced by Morris Day on the drums. 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 and started playing original music influenced by Sly and the Family Stone, James Brown, Earth, Wind & Fire, Miles Davis, George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic, Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix, and Todd Rundgren. Rock critics have noted similarities between Prince’s later androgynous look, music and vocal style and that of Little Richard.
Prince also played basketball in high school, and continued to play it for recreation as an adult, which later inspired a famous Dave Chappelle sketch.