American pop and soul/funk singer, guitarist, and songwriter As an artist in the studio, Prince blended pop, rock, soul, funk, and rhythm and blues in his memorable songs. As a performer onstage, he entertained with sexually provocative imagery and complex productions that shaped the concert landscape throughout the 1980's.
Born: June 7, 1958; Minneapolis, Minnesota
Also known as: Prince Rogers Nelson (birth name); Artist Formerly Known as Prince Member of: The Revolution; New Power Generation Principal works film score: Under the Cherry Moon, 1986.
Though he eventually dropped his middle and last names, the entertainer was born Prince Rogers Nelson on June 7, 1958, to John L. Nelson (a pianist and songwriter) and Mattie Shaw (a singer). As a result of his parents' musical background, he instantly developed an affinity for artistry while growing up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His childhood became troubled, however, when his parents divorced. After his mother remarried, Prince clashed with his stepfather and left home. He spent some time living in his father's home (where he learned to play the guitar), and then he movedin with family friends, theAndersons,when he was in junior high. Prince struck up a friendship with their son Andre (who was renamed Andr? Cymone for the stage), and the pair joined the local band Grand Central. Though starting as a guitarist for the entirely instrumental band, he soon produced the band's material before stepping up to the microphone in high school (when the players evolved into a new entity called Champagne).
His experience on the local scene inspired Prince to cut a demo record in 1976, which quickly got attention and generated record-label interest. Warner Bros. Records signed him, releasing his debut project two years later and launching his incredibly successful career. Prince was especially flamboyant during his early performances, leading some to speculate about his sexual orientation. Soon, however, he began a series of high-profile romantic relationships in the 1980's and 1990's, with such celebrities as Vanity, Madonna, Sheila E., Anna Fantastic, and Carmen Electra. His personal life calmed down during the 1990's, when he began investigating the Jehovah's Witnesses, under the direction of mentor Larry Graham (of Sly and the Family Stone fame). Prince officially joined the faith in 2001, and as a result he became increasingly vocal about his beliefs in his albums and in his live performances, replacing sexually suggestive songs with biblically inspired material. With little fanfare, he married Manuela Testolini in 2001; she filed for divorce in 2006.
Undaunted by that personal setback, Prince maintained his prominent career presence and devotion to his spiritual beliefs. The Music Early Works. Upon signing with Warner Bros. Records, Prince saw his career slowly begin its ascent to international fame. His 1978 album For You did not produce any major hits, though it did introduce listeners to his inventive union of pop, rock, funk, soul, and rhythm and blues. In addition, For You showed the newcomer to be an incredibly talented force, whose credits included producing, arranging, composing, and performing the entire project. The following year's self-titled effort forced a wider audience to take notice, thanks in part to the funky single "I Wanna Be Your Lover" and the soulful "I Feel for You" (which was later covered by Chaka Khan).
Certain notoriety came from 1980's Dirty Mind, though it was focused mostly on the suggestive album cover (which included Prince provocatively posed in a pair of black briefs) and the sexually charged lyrics behind the title cut and "Do It All Night". Prince accepted the public scrutiny over what was generally deemed to be scandalous material and continued in the same vein with 1981's new wave-flavored Controversy, known for the racy "Sexuality" and "Jack U Off". 1999. Prince sanitized his songs' lyrics a bit and featured a refined synthesizer sound on 1999 (ironically released in 1982), made with his newly named backing band the Revolution.
With those elements, plus the infectious sounds on singles "Little Red Corvette" and "1999", Prince became a household name and an early example of an AfricanAmerican artist expanding into the mainstream during the MTV era. Purple Rain. In 1984 Prince and the Revolution had tremendous success with Purple Rain, which served as the sound track to the singer's film of the same name. The project spawned an astounding five singles ("When Doves Cry", "Let's Go Crazy", "Purple Rain", "I Would Die 4 U" and "Take Me with U"), incorporating contemporary pop elements with old school funk and soul. With the popular album and motion picture combination, Prince's reputation soared, and he took home Grammy Awards for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group and Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or TV Special and an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score. Around the World in a Day. After the great response to the blockbuster Purple Rain (with sales reaching almost twenty million copies), 1985's Around the World in a Day was somewhat overlooked, though it still sold more than two million copies and featured the smash hit "Raspberry Beret".
The next year Prince attempted to reclaim the Purple Rain success with a motion picture and sound track for Under the Cherry Moon, although the music had a European sound and lacked mainstream appeal (outside the single "Kiss"). Sign o' the Times. In the fading limelight, Prince reinvented himself and attracted additional audiences with 1987's epic Sign o' the Times. The double album was a solo affair, without backing by the Revolution, and featured reexaminations of tracks from previously shelved projects. The concept collection was packed with sixteen songs of varied sounds: experimental, jazz, electronic rock, and ballad. Though it failed to match Prince's peak, Sign o' the Times yielded the highest number of hits since Purple Rain, including the title cut, "If I Was Your Girlfriend", "U Got the Look", and "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man". The Love Symbol.
After working on several sound tracks and making acting appearances, Prince returned with 1991's Diamonds and Pearls (with the New Power Generation backing band). However, he became increasingly disgruntled with Warner Bros. for not allowing him to explore unusual creative visions, which began surfacing on 1992's The Love Symbol (structured as a rock-androll soap opera). Tensions between the artist and label increased as he sought additional independence, resulting in 1994's Come, which was announced as his last recording under the Prince moniker. As promised, that stage name was officially dropped on 1995's Gold Experience in favor of the unpronounceable icon depicted on The Love Symbol cover. Though the project retained his familiar sound with the New Power Generation, it was a media sensation, focused more on the clash between Prince and the record label than the quality of the music. Emancipation. The Artist Formerly Known as Prince and Warner Bros. officially parted company after 1996's Chaos and Disorder. That same year, the entertainer released a triple album set of new material called Emancipation on his label, NPG Records. The title was a direct reference to his squabbles with Warner Bros. and symbolized a new freedom in producing his music.
Although Prince continued making music on his own terms for the rest of that decade and into the 2000's, the name change confused some listeners and, as a result, several albums earned little attention. Musicology. In 2001 The Rainbow Children was credited to Prince, who justified the return to that name because his publishing contract with Warner/ Chappell Music finally expired. Prince released a few more independent albums, but in 2004 he allowed Columbia Records to distribute Musicology. As a result of wider availability, it sold more than two million copies, bolstered by a tour that featured new songs and old hits. The momentum started an upward trend that culminated in 2006's 3121 debuting at number one on the Billboard Top 200 album charts. In 2007 Prince's Super Bowl halftime performance built anticipation for Planet Earth.
Musical Legacy Prince sold millions of records and had a steady stream of hit singles throughout the 1980's, and he was a dominant crossover force. He was one of the first African American artists to appear regularly on MTV, and his songs seamlessly combined the worlds of rock, pop, soul, rhythm and blues, funk, and jazz. Whether recording on his own or with the Revolution or New Power Generation, Prince consistently crossed the boundaries between accessibility and experimentation. He nurtured other artists as diverse as funk band the Time, all-girl pop group Vanity 6, and soul siren Sheila E. He influenced such performers as Lenny Kravitz, Seal, and Beyonce.
During his tenure as an unpronounceable symbol, the star was among the first to rebuff a major record company and emancipate himself from its demands. Though the period following his departure from Warner Bros. met with little commercial success, the artist worked under his own terms and presented several projects that showcased diversity and excellence in his singing, writing, producing, performing, and arranging capabilities. Because of his perseverance, Prince regained his position under his original stage name.