Prince (born Prince Rogers Nelson on June 7, 1958 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, 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". Many critics regard the quality and versatility of Prince's music as being indicative of musical genius.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Discography
- 3 Filmography
- 4 Protégés
- 5 Pseudonyms
- 6 See also
- 7 External links
Uptown: Early years
Prince Roger(s) Nelson was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota at Mount Sinai Hospital on June 7, 1958, 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. However, both Prince's parents are African-American, and, like many Black Americans, their lineage is an amalgam of ethnicities.
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 a central figure of "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 an excellent quality demo. Husney started contacting major labels and ran a clever 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
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, spawning the now ubiquitous phrase on Prince albums: "Produced, Arranged, Composed and Performed by Prince". He 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".
Ambitious, talented, and hardworking, if sometimes overstretched, Prince tried to bring modern ideas and attitudes into pop music. He first attracted attention with his spacey soulful sound topped with screaming guitar, not to mention 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. Recorded mostly as a solo effort and released using the original demos, the album served to establish Prince as a critical favorite. 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, who did not consider his music so narrowly defined. 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. They would be the first of the protégés who Prince would assist in the next decade including Vanity (of Vanity 6), Apollonia (of Apollonia 6) and Sheila E. Behind the scenes, Prince often wrote, composed, performed and recorded the material for his protégé acts, using them as another outlet for his prolific output. He would also write 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, perhaps most notably, Sinéad O'Connor. Her cover of a song he initially wrote for protégé band 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 has gained attention for hiring and recording with women considered attractive or sexy, including Sheena Easton amongst others. 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 managed both to make a protest about nuclear proliferation, fill dance floors around the world and become his first top ten hit internationally. With "Little Red Corvette" he joined Michael Jackson 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 also a critical smash, placing at number 6 in The Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop critics poll.
The release of Purple Rain along with the film of the same name would establish Prince amongst the top rank of popular musicians in the 1980s. It sold millions of copies in the first week alone. The album would sell 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", was nevertheless an enormous success, grossing over US$80 million in the United States alone. However, Purple Rain would prove to be Prince's first and 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 smash 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. The album is also a critical favorite again being rated 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, at the pinnacle of super-stardom, after touring the U.S. tirelessly with the Purple Rain Tour, Prince briefly decided to give 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 momentary 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 tour-de-force, focusing on the music itself and the talent of The Revolution members.
Prince is often mentioned in the tradition of Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke in mixing spirituality and sensuality. "I Would Die 4 U", for instance, can be compared to Gaye's "Sexual Healing", with its not-so-subtle reference to Jesus. The track "The Cross", off Sign O' The Times, is a stronger reference to Prince's Christian beliefs, which have since shifted. Sign O' The Times, released in 1987 as a double album, reached the top 10 of the Billboard 200 and is regarded as one of his greatest albums. It is perhaps his most critically-acclaimed effort, 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.
In 1987, Prince also recorded The Black Album, a funk-oriented album whose erotically-charged lyrics were considered so blatant that Prince developed a crisis of conscience and decided not to officially release it. 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 positive and spiritual answer to the dark message of The Black Album. Lovesexy was a relative 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. Refusing a commercial sponsor for the large, expensive tour, Prince lost money as dates failed to sell out. In turn, Prince toured Europe, where his popularity had reached a fever pitch. Prince recouped his losses with the European and Japanese legs of the tour, and connected on a spiritual level with audiences across the world. The show design, with the front half influenced by "Spooky Electric", Prince's euphemism for the devil, and the second half revitalized by "Lovesexy", a feeling of love inspired by and connected with God, was a powerhouse showcase for Prince, his music, and the band.
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 released the film sequel to Purple Rain, titled Graffiti Bridge, which performed poorly at the box office, but provided another outlet for Prince's spiritually-inspired messages. 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 another big hit on the album charts 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. With both artists previously expressing their mutual admiration and respect for each other, it was deemed a perfect coupling. 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 proper, until 2000. Kate Bush reciprocated in 1996 and is featured on background vocals (or "additional vox" as Prince prefers) 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 declining commercial and critical success. The symbol is said to be a melding of the symbols for male and female, and its roots can be seen in basic characters found in alchemy. Due to File:Princesymbol.png being unpronounceable, he was often referred to as "The artist formerly known as Prince," "TAFKAP," or simply "The Artist."
Throughout the ups and downs of his commercial success and chart performance, Prince has been regarded as one of top live acts in the music business, often performing not only in large arenas, but also late at night in small clubs for a select audience. He maintained a strong live following despite spending most of the 1990s and early 2000s in commercial exile. Performing often at Paisley Park, local and international audiences of 5–2,500 people have witnessed rare musical moments produced by a consummate performer who emphasizes musicianship above all else.
Chaos and Disorder: 1994–2003
Prince released a greatest hits package in 1993 which failed to do as well as one would suspect from an artist with his track record. 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 very 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, although it reached 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, it failed to do as well as he had hoped, with critics complaining 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, as many fans failed to realize it was out.
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. However critics and fans universally panned The New Master, declaring it unimaginative.
In May 2000, File:Princesymbol.png reclaimed his birth 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, he still sometimes uses the symbol as a logo, and continues to play the File:Princesymbol.png-shaped guitar.
For the next three years, Prince primarily released new music through his Internet subscription services, first NPGOnlineLtd.com, and now NPGMusicClub.com. He also released two jazz-influenced albums, The Rainbow Children in 2001 and the all-instrumental N.E.W.S in 2003. In addition, he has brought in a newfound openness with his fans, connecting with them through the NPG Music Club, at pre-concert sound checks, and at yearly "celebrations" at Paisley Park. Several hundred to several thousand observers are invited into his studios for tours, interviews, discussions (including with Prince himself), new music listening sessions, and of course numerous performances by Prince, related artists, and invited 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 intimate One Nite Alone tour performances. The 3-CD box set, which included the after show disc It Ain't Over!, received praise from music critics, but 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 with some performances of some of his greatest hit singles. In April 2004, he released Musicology, which shot to the Top 5 of the album charts in the US, UK, Germany, Australia, and several other countries. He also embarked on one of the highest grossing tours ever, in which he won top draw (more than 1.47 million), according to Billboard magazine. He was second only to Madonna in gross sales (nearly $90 million) according to that same publication. 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.  Musicology went on to win two Grammys for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance and Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance. 
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. 
In April 2005, Prince was featured playing 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. The unprecedented success sparked rumors of an appearance or duet at the Live 8 concert in Philadelphia in which Stevie Wonder was the final act, but this did not materialize.
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 will release "SST" October 25 on CD.
For a detailed listing of albums, singles, and production/songwriting work Prince has done for other musicians, please see Prince discography.
Top Twenty albums
|1985||Around The World In A Day||1||5|
|1987||Sign 'O' The Times||6||4|
|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|
|1995||The Gold Experience||6||4|
|1996||Chaos And Disorder||-||14|
|1999||Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic||18||-|
|2001||The Very Best Of Prince||-||2|
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||US||US R&B||US Dance||UK||Album|
|1979||"I Wanna Be Your Lover"||11||1||2||-||Prince|
|1980||"Dirty Mind"||-||-||5||-||Dirty Mind|
|1983||"Little Red Corvette"||6||-||-||-||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||-||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||-||-||-||Sign 'O' the Times|
|1987||"I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man"||10||-||4||-||Sign 'O' the Times|
|1987||"Hot Thing"||-||-||4||-||Sign 'O' the Times|
|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||-||-||-||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)
|1992||"7" (with The New Power Generation)||7||-||-||-||File:Princesymbol.png|
|1994||"The Most Beautiful Girl in the World"
|3||2||-||1||The Beautiful Experience|
|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||-|
- Purple Rain (1984): actor, composer
- Under The Cherry Moon (1986): actor, writer, composer, director
- Sign O' The Times (1987): composer, performer, director
- Batman (1989): composer (songs), actor (cameo)
- Graffiti Bridge (1990): actor, composer, writer, director
- Showgirls (1995): composer (songs): "Ripopgodazippa", "319"
- Girl 6 (1996): composer (songs)
- Live at the Aladdin Las Vegas (2003): performer, composer (songs)
- Apollonia 6
- Ingrid Chavez
- Morris Day
- Candy Dulfer
- Sheila E.
- Sheena Easton
- Carmen Electra
- The Family
- Nona Gaye
- Cat Glover
- Rosie Gaines
- Jill Jones
- Monique and Suzanne Klemann (Lois Lane)
- The Time
- Vanity 6
- 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
- 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
- Azifwekare - bum on the song "Style"
- File:Princesymbol.png, TAFKAP, The Artist (Formerly Known As Prince)
- Gemini - on the Batman album
- Camille - speeded voice on "Housequake", "Shockadelica", etc.
- List of best selling music artists
- List of number-one hits (United States)
- List of artists who reached number one on the Hot 100 (US)
- List of number-one dance hits (United States)
- List of artists who reached number one on the US Dance chart
- NPG Music Club, Prince's official site
- Template:Imdb name
- prince.org, a fan site
- prince-online.com, Prince polish fan community
- Housequake.com, Prince discussion forum with news, photos and video.
- Template:AMG name
- WestLord: Prince
- schkopi.com, Prince French fan community
- Princefams.com, Prince news and pictures
- Prince Lyrics Searchable database of all Prince lyrics
- The Databank Transcription Team Lyrics to all of Prince's music
- The New Funk Order Artist's community featuring Prince inspired artists and free music downloads.