Gone But Not Forgotten: Prince
June 7, 1958 - April 21, 2016
Prince Rogers Nelson, aka just "Prince" was born on June 7, 1958, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Prince embodied personality, style, and individualism. His parents, John Nelson and Mattie Shaw - also musicians themselves, separated when Prince was a child. This split and Prince's troubled relationship with his stepfather resulted in him leaving home and being adopted by the Anderson family. Prince quickly became friends with his newly adopted brother, Andre. Prince and Andre, and Prince's cousin, Charles Smith, formed the band Grand Central - who later changed their name to Champagne. Andre and Prince would continue playing music together until 1981.
Prince wrote his first song, "Funk Machine" at age 7. He met Jimmy Jam in 1973 when they were in junior high. At age 18 Prince signed a recording contract with Warner Brothers Records and released his first studio project "For You" in 1978. The first album achieved only mild success, but Prince followed it up with his self-titled sophomore release Prince, which produced his first top 20 single "I Wanna Be Your Lover." Dirty Mind followed in 1980 and as a result, Prince was hired as the opening act for Rick James' 1980 Fire It Up tour. In 1981, Prince dropped his Controversy album and grew his fandom while touring with The Rolling Stones and appearing on Saturday Night Live. During this time period, he also created the side project band, The Time - where he wrote many of the instrumentation and backing vocals along with lead singer Morris Day. Prince was able to claim international success with the his album, 1999 (released in 1982). 1999 contained hit singles "Little Red Corvette" and "Delirious."
Joined by his band The Revolution, Prince went on to create the iconic album Purple Rain in 1984, which served as the soundtrack to the film of the same name. The movie grossed nearly $70 million at the U.S. box office while the album produced three Top 5 singles "Purple Rain," "When Doves Cry," and "Let’s Go Crazy." This era made Prince an undeniable force in music, fashion, and pop culture. However, Prince’s success was met with much controversy as his racy lyrics, and revealing performance attire, made the artist an eccentric sex symbol. His song "Darling Nikki" ired Tipper Gore, who started the Parents Music Resource Center, which began labeling albums with the Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics stickers.
In addition to his own albums, Prince was busy writing songs for other artists, including "Sugar Walls" for Sheena Easton, "Manic Monday" for the Bangles, and "Nothing Compares 2 U" for Sinead O'Connor. He also worked with Madonna on her "Like a Prayer" album, playing guitar on several tracks (including "Like a Prayer") and singing the duet "Love Song" with her. After Purple Rain, he went on to make three additional movies, Under the Cherry Moon, Sign O' The Times, and Graffiti Bridge.
Over the decade Prince would become one of the most influential artists of the 20th century releasing a string of widely popular music projects. He changed his name a few more times, to Prince and the New Power Generation for "Diamonds and Pearls" and then to the symbol. In the Fall of 1992, Prince signed what would become known as "the largest recording and music publishing contract in history", a $100 million deal with Warner Brothers. However the mildly successful Love Symbol Album caused tension between the singer and his label. As such, Prince insisted he be referred to as "the artist formerly known as Prince," until his release from contractual obligations with Warner Brothers.In 2004 Prince was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and after an apparent hiatus performed on the Grammy Award show with singer Beyoncé. Later that year he released the album Musicology that earned him two Grammy Awards.
In 2007, Prince performed at the Super Bowl XLI halftime show; which garnered 140 million viewers. Some say this was the greatest Super Bowl performance ever.While Prince has been romantically linked to numerous women (Kim Bassinger, Sheila E., Vanity, Carmen Electra, etc.) during his extensive career, he only married twice. First to Mayte Garcia from February 1996 to 1999, then to Manuela Testolini from December 2001 to 2006. It was believed that the artist had no living children until speculation after his untimely death in 2016.Prince died on April 21 in Chanhassen, Minnesota, at his Paisley Park compound.