Prince Biography

He's been called "His Royal Badness" and "His Purple Highness," and for severla years he was simply called by an pronounceable symbol, or as the "Artist Formerly Known As Prince." Reclusive man of mystery, self-proclaimed messianic zealot, sex symbol, flamboyant rock star, Prince--when he was Prince the first time around--was at the top of the music world, giving Michael Jackson a run for his pop dollars. Although completely unpredictable, highly controversial, and self-indulgent, Prince is also an extremely accomplished musician, producer and composer, one of the 1980s' true musical originals.

A virtual one-man band, Prince sculpted and created the Minneapolis Sound through his keyboards, screeching, almost pleading, vocals, erotic live shows, and explicit sexual lyrics. Named after his father's jazz group, the Prince Rogers Band, Prince Rogers Nelson had music in his blood from birth. When his parents divorced, his father left his piano behind, and at the age of 7, Prince began mimicking television themes on the keys. As a teenager, he ran away from home, moved in with a friend, formed a band, and taught himself how to play bass, guitar, and drums. By the age of 18, he had recorded several demos, and by 19, he had struck an amazing deal with Warner Bros. Records, one unheard of by an unknown; the artist, dubbed a prodigy, was not only given a six-figure, several-album contract, but also an inordinate amount of freedom--as a songwriter, musician, and producer.

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In 1977, Prince became the youngest producer in Warner history. Not too surprising, Prince's debut, For You, in 1978, was over-budget and over-ambitious (he played a reported 23 different instruments on the record). While the music covered a broad spectrum of styles, from acoustic to rock to R&B, appearing like he couldn't decide which was his style, Prince knew lyrically where he was comfortable; "Soft And Wet" oozed sex and slithered its way onto the singles and black charts. Back in Minneapolis, he gathered some old musicians together and played his first solo show in January 1979. His early shows were tame, but in support of his self-titled sophomore outing, Prince was parading and strutting around the stage in tight-ass pants (or no pants, only zebra-print butt-hugger undies) and high-heeled boots, beginning a decade of lavish and erotic performances with lingerie-clad women and oddly-attired musicians at his side.

With a hit album, Prince, and single, "I Wanna Be Your Lover," Prince was already making headway with black fans, but was determined to establish himself with rock and new wave audiences; he combed his hair out, stripped down to teeny-weenie black bikinis, and tossed about on a bed onstage. Then he stripped the music down to raw sex for 1980's Dirty Mind and the songs "Head" and "Sister," and 1981's Controversy, which actually sparked little controversy.

But with the 1982 release of the ambitious (as well as remarkable) double-album 1999, Prince's music finally crossed over charts and demographics, uniting a growing audience and landing himself in the top 10 and on MTV (he became one of the first black performers on the network); his achievement came thanks to more melodic, pop-intense songs such as the title track and "Little Red Corvette." Although once again produced, arranged, and composed solely by the master, this record marked the first time Prince allowed members of his band (primarily guitarist Dez Dickerson) to play occasional bits; but true recognition, in the form of the Revolution, was to be saved for his next album.

Prince's impact was also felt in other Minneapolis-based bands, most significantly with the Time, behind which he was rumored to be the controlling figure and genius, as well as a fluffy-female-fronted-folly called Vanity 6. His role with these bands, as well as his own musical career, was played out in the semi-autobiographical 1984 film Purple Rain, which, along with the accompanying soundtrack, vaulted the Purple One to superstar status; portrayed as sensitive, wild and sexy, Prince and his Edwardian wear became all the rage. The record sold a phenomenal number of records the first day of its release in the U.S., and produced several hits, including "When Doves Cry," "Let's Go Crazy," "Purple Rain," and "I Would Die 4 U." Prince also received two Grammy Awards as well as an Oscar (for the score--not his acting).

The artist, soon to be known as the Artist, released album after album over the next 12 years, but none that had the impact of his earlier efforts, except perhaps the single "Kiss" in 1986 and Sign O' The Times in 1987. Although many of these records achieved some success and he continued to play major arenas to screaming audiences, his eccentricities and self-indulgence ultimately alienated him from U.S. fans. During that decade-plus, he went through numerous stylistic phases--even experimenting with the psychedelic on Around The World In A Day--starred in a movie that flopped, opened his own studio and record label (Paisley Park), fired the Revolution, hired the New Power Generation, made a another movie that flopped and a concert-type film, opened a club, grew his hair long, cut his hair short, and changed his name to a symbol.

Through it all, His Royal Badness remained a royal mystery--until his 1996 triple-CD Emancipation, which he released after getting out of his long-term Warner Bros. deal, the Artist never granted extensive interviews. He released not one but two albums on his own in 1998, Crystal Ball and New Power Soul, and Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic in 1999; in 2001, after converting to the Jehovah's Witness faith, he also released the religious album The Rainbow Children over the Internet. Then--surprisingly, considering his bitter fallout with Warner Bros.--in 2004 he signed to another major label, Columbia, and released Musicology under his re-adopted name of Prince. The album racked up big Soundscan numbers when copies of it were included with the price of tickets to his 2004 sold-out tour, and many fans and critics considered it an artistic comeback as well. 

Prince Biography