Singer, songwriter, guitarist, arranger, producer
Pop stars frequently alter their names, but rarely has a change of moniker caused a stir like the one motivated by Prince. On his 35th birthday in 1993, the enigmatic multi-instrumentalist, bandleader, and singer-songwriter announced he was changing his name to an unpronounceable symbol. “I’m still Prince,” he explained to Larry King, as quoted in People. “I just use a different sound for my name, which is none.” After seven years of life as an unpronounceable symbol, Prince reclaimed his given name in 2000, after a restricting contract with Warner Bros, that had caused much controversy expired at the end of the previous year.
As Prince, of course, he was one of the most consistent hitmakers in contemporary music, fusing soul, funk, rock, and power pop into a distinctive, exuberant brew; his unflinchingly erotic (and often simply raunchy) lyrics managed a kind of sacredness, thanks to his apparent sincerity. He displayed an astounding versatility, both in the studio—playing some two dozen instruments, multitracking vocals, and arranging music for his bands—and onstage, where he would participate in elaborate choreography even while peeling off pyrotechnic guitar solos.
As Guitar Player’s Chris Gill commented, “Few artists of his stature are as talented in one area as Prince is in many.” In his post-Prince existence the symbol-artist quickly embarked on a series of ventures—including a new independent record label, New Power Generation (replacing Paisley Park, Prince’s old imprint that was dismantled by Warner Bros, in the mid-1990s), a musical based on an ancient Greek text, a retail clothing outlet, and an interactive CD-ROM program—and promised that his new music would make the old pale by comparison.
The artist was born Prince Rogers Nelson in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and was named for the Prince Rogers Trio, a jazz group fronted by his father, John Nelson. His mother, Mattie, occasionally sang with the combo, but the Nelsons ultimately found less harmony in their marriage than in the music and went their separate ways. Young Prince’s relationship with Mat-tie’s second husband, Hayward Baker, was difficult, but Baker unwittingly helped set his stepson’s musical career in motion by taking him to a concert by singer-bandleader and “Godfather of Soul” James Brown. Prince was only ten years old, but Brown’s electrifying stew of funk, soul, and energetic showmanship seared itself onto his imagination, as would the fiery guitar of Jimi Hendrix, the communal dance-uplift of Sly & the Family Stone, and the otherworldly funk of George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic in the coming years.
By age 12, Prince had begun teaching himself to play the guitar Nelson had given him, but the rockiness of
For the Record…
Born Prince Rogers Nelson on June 7, 1958, in Minneapolis, MN; son of John Nelson (a jazz pianist) and Mattie Shaw (a singer); married Mayte Garcia (a dancer), 1996; marriage annulled (but couple still joined), 1998.
Recording and performing artist, 1976-. Released debut album, For You, Warner Bros., 1978; formed, and headed own subsidiary label, Paisley Park, 1987-93; produced and/or wrote for other artists, including the Time, Mavis Staples, Vanity, and others, 1980-; starred in films Purple Raln, 1984; Under the Cherry Moon, 1986; Sign O’ the Times, 1987; and Grafitti Bridge, 1990; provided songs for films Batman, 1989, and I’d Do Anything, 1993; wrote songs for stage musical Glam Slam Ulysses, 1993; changed name to an unpronounceable symbol and announced retirement of “Prince” from recording, 1993; released EP The Beautiful Experience, NPG/Bellmark, 1993; debuted interactive CD-ROM software and New Power Generation retail establishments, 1994; released Emancipation, 1996; Crystal Ball, 1998; and New Power Soul, 1998, on independent New Power Generation label; controversial contract dissolution with Warner Bros., 1999; returned to the use of the name Prince, 2000; released Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic on NPG/Arista, 1999; released The Rainbow Children on the Redline Entertainment label, 2002.
Awards: Academy Award, Best Original Song Score for film Purple Rain, 1984; three Grammy Awards, 1984; People’s Choice music awards, Best New Song for “Purple Rain” and Best Male Musical Performer, 1985; Grammy Award, Best R&B Performance for “Kiss,” 1986; named top urban contemporary artist of the past 20 years, Radio & Records 20th anniversary celebration; World Music Award for outstanding contribution to the pop industry, 1994; numerous American Music awards and Rolling Stone readers’ polls and critics’ picks awards.
Addresses: Record company —Redline Entertainment, 7075 Flying Cloud Dr., Eden Prairie, MN 55344. Website —Prince Official Website: http://www.npgmusicclub.com.
his home life meant that he rarely had a firm address; he stayed with Nelson and with the family of his friend Andre Anderson. The Anderson clan eventually adopted him. Prince would soon master the drums, bass, piano, and saxophone.
Prince signed a contract with Warner Bros, while still in his teens, and by 1978 he had released his debut, For You, which featured the single “Soft and Wet.” Working with his band the Revolution, Prince developed his trademark mix of funk workouts, soul balladry, and metallic guitar wailing—overlaid with his silky falsetto vocals—on the subsequent efforts Prince, Dirty Mind, and Controversy. But he made his first huge splash with 1999, an ambitious double-length recording that exploded thanks to the apocalyptic dance music of the title track and the crossover sensation “Little Red Corvette.” The album remained on the charts for two years, by which time the film and album Purple Rain had established Prince as one of pop’s megastars.
Though the movie Purple Rain— conceived by and starring Prince—received lukewarm reviews, it earned nearly ten times what it cost to make. The soundtrack, meanwhile, was a sensation, and featured both his most daring and his most commercially successful work to date. Featuring the enigmatic single “When Doves Cry”—“his shining hour, in terms of a commercially viable artistic statement,” according to Down Beat— as well as the barnburning “Let’s Go Crazy” and the shimmering balladry of the title song, the collection earned Prince an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score. It eventually sold well over ten million copies in the United States alone.
R&B siren Chaka Khan scored a huge hit covering Prince’s early song “I Feel for You,” and several years later Sinead O’Connor sang a smash rendition of his “Nothing Compares 2 U.” Yet Prince’s artistic restlessness meant that he rarely attempted to emulate past successes, even multiplatinum ones. Thus, the artist recorded the baroque pop and winsome psychedelia of Around the World in a Day— with its playful hit “Raspberry Beret”—and the funkified Parade, which served as the soundtrack to the cooly received film Under the Cherry Moon.
But it was 1987’s Sign O’ the Times that suggested another milestone in Prince’s varied career. Once again cramming a panoply of song styles into a double disc, Prince performed a duet with Scottish diva Sheena Easton on the hit “U Got the Look” and scored again with the single “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man.”
Prince’s various proteges—including Apollonia and Vanity—fared poorly on his new record label/ production complex, Paisley Park, which opened its doors in 1987. He himself hit what many regard as a fallow period in the next few years. His suite of songs for Tim Burton’s film Batman sold well but suggested something of a creative letdown to critics, while 1990’s Graffiti Bridge was a sprawling omnibus record featuring the Time, funk heavyweight George Clinton, Mavis Staples, newcomer Tevin Campbell, and others that lacked the focus of his mid-1980s work. But he assembled a stellar backup group that he called the New Power Generation and showed them off to fine effect on the 1991 collection Diamonds & Pearls. Prince was named Best Songwriter that year by Rolling Stone’s readers and opened a nightclub franchise called Glam Slam a bit later, appearing at its various locales periodically and using them as showcases for Paisley Park acts.
The following year saw the release of an album bearing only a symbol as its title. The glyph appeared to be a combination of the symbols for male and female, with a hornlike flourish running through the middle. Though the album featured the song “My Name Is Prince,” it wasn’t long before the unpronounceable symbol became the artist’s new moniker. Warner Bros. announced the dissolution of Paisley Park, which fueled an already hot controversy between the artist and his label. Prince was producing new albums at a much faster rate than the label was willing to release them, and that angered him. On top of that, the label refused to sell his masters back to him, ensuring that they would have rights to all of his hits for years to come. He sought legal counsel to get out of his contract with Warner Bros. Having allegedly stockpiled some 500 songs, enough Prince material existed to cover any remaining contractual obligation.
In 1993 Prince released his long-awaited greatest hits package, a three-CD set that included favorites from all his albums and a number of B-sides and rarities. Despite some qualms, an Entertainment Weekly review was enthusiastic: “Mostly The Hits remind us that Prince started out his career breaking both musical ground and a few sociocultural taboos. Now that he’s calling himself [symbol] and writing musicals based on Homer’s Odyssey, we need all the reminders we can get.” Warner Bros, released several albums against Prince’s wishes in the coming years, including the uneven Come and The Black Album, a rap album Prince famously shelved years back. The album was only available for several months in stores before it was pulled from distribution. Time’s David Thigpen remarked, after hearing the long-shrouded album’s contents, that Prince had “anticipated the decidedly un-lovesexy anger and violence in the gangster rap of the 1990s,” and added, “In , listeners probably wouldn’t have known what to make of its bitter outlook; today it is almost conventional.”
Meanwhile, The Artist Formerly Known as Prince,” or The Artist, as he came to be known among bewildered music writers, declared that his new music would surpass all of Prince’s output. As if to prove the point, “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” his first single as the symbol—funded and released by Prince—hit the number three position on the United States charts. Meanwhile, he was still embroiled in legal battles with Warner. Prince has been quoted in numerous interviews, including one with Ebony magazine in 1997, as saying, “If you don’t own your masters, the master will own you.” He felt Warner left him with little control over his own music, the timetable it was released on, and the way it was marketed. Prince began appearing in public and at concerts with “SLAVE” scrawled across his face. Finally, a compromise was reached between the artist and the label, one that allowed Warner Bros, to release two more Prince albums before his contractual obligation ended.
The Gold Experience, the first of the final two Warner Bros, albums, was released in the fall of 1995 to good reviews. Chaos and Disorder followed in the summer of 1996, and Prince was a free artist after that. He set up his own label, New Power Generation (NPG), and released the three-disc Emancipation, intending the album to be a commercial blockbuster and spawn hit singles for years to come. Although no songs off the album were as big as previous Prince hits, the set sold over two million copies and received overwhelming critical praise. A Salon reviewer wrote, “He dipped into the bottomless well of inspiration that has always been available to him, but this time he focused, creating arrangements neatly tailored to each song’s profile.” USA Today agreed, saying Emancipation “[showcases] a rare ability to master and manipulate any motif.” Detroit Free Press called it “a whopping reminder that the former Prince is one of the most creative musical innovators of the late 20th century.”
Prince’s personal Life Entered a new phase at the same time as his business life did. He married Mayte Garcia, a Puerto Rican-born dancer, on Valentine’s Day in 1996. The couple had a son who died a week after birth from a rare skeletal disorder. Prince has never publicly spoken of or even confirmed the widely reported event. The marriage lasted about two years; Prince annuled his marriage to Garcia in 1998 with the explanation in Time that “Mayte and I are joined for life, and the best way to demonstrate it is to do away with the legal bonds that people demand.” As a sign of that bond, they repledged their love to each other in a symbolic ceremony on Valentine’s Day in 1999.
Prince released Crystal Ball, a collection of outtakes and unreleased material, in 1998. He made the multidisc set available through mail order only at first. Fans who ordered the set through Prince’s website or by calling an 800 number were promised a bonus fifth disc, but their albums didn’t arrive until months after it was commercially released, and some sets did not contain the bonus fifth disc. The whole ordeal left many fans disgruntled and disenchanted. But, as Salon writer David Rubien pointed out, “Anyone who successfully acquired the set … couldn’t really complain: It had enough deep grooves, crucial jams, and sheer fun to keep a fan occupied for years.” Another album of new material, New Power Soul, was released three months after Crystal Ball. Many fans overlooked the new disc, not realizing Prince put out another album so soon after Crystal Ball.
Predictably, Prince’s early-1980s hit “1999” became a new millenium anthem, and Prince released a remix collection, 1999 (The New Master) to celebrate the coming of the new century. At a concert on the eve of the millenium, Prince played his hit “1999” for the final time. “After this party, there’s no need to play it again,” he told the crowd, as reported by People reporter Steve Dougherty.
Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic was released late in 1999. Time praised it as “a terrific album, full of some of The Artist’s freshest, most focused music in years.” That praise was echoed by critics across the globe. There were many significant changes in this album compared with his other post-Warner Bros, recordings. For one, it was released on Arista, making it his first major label release since the dissolution of contract with Warner Bros. It features big-name guest stars including Ani DiFranco, Eve, Maceo Parker, Gwen Stefani, and Sheryl Crow. Perhaps the biggest change was the producer of the album: Prince. Not The Artist, but Prince.
In mid-2000, The Artist returned to his given name Prince once again, after his contract with Warner Bros, officially expired on December 31, 1999. “I will now go back to using my name instead of the symbol I adopted to free myself from all undesirable relationships,” the musician stated in a press conference and reported in Jet.
Prince released The Rainbow Children on Redline Entertainment in 2002. The album focuses on his conversion to the Jehovah’s Witness faith. The album is likely to appeal only to die-hard fans, All Music Guide writer Stephen Erlewine writes, and it runs the risk of turning even those fans off because “his message [as a Jehovah’s Witness] doesn’t support the music and doesn’t fit with the sounds or the approach.” His record label and press agent billed it as his most controversial album to date, but Erlewine didn’t agree. “If Prince hadn’t marginalized himself through his record company battles, multi-disc sets, and botched superstar comebacks, this could have been genuinely controversial, since people would be paying attention to what he’s doing.”
On Warner Bros.
For You, 1978.
Dirty Mind, 1980.
(With the Revolution) Purple Rain (soundtrack), 1984.
(With the Revolution) Around the World in a Day, 1985.
The Black Album (recorded c. 1987), 1994.
The Gold Experience, 1995.
Chaos and Disorder, 1996.
The Vault: Old Friends 4 Sale, 1999.
The Very Best of Prince, 2001.
On Paisley Park
Sign O’the Times, 1987.
Graffiti Bridge (soundtrack), 1990.
(With New Power Generation) Diamonds & Pearls, 1991.
(With New Power Generation) [symbol], 1992.
The Hits/The B-Sides, 1993.
The Hits 1, 1993.
The Hits 2, 1993.
On New Power Generation
The Beautiful Experience (EP), 1993.
Crystal Ball, 1998.
New Power Soul, 1998.
Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic, NPG/Arista, 1999.
The Rainbow Children, Redline Entertainment, 2002.
Rees, Dafydd, and Luke Crampton, Rock Movers & Shakers, Billboard, 1991.
Billboard, May 8, 1993; June 19, 1993; July 24, 1993; August 28, 1993; February 12, 1994; May 21, 1994; November 5, 1994.
Detroit Free Press, December 1, 1996.
Down Beat, January 1994; March 2002.
Ebony, January 1997.
Entertainment Weekly, April 9, 1993; May 14, 1993; June 25, 1993; September 17, 1993; July 22, 1994; August 19, 1994.
Guitar Player, August 1993.
Jet, May 24, 1993; June 5, 2000.
Los Angeles Times, August 14, 1994.
Oakland Press (Oakland County, Ml), May 2, 1993.
People, January 1, 2000.
Q, July 1994.
Request, August 1994.
Rolling Stone, April 1, 1993; April 29, 1993; June 10, 1993; August 5, 1993; October 14, 1993. Spin, September 1991; June 10, 1993;
Time, December 28, 1998; November 15, 1999.
USA Today, November 21, 1996.
Vanity Fair, November 1993.
Vibe, August 1994.
“The Artist You Better Not Call Prince,” Salon, http://www.archive.salon.com/people/feature/1999/09/27/prince/print.html (November 26, 2002).
“The Rainbow Children,” All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (November 26, 2002).
Additional information was provided by Warner Bros. press materials, 1991-94, and liner notes to The Hits/The B-Sides, Paisley Park, 1993.
"Prince." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/prince
"Prince." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved May 29, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/prince
"Everybody knows what song is going to be played on New Year's Eve 1999," filmmaker Spike Lee remarked to the Prince during a feature in Interview magazine. He was referring to Prince's apocalyptic anthem, "1999," from his 1982 album of the same name, one of the earliest and brightest hits in a career that has spanned four decades. In that time, Prince became one of the most prolific and successful pop musicians of all time. A performer whose music synthesizes elements of funk, soul, jazz, hip-hop, and rock, Prince is regarded as an innovator whose influences are felt not only through the many imitators of his musical style but also in the way that music is produced, the relationship between artists and music labels, and the methods by which songs are distributed.
He was born Prince Rogers Nelson in Minneapolis on June 7, 1958. His parents were both musical, and he was named after his father's jazz combo, the Prince Rogers Trio. After his parents' divorce, Nelson's home life became difficult; he lived sometimes with his mother and stepfather, sometimes with his father, and sometimes with family friends. By the time he was a teenager, the years of being passed (or running) from home to home had taken an emotional toll. He withdrew into music, mastering by some accounts a dozen instruments by ear, and also writing lyrics that verged on the pornographic. The young musician was "a volcano of emotion boiling under the surface," a friend of his said in People.
In high school, he played in a band with other musicians—Morris Day (later of the Time) and Andre Cymone—who would later become his creative associates. But his talent outstripped that of his peers, and by the age of eighteen he was already a star waiting to be discovered. Collaborating on a song one day with Minneapolis studio owner Chris Moon, Nelson recorded guitar and vocal tracks, then offered to play keyboards, and continued to work on the recording single-handed by adding bass guitar and drum tracks as an astonished Moon looked on. Word spread quickly about the young musician's wizardry. He soon acquired a manager, advertising executive Owen Husney, who suggested shortening his name to the mysterious single name "Prince."
Signed Record Contract
Working with Moon, Prince assembled a demo tape on which he sang and played all the instruments. This feature intrigued executives at the Warner Brothers label, who not only signed him to a lucrative recording contract in 1977 but also granted him near-total creative control in the studio. This level of control was almost unprecedented for a teenage entertainer in an industry where fledgling careers are usually closely managed and marketed. Writing and producing all the music—as he would continue to do throughout his career—Prince released For You in 1978. The album only sold moderately well, but Warner did not have to wait long before its faith in its new prodigy was justified.
Prince's next three albums, Prince (1979), Dirty Mind (1980), and Controversy (1981), all went gold, with sales of over five hundred thousand copies each. "Soft and Wet," the lead single on For You, had been only moderately suggestive, but his lyrics soon moved into sexual territory that was explicit even by the libertine standards of the 1980s. Dirty Mind, which included songs about oral sex and incest, inspired some protests and would likely have caused wider outrage had Prince's primary fan base not been young, musically progressive urban listeners.
The sexual element never overwhelmed other facets of Prince's music—he was equally adept with romantic ballads, simple party songs, and even political pieces—but he always carefully managed this segment of his output so as to attract maximum attention, posing nearly nude on the covers of several album releases. According to Rolling Stone, Husney had advised Prince at the beginning of his career that "controversy is press," and he took this lesson to heart. However, in interviews, Prince has also indicated that he sincerely believes in the redemptive power of sexuality and that his lyrics often fuse sexual and religious elements.
Made His Own Movie
Prince's commercial breakthrough came in 1982 with the double album 1999. The enduring title track, with its cheerful exhortation to party in the face of imminent millennial apocalypse, could not have disturbed any censor. The music on 1999 displayed the mature style that made Prince a consistent hit-maker throughout the 1980s: high, intense, almost whispered vocals that could carry the sexual message effectively, startling falsettos, sinuous backup vocal lines (often performed by Prince himself), rock guitar, and always interesting funk percussion parts. As a producer, he was capable of bold, unforgettable strokes, such as the pure vocals-and-bass combination, eliminating any instrumental melody parts on "When Doves Cry," which was released in 1984 on the Purple Rain album.
Purple Rain, the soundtrack album for his largely autobiographical film of the same name, sold more than thirteen million copies, becoming one of the best-selling soundtracks of all time. The film, which starred Prince, was one of the top films that year at the box office, despite having been produced on a low budget with a cast of mainly nonprofessional actors, and the soundtrack earned him an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score.
At a Glance …
Born Prince Rogers Nelson on June 7, 1958, in Minneapolis, MN; son of John Nelson and Mattie Shaw; married Mayte Garcia, 1996 (divorced, 2000); married Manuela Testolini, 2001 (separated, 2006).
Career: Recording and performing artist, late 1970s—released double-platinum album, 1999, 1982; starred in Purple Rain and wrote soundtrack songs, 1984; formed Paisley Park label, 1987; changed name to an unpronounceable symbol, 1993, and came to be called The Artist; reversed change of name to Prince Rogers Nelson; established a digital subscription service on the Internet to publish his work through New Power Generation Music Club, 2001-06; signed with Columbia Records, 2004.
Awards: Academy Award for best original song score, 1984; six Grammy Awards; Radio & Records, top urban contemporary artist of the past twenty years; World Music Award for outstanding contribution to the pop industry, 1994; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 2004; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Image Award, 2005; NAACP Vanguard Award, 2005; Black Entertainment Television, BET Award for Best Male R&B Artist, 2006; Golden Globe Award for best original song, 2007.
Besides its huge success, the album had unintended consequences when Tipper Gore, the wife of politician and future presidential candidate Al Gore, listened to the lyrics of the sexually explicit song "Darling Nikki." Gore, incensed that she had purchased an album for her eleven-year-old daughter containing overt references to masturbation and other sexual acts without any warning as to its contents, formed the Parents Music Resource Center, which pressured the recording industry to adopt a ratings system similar to the one employed in the movies. This resulted in a voluntary labeling system for albums with "explicit lyrics." For his part, Prince did not oppose the labeling scheme, and became one of many artists to offer "clean" edited versions of their explicit albums.
Career and Popularity Continued to Grow
Meanwhile, Prince was at the peak of his creative powers, producing far more music than his label would allow him to release. Operating with total creative freedom in his Minneapolis studio, Paisley Park, Prince lent his prolific songwriting and producing energies to artists such as Sheena Easton, Chaka Khan, Sheila E., Patty LaBelle, and the Bangles, besides the stable of Minneapolis musicians whose careers he had launched—the Time, Andre Cymone, Vanity, Jill Jones, and others.
Prince's own albums, which were released at a pace of one per year, continued to top the charts in the late 1980s and early 1990s. However, his movie ventures were not as successful; he tried to replicate Purple Rain's cinematic success by directing and starring in two features: Under the Cherry Moon (1986) and Graffiti Bridge (1990). Even though the soundtracks to both films spawned hit songs, the films themselves were box office failures.
In 1993 dwindling record sales and arguments over creative control soured Prince's relationship with Warner Brothers. For the three years remaining on his Warner Brothers contract, he made public appearances with the word slave scrawled across his cheek. He also dropped the Prince name in favor of an unpronounceable glyph; the music press soon dubbed him the Artist Formerly Known as Prince, or simply The Artist. Other than a massive greatest-hits collection released in 1993, his albums during this period were commercial flops, often consisting of old material that had previously been deemed unfit for release.
Continued to Blaze His Own Trail
Prince's relationship with Warner Brothers ended in 1996. His post-Warner plans for his career focused on direct distribution of his music to fans through mail order and the nascent Internet, a controversial idea at the time. "You have to ask yourself, is this artist the kind of mercurial crazy some people say, or is he the wise one who understands where he fits in at the start of a new century?" one industry insider mused in Forbes magazine. Clearly, he understood where he fit. His first musical release, a three-CD set of new material, called Emancipation (1996), was made through a traditional distribution arrangement with the large Capitol/EMI conglomerate. Despite the set's stiff price and songs featuring a broad range of musical styles, it sold several million copies.
Even though he had retreated somewhat from his independent stance with the release of Emancipation, Prince stuck by his goal of flooding the market with the products of his prolific creativity, planning to release another massive compendium, Crystal Ball, in 1997 through his 1-800-New-Funk mail order service and Web site. However, production problems delayed the project, so he decided to turn to traditional distribution methods—a decision that proved unpopular with fans who had preordered the set months earlier, but saw copies arrive in stores at discounted prices before they had been delivered by Prince's direct distribution system.
Despite the problems with Crystal Ball, direct distribution remained one of his goals. In May of 2000 he officially resumed use of the name Prince, and in February of 2001—just one month after Apple inaugurated its iTunes online music store—he established the New Power Generation Music Club, an independent digital subscription service. Through the music club, he offered downloads of digital music, as well as backstage videos of the goings on at his Paisley Park studios, concert news, and streaming sneak previews of new recordings.
While Prince was innovating in the world of business and online distribution, his popularity was ebbing. Albums of new material, Newpower Soul (1998), Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic (1999), and The Rainbow Children (2001), all suffered from underwhelming sales. Regardless, he experienced a major resurgence in 2004, the year he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His album Musicology was released later that year to critical acclaim and solid sales. The sales of the album were aided by another innovation: the inclusion of a copy of the CD with the purchase of each concert ticket to the Musicology tour. According to Pollstar, the tour was the highest grossing tour of 2004, taking in $87.4 million.
Sales of Prince's 2006 follow-up, 3121, were strong and were accompanied by the opening of his night club in Las Vegas, also named 3121. A song he wrote for the 2006 animated film Happy Feet earned him a Golden Globe Award for best original song in 2007. His distribution innovations continued with his next album, Planet Earth. When he released the CD in Britain, he had it distributed as a free insert in the Sunday, July 15, 2007, edition of the Mail newspaper. As a consequence of this giveaway, there was never a retail release in Britain, and an unusually high level of online piracy of the album resulted. In September of 2007 Prince announced that he would sue the video-sharing network YouTube, the auction site Ebay, and a file-sharing group known as Pirate Bay for copyright infringement and assisting in the illegal distribution of his songs. Similar legal action was contemplated against unofficial fan Web sites that have posted lyrics to his songs, pictures of him, or have used his trademarks, including the glyph he once used as his name.
For You, Warner Bros., 1978.
Prince, Warner Bros., 1979.
Dirty Mind, Warner Bros., 1980.
Controversy, Warner Bros., 1981.
1999, Warner Bros., 1982.
Purple Rain, Warner Bros., 1984.
Around the World in a Day, Warner Bros., 1985.
Parade, Paisley Park, 1986.
Lovesexy, Paisley Park, 1988.
Graffiti Bridge, Paisley Park, 1990.
Come, Warner Bros., 1994.
Emancipation, EMI, 1996.
Crystal Ball, EMI, 1998.
The Rainbow Children, Redline, 2001.
One Nite Alone … Live!, NPG, 2002.
N.E.W.S., NPG (Big Daddy), 2003.
Musicology, NPG/Columbia, 2004.
3121, NPG/Universal, 2006.
Planet Earth, NPG/Columbia, 2007.
Contemporary Musicians, Volume 40, Gale Research, 2003.
Stambler, Irwin, The Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock, and Soul, St. Martin's, 1989.
Ebony, January 1997, p. 128.
Entertainment Weekly, December 20, 1996, p. 7; November 10, 2000, p. 59; June 8, 2001.
Esquire, March 1997, p. 39.
Forbes, September 23, 1996, p. 180.
Interview, May 1997, p. 88.
Jet, February 5, 1996, p. 36; May 19, 1997, p. 56; July 9, 2001, p. 64; January 17, 2005, p. 39.
People, November 19, 1984, p. 160; March 7, 1994, p. 72; December 3, 2001, p. 37.
Rolling Stone, August 30, 1984, p. 16.
Vegetarian Times, October 1997, p. 78.
Pareles, Jon, "The Once and Future Prince," New York Times,http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/22/arts/music/22pare.html (accessed December 21, 2007).
"Prince Sites Face Legal Threats," BBC News,http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/7082684.stm (accessed December 21, 2007).
"Prince Surprises Waiting Fans with a Show," USA Today,http://www.usatoday.com/life/people/2006-03-22-prince-surprise_x.htm (accessed December 21, 2007).
—James M. Manheim and Derek Jacques
"Prince." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/prince-1
"Prince." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved May 29, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/prince-1
Singer, songwriter, musician, producer
When a gifted musician becomes a symbol of social behavior, his songs become documents of his time. Prince, the composer, lyricist, instrumentalist, and singer who brought the Minneapolis sound into mainstream rock, has become such a performer. Although his techno-funk sound remains one of the most danceable of the 1980s fusion, he is more generally judged as a barometer of sexual morality based on his lyrics, stage performance and album cover art.
Prince has manipulated his own biography and has allowed it to be altered by others, but it is generally agreed that he was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on June 7, 1958. He was named Prince Rogers Nelson for his parents’ jazz ensemble, the Prince Rogers Trio, in which his mother, Mattie Shaw, was vocalist and his father, John Nelson, was pianist. Since it was impossible for a progressive jazz band to find enough high-paying jobs in the Minneapolis area, Nelson also worked for the Honeywell electronics plant. Prince, who has used only his first name professionally, became an expert pianist, keyboard player, guitarist and drummer while in junior high school and formed his first group, Grand Central, with longtime friend Andre Anderson. He spent his later adolescence living with Anderson’s family.
In 1976, Prince, who had mastered reed instruments as well as keyboards and strings, made his first demo, playing all the parts. He was 18, but his then-manager, Owen Husney, subtracted years from his age and described him as “a new Little Stevie Wonder.” Warner Bros, liked the demo and gave him a contract which allowed him to produce his own first album. That record, For You (1978), received high praise from critics, as did his second, Prince (1979). A single, “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” from the latter became a top seller on the Soul charts and pushed Prince to gold-record status.
Dirty Mind (1980) and Controversy (1981) institutionalized Prince’s status as a social rebel. Its songs were overtly sexual in message and title, among them, “Head,” “Soft and Wet” and “Do Me, Baby.” He also added some political messages to the fourth album, such as “Ronnie, Talk to Russia,” about international accords. Prince’s fusion sound brought him a crossover success that spanned the black and white radio stations, and music columnists, such as the New York Times’s Robert Palmer, saw in his music a chance to achieve “true biracialism” in popular music. “Controversy is a perfectly realized fusion of black and white pop idioms, alternating stretches of taut dance-floor funk with a more melodic, songlike refrain,” Palmer wrote in 1981. “It transcends racial stereotyping because it’s almost all Prince.”
But Palmer, and Warner Bros., underestimated the
Full name, Prince Rogers Nelson; born June 7, 1958, in Minneapolis, Minn.; son of John Nelson (a musician) and Mattie Shaw (a singer).
Professional musician 1976—; performed all instrumental parts and produced his first album, For You, in 1978; has appeared in the motion pictures “Purple Rain,” 1984, “Under the Cherry Moon,” 1986, and “Sign O’ the Times,” 1987; has served as producer and songwriter for numerous groups.
Awards: Received Oscar for Best Original Score for film “Purple Rain,” 1984; recipient of three Grammy Awards for Purple Rain, 1985; presented down beat magazine’s Readers Poll awards for best soul/rhythm and blues album of the year, for “Around the World in a Day,” and best soul/rhythm and blues group of the year, 1985; Grammy Award for best rhythm and blues performance for single “Kiss,” 1986.
Addresses: Office –c/o Tom Ross Creative Artists Agency, 1888 Century Park E, Suite 1400, Los Angeles, Calif. 90067.
effect of the album’s warning stickers (”contains language which may be unsuitable for some listeners”) or overestimated America’s readiness for biracial rock. Prince’s reputatution, titles and lyrics made some FM stations ban many of his songs and even complete Prince albums.
Prince’s image led to nationwide publicity, including a column in Newsweek in December 1981, in which Jim Miller called him “The naughty Prince of Rock…. On stage he’s a punk scarecrow bringing the passion of soul to rock and roll burlesque. In the studio, he’s a self-taught prodigy, composing, arranging and producing a mongrel mix of creamy ballads and brittle funk, blazing rock played with rude-boy spunk. He’s a prophet of sexual anarchy.”
1999 (1982) and Purple Rain (1984), however, brought Prince the crossover success that his antithesis, Michael Jackson, had earned with Thriller in 1982. 1999, which went triple-platinum, included three hit singles—the title song, “International Lover,” and “Little Red Corvette.” Named number 17 in Rolling Stone’s 1988 listing of the Top 100 singles, “Little Red Corvette” was “his tightest metaphor, getting double duty out of a clever horse and Trojan imagery to craft an ode to a speedy, gas-guzzling, ‘love machine.’ The sexual motif is reinforced by the song’s rhythmic structure which builds from a mellow, pulsing synthesizer opening, then chugs into a power-driven sing-along chorus.” It broke through from the black radio stations to pop charts by working through the theme of car adoration that had been a part of rock since long before the Beach Boys.
Purple Rain, the soundtrack from his 1984 film, sold over 17, 000, 000 copies and won an Oscar for best original sound score. Prince also won three Grammys and three American Music Awards for the album and songs. Its hit single, “When Doves Cry,” became the ultimate symbol of a crossover success when it reached number one on the pop, soul, and dance charts. Videos of film clips integrated with Prince in “live” performance, shown on cable and network television shows, helped to push other singles up the charts, among them, the title song, “I Would Die 4 U,” “Take Me with You,” and “Let’s Go Crazy,” which was considered by many the best dance recording of the year. Purple Rain also spawned a five-month concert tour that set attendence records in theaters, auditoriums, and sports arenas. Billboard, the trade paper of the recording industry, honored Prince’s achievements in film, recordings and live performance when it gave him the Trendsetter Award for 1984 for “unprecedented multimedia success.”
Prince’s next two albums, Around the World in a Day (1985) and Parade (1986), a preview of the soundtrack for his second film, Under the Cherry Moon, were less successful and received harsh criticism from some reviewers for their softer sound and fuzzy message. Musician, in a November 1988 retrospective, called them “claustrophobic, self-obsessed, sometimes downright creepy.” The film, a stylized, black-and-white 1920’s melodrama, was also denounced by critics.
His next album, Sign o’ the Times (1987), had the opposite problem. It was well-received by critics (as Musician stated—”fun and free and unselfconscious”) but sold only decently. Mark Rowland in ASCAP in Action described the album as moving “from gospel to flower pop to avant-garde funk with remarkable elasticity, sometimes, as on “U Got the Look” and “The Cross,” melding two or more idioms in a single song.” In this album Prince returned to his origins as the soloist, playing and overdubbing instrumental parts—here, everything but the horn section, except in the live recording of “It’s Gonna Be a Beautiful Night.”
Prince followed with two albums—LoveSexy and The Black Album, which was withdrawn by Warner Bros, that year but remained an open secret that seems to be readily available on the black market. Even Variety, which as an entertainment industry trade paper abhors the existence of bootleg recordings, reviewed it and printed an article on its availability. Jon Pareles of the New York Times was one of many critics to publish joint reviews of LoveSexy and The Black Album. He ascribed the title to Prince’s committment in the latter to “black” music styles, such as blues and rap, since “for Prince, clearly, ‘black’ music means music that relies on rhythm above all.”“LoveSexy,” he continued, “purveys melodies the way The Black Album knocks out rhythms. In fact, there’s so much melody that Prince gets away with extraordinary liberties in his harmonies: long stretches of the album qualify as polytonal, with the rhythm section in one key and horns, keyboards and voices in others.”
In an ironic move that seems typical of Prince’s career, the covers of both records led to the banning of the “official” album by the 1100-store Walmart chain, according to the Village Voice. The Black Album’s cover is, of course entirely black, in what some critics see as a reference to the Beatles’ classic White Album. And the LoveSexy cover presents Prince, as Essence described it, “looking like Adam before the creation of fig leaves, delicately perched on a white orchid while purple dahlias sprout like wings from his shoulders. Legs shaved; right hand pressed against his heart as if pledging allegiance to the unseen forces of the universe.” The LoveSexy tour’s opening in Paris was reviewed by Steve Perry in Musician as “the Exploding Purple Inevitable.” “No one has ever conceived an arena rock show with this much audacious theatricality … this kind of explosive kinetic energy or this musical dynamism.” And Rolling Stone described Prince’s entrance “in a white 1967 Thunderbird rigged up to take a quick spin around the tri-level, seventy-by-eighty stage—complete with swing set and basketball hoop.”
Contradictions about Prince’s life and work abound, at least in part because he has promoted them. He has been quoted in Essence and elsewhere as having said that “I used to tease a lot of journalists [about my racial background] early on because I wanted them to concentrate on the music.” He often creates imaginary characters for his album notes and assigns to them his creative and professional decisions, as he did in the LoveSexy tour book, in which he named “Spooky Electric,” as creator of The Black Album. The incident which most threatened his reputation was, ironically, not at all related to his self-described “sexy” nature. He re-cieved negative press when he decided to donate a cut to the USA for Africa benefit album, rather than participating in the all-star recording session that created its title song, “We are the World.”
Prince’s influence on the music scene in the Minneapolis area has been enormous. As Bonnie Allen wrote in Essence, “he has given Minneapolis, a city many East and West Coasters didn’t realize even had a Black population, the same mystical musical aura of Motown in the sixties.” He has sponsored bands and ensembles from Minneapolis in his live performances. Among those which have gone on to their own successes are his original band The Revolution, Mazarati, The Family, Shiela E. (headed by percussionist Shiela E.), Cat and Apollonia 6, which has spun off the careers of vocalists Vanity and Apollonia. Prince records his own music and produces other bands at the 65, 000-square foot Paisley Park Studio, in a Minneapolis suburb.
Prince songs have also been recorded by other artists, among them “When You Were Mine” by Mitch Ryder. ASCAP in Action cited a John Cougar Mellencamp concert in which that celebrated songwriter played a tape of Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” to his audience. Peter Watrous, reviewing a sold-out concert at Madison Square Garden in October 1988 for the New York Times, assessed Prince’s impact on contemporary popular music in this way: “[He] projects one of the most confusing, enigmatic images in pop music, mixing erotic love with religion, irony and humor with seriousness. It is these contradictions that separate him from straightforward, bland, mainstream performers and ultimately make him more interesting than they are.”
For You, Warner Bros., 1978.
Dirty Mind, Warner Bros., 1979.
Controversy, Warner Bros., 1981.
1999, Warner Bros., 1983.
Purple Rain, Warner Bros., 1984.
Around the World in a Day, Warner Bros., 1985.
Parade, Paisley Park/Warner Bros., 1986.
Sign O’ the Times, Paisley Park/Warner Bros., 1987.
LoveSexy, Paisley Park/Warner Bros., 1988.
ASCAP in Action, winter, 1988.
Essence, November, 1988.
Musician, November, 1988.
New York Times, December 2, 1981; March 30, 1986; April 12, 1987; October 4, 1988.
Newsweek, December 21, 1981.
Rolling Stone, September 12, 1985; August 25, 1988; September 8, 1988.
Variety, June 8, 1988.
Village Voice, May 24, 1988.
"Prince." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/prince-0
"Prince." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved May 29, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/prince-0
“Everybody knows what song is going to be played on New Year’s Eve 1999,” filmmaker Spike Lee remarked to the Artist Formerly Known as Prince as the two conversed for an Interview magazine feature. The Artist by the late 1990s had indeed become a classic figure of American music, with not only “1999” but also many other songs having become common musical coin for the nation and the world. An all-around musician with top-notch talents as vocalist, composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist, he offered music that was his own creation from start to finish. He was perhaps popular music’s greatest auteur—a distinctive icon of individual creativity and individual control over the final artistic product.
As only a great artiste can do, the Artist looked backward, forward, and all around with equal sensitivity. He synthesized the soul, funk, and rock music he grew up with in a way that no one had before. In its raw expression of sexuality, his music perfectly fit with the spirit of his prime hitmaking years in the 1980s. And perhaps he looked forward to a musical future not strictly divided by black and white; in the 1990s he took control of his musical creations in ways that might anticipate new forms of musical production and distribution.
The Artist was born Prince Rogers Nelson in Minneapolis on June 7, 1958. His parents were both musical, and the Artist was named after his father’s jazzcombo, the Prince Rogers Trio. After his parents’ divorce, the Artist’s home life was difficult; he lived sometimes with his mother and stepfather, sometimes with his father, and sometimes with family friends. By the time he was a teenager, the years of being passed (or running) from home to home had taken an emotional toll. He withdrew into music, mastering by some accounts a dozen instruments by ear, and also into pornographic writings. The young musician was “a volcano of emotion boiling under the surface,” a friend of his said in People
In high school he played in a band with other musicians— Morris Day (later of The Time) and Andre Cymone—who were to become his creative associates. But his talent outstripped them all, and by 18 he was already a star waiting to be discovered. Collaborating on a song one day with Minneapolis studio owner Chris Moon, the
At a Glance…
Born Prince Rogers Nelson, June 7, 1958, in Minne apolis, MN; son of John Nelson (a jazz musician and electronics worker) and Mattte Shaw (a vocalist). Married Mayte Garcia, 1996.
Career : Recording and performing artist, late 1970s-. Released album For You, 1978; released double-platinum album 1999, 1982; starred in film Purple Rain and wrote soundtrack songs, 1984; formed Paisley Park label, 1987; changed name to an unpronounceable symbol, 1993, now known as The Artist; released collection The Hitt, 1993; released Emancipation, 1996; signed distribution deal with EMI, 1996; released Crystal Ball, 1998.
Selected awards ; Academy Award fer best original song score, 1984, for Purple Rain; four Grammy Awards (three in 1984 alone); named top urban contemporary artist of the past 20 years by Radio & Records; World Music Award for outstanding contribution to the pop industry, 1994; 16 platinum albums and numerous gold singles.
Addresses: Levine Publications, 433 N, Camden Dr., Suite 400, Beverly Hills, CA 90210.
Artist recorded guitar and vocal tracks, then offered to play keyboards, and continued to work on his single-handed recording by adding bass guitar and drum tracks as an astonished Moon looked on. Word spread quickly about the young musician’s wizardry. He soon acquired a manager, advertising executive Owen Husney, who suggested shortening his name to the mysterious single word “Prince.”
Working with Moon, the Artist assembled a demo tape on which he himself sang and played all the instruments. This feature intrigued executives at the Warner Brothers label, who not only signed him to a lucrative recording contract in 1977 but also granted him near-total creative control in the studio, an almost unprecedented situation for a freshly minted entertainer in an industry where careers are usually closely managed and marketed. Writing and producing all the music as he would continue to do throughout his career, the Artist released For You in 1978. The album sold only moderately well, but Warner did not have to wait long before its faith in its new prodigy was dramatically justified.
The Artist’s next three albums, Prince, Dirty; Mind, and Controversy all went gold, with sales of over 500,000 copies each. For You, despite the title of its lead single “Soft and Wet,” had been only moderately suggestive, but he soon moved into sexual territory that was unprecedented even by the libertine standards of the 1980s. Dirty Mind which included songs about oral sex and incest, inspired some protests and would likely have caused wider outrage had not the Artist still found his primary base of popularity among young, musically progressive urban listeners.
The sexual element never overwhelmed other facets of the Artist’s music—he was equally adept with romantic ballads, simple party songs, and even political pieces-but the Artist always carefully managed this segment of his output so as to attract maximum attention, posing nearly nude on the covers of several album releases. According to Rolling Stone, Husney had advised the Artist that “Controversy is press,” at the beginning of his career, and he took the idea to heart. However, in the few interviews the Artist has given, he has seemed sincere in his belief in the redemptive power of sexual experience, and his lyrics have often fused sexual and religious elements.
The Artist’s commercial breakthrough came with the double album 1999, released in 1982. Its several hit singles, including the enduring title track with its cheerful exhortation to party in the face of imminent millennial apocalypse, could not have disturbed any censor. The music on 1999 displayed the mature style that made the Artist a consistent hitmaker throughout the 1980s: high, intense, almost whispered vocals that could carry the sexual message effectively, startling falsettos, sinuous backup vocal lines (often performed by the Artist himself), rock guitar, and always interesting funk percussion parts. As a producer he was capable of bold, unforgettable strokes, like the pure vocals-and-bass combination, eliminating any instrumental melody parts, on “When Doves Cry,” released in 1984 on the Purple Rain LP.
Purple Rain remains the Artist’s most successful release, reaching sales of at least nine million copies in the United States alone. A soundtrack album for his successful and largely autobiographical film, Purple Rain gained the Artist an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score. The Artist, operating with total creative freedom in his Minneapolis studio Paisley Park, was a star in his own right, and lent his prolific songwriting and producing energies to such artists as Sheena Easton, Chaka Khan, Sheila E., and Sinead O’Connor, in addition to the stable of Minneapolis musicians whose careers he had birthed—The Time, Andre Cymone, Vanity (of Vanity 6), and others.
The Artist continued to reach top chart levels and to grab the spotlight through the 1980s and early 1990s, causing a particular stir with the Lovesexy album of 1988, whose androgynous nude cover caused 1100-store Wal-Mart chain to refuse to sell the LP. An even more controversial collection, the Black Album, with themes of violence and sadism, was pulled from release, although it remained widely available in bootlegged copies. Warner Brothers finally released the work in the middle 1990s, when the excesses of the gangsta rap style had overtaken even the Artist’s level of explicitness.
The Artist wrapped up his relationship with Warner Brothers in 1993 with a massive greatest-hits collection (the label continued for some years to release works from a vast stockpile of the Artist recordings), and seemed in the next few years to embark on a new phase of his career. He dropped the Prince name in favor of an unpronounceable glyph that combined the universal male and female symbols; the music press soon dubbed him The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, or simply The Artist. He severed his ties completely with Warner Brothers in 1996 (in his last public appearances while still with the label he could be seen with the word “slave” scrawled across his cheek), and announced plans to distribute his music on his own through such unorthodox venues as Internet sales. “[Y]ou have to ask yourself, is this artist the kind of mercurial crazy some people say, or is he the wise one who understands where he fits in at the start of a new century?” one industry insider mused in Forbes magazine. Such young entertainers as Ani DiFranco were pursuing similar strategies.
The Artist married his backup singer and dancer Mayte Garcia in 1996, and released a three-CD set of new material, Emancipation, which, despite its stiff price and the plethora of new musical styles that had appeared since the Artist first came on the scene, sold several million copies. The Artist retreated somewhat from his independent stance, working out a distribution arrangement with the large Capitol/EMI conglomerate, but stuck by his goal of flooding the market with the products of his prolific creativity, releasing another massive compendium, Crystal Ball, in 1998; the collection included stockpiled material, new all-acoustic songs, and improvisatory jams.
Despite the widely reported death of his first child from a rare birth defect (he has refused to confirm or even discuss the event), The Artist Formerly Known as Prince entered a period of relative contentment in the late 1990s. He began to grant interviews, speaking with such diverse outlets as Forbes and Vegetarian Times —The Artist and his wife both became vegetarians—about his music, business strategies, and home life. His place in musical history was secure, his creativity completely untrammeled. Rivaled perhaps only by Michael Jackson, The Artist had come to be regarded as one of the greatest musicians of the twentieth century.
For You, Warner Bros., 1978.
Prince, Warner Bros., 1979.
Dirty Mind, Warner Bros., 1980.
Controversy, Warner Bros., 1981.
1999, Warner Bros., 1982.
Purple Rain, Warner Bros., 1984.
Around the World in a Day, Warner Bros., 1985.
Parade, Paisley Park, 1986.
Sign O’ the Times, Paisley Park, 1987.
Lovesexy, Paisley Park, 1988.
Graffiti Bridge (film soundtrack), Paisley Park, 1990.
Diamonds & Pearls, Paisley Park, 1991.
(Symbol), Paisley Park, 1992.
The Hits 1, and The Hits 2, Paisley Park, 1993.
Black Album, Warner Bros., 1994 (recorded 1987).
Come, Warner Bros., 1994.
Emancipation, EMI, 1996.
Crystal Ball, EMI, 1998.
Contemporary Musicians, various editors, volumes 1 and 14, Gale Research, Inc.
Stambler, Irwin, The Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock & Soul, rev. ed., St. Martin’s, 1989.
Ebony, January 1997, p. 128.
Entertainment Weekly, December 20, 1996, p. 7.
Esquire, March 1997, p. 39.
Forbes, September 23, 1996, p. 180.
Interview, May 1997, p. 88.
Jet, Feb 5, 1996, p. 36; May 19, 1997, p. 56.
People, November 19, 1984, p. 160; March 7, 1994, p. 72.
Rolling Stone, August 30, 1984, p. 16.
Vegetarian Times, October 1997, p. 78.
—James M. Manheim
"Prince 1958–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/prince-1958
"Prince 1958–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved May 29, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/prince-1958
Genre: R&B, Pop, Rock
Best-selling album since 1990: The Love Symbol Album (1992)
Hit songs since 1990: "Cream," "Sexy M.F.," "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World"
Prince is one of the most versatile and talented musicians in the history of pop music. Not only is he an accomplished instrumentalist on keyboards, bass, lead guitar, and drums, but he is also an original singer with a range that stretches from low, gruff bass notes to screechy high falsetto tones. Notably, in all of his first five albums, Prince played all the instruments on his own. His fame is also due to an identity that is inimitable. His flamboyant appearance blurs so many boundaries that he might be best described as postmodern androgyne. Throughout his career he has transgressed sexual, gender, and musical norms.
Prince grew up in Minneapolis, where only a small portion of the population was black. Named after his father, a black-Italian jazz musician, Prince was a self-taught musician playing drums, guitar, piano, and bass. He formed his first band, Grand Central, while in high school in 1972. Grand Central became Champagne, and they recorded with Chris Moon. This led to Prince's leaving the band and writing songs and working for Moon for the next two years. He recorded demos and tracks for Linster Willie's (aka Pepe Willie) band, 94 East, prior to his first major break, a self-production deal with Warner Bros. Signing him up for a six-figure advance in early 1978, Warner Bros. permitted Prince to write, produce, and perform all of his albums. This was an unprecedented agreement not only because of his age (he was only twenty), but also because of his race. The only black artist prior to him to be allowed artistic freedom was Stevie Wonder, and that was only after he had been signed to Motown Records for ten years.
On his debut album, For You (1978), his brash rock style fuses with soul and funk to cater to a predominantly black audience. While this album did not chart, his next one, Prince (1979), managed to chalk up the hit "I Wanna Be Your Lover." With the release of his third album, Dirty Mind (1980), his songs became so sexually explicit that they lost radio coverage, bewildering a white audience. It was with album number four, 1999 (1983), and the hit "Little Red Corvette" that Prince achieved major international attention. Thanks to heavy MTV coverage, this song made it into the American Top 10 and, together with Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean," became the first breakthrough for a black pop artist on MTV. From the outset, Prince's fans were as varied as he, with different social, racial, and cultural backgrounds. When planning his first tour in 1979, he insisted that his band be multiracial and include both men and women. The ideology behind this decision increased his popularity and helped him gain a wide following all over the world.
In 1984 his success continued with the album Purple Rain, which accompanied a movie of the same name in which he starred. Three singles from the album became hits: "When Doves Cry," "Let's Go Crazy," and "Purple Rain." Through the 1980s Prince released an album each year. From this period the album that stands out most is the solo double album Sign o' the Times, which resulted in a film featuring Prince performing live. Demonstrating a high degree of individuality, the songs off this album deal with themes of sex, love, salvation, and God. The 1980s ended with the release of one of Prince's strangest singles, from the first Batman film. This hit, entitled "Batdance," made it to number one, helping the album Batman to sell more than 14 million copies worldwide.
Following the low-key reception of Graffiti Bridge in 1990, Diamonds and Pearls, released the next year, was a success. With his formidable funk band, the New Power Generation, featuring gospel-soul singer Rosie Gaines, Prince was able to produce a rich selection of songs that drew on a wide breadth of styles.
The next two albums, Love Symbol (1992) and Come (1994), did not live up to their predecessors musically. It was as if the emphasis was more on raunchiness and sexual explicitness, with all the eccentricity surrounding Prince at this stage, than on the quality of the musical writing. The media hype surrounding Prince in 1993 had to do with the change of his name. He renamed himself as an unpronounceable icon and then became "Victor," and finally changed over to TAFKAP (The Artist Formerly Known as Prince). Soon it was disclosed that these name changes involved his heated dispute with Time Warner over his contract. In February 1994, following a major setback with Warner and a distribution deal, Prince's Paisley Park Records went out of business. What resulted was a release of the poignantly beautiful hit, "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World," from his next album, The Beautiful Experience, which was released on independent labels around the world in 1994. However, Prince still had to honor his contract with Warner and issued the Black Album and Come in addition to a set of greatest hits, The Hits. Full of resentment toward Warner Bros., Prince wrote SLAVE on his cheek for a photo session and went on tour with this strong statement.
In 1995 The Gold Experience album was released, featuring songs with which he had toured. This material continued to attempt to shock, sensationalize, and provoke reactions. The next album, Chaos and Disorder, was his last obligation to Warner and consists mainly of P-funk jam numbers with an abundance of guitar soloing by Prince. At this stage it was announced that Prince's band, the New Power Generation, would be touring no longer.
Spot Light: Diamonds and Pearls
diamonds and pearls (1991) is one of prince's most stylistically innovative albums and in many ways signifies where pop music was at the end of the twentieth century. the thirteen songs of this album present a range of styles and musical idioms expressed through technical devices. with each song one experiences a complete shift in style. for example, from track six, "strollin'," to track seven, "willing and able," there is a dramatic change from a simple, relaxed swing drive to an animated and humorous township jive—the influence of south african township could not be more obvious. with stylistic changes come significant shifts in a range of other elements such as studio production, instrumentation, harmonic flavor, and rhythmic impetus. in songs such as "cream," it is possible to detect at least five contrasting styles: blues, classic rock, funk, soul, and boogie. most notable is prince's levels of musical intensity, which are captured by his characteristic confidence in delivery. in the track "walk don't walk," the musical energy is harnessed to a relaxed tempo and conventional diatonic chord progressions. the intensity of this track is encapsulated in its leisurely, easygoing, and positive feel, which is a direct result of a medium tempo within a ballad style. in the final track, "live 4 love (last words from the cockpit)," it is difficult not to pick up on prince's characteristic humor as he opens the song with a melodramatic, robotic vocal countdown with unmistakable allusions to earth, wind & fire in the bass and rhythm parts. stylistic diversity reaches a most intense level in this track as prince draws on techno, hard-rock, funk, soul, rap, pop, and house.
With his new label, NPG, distributed by EMI, the three-disc album Emancipation was released in 1996. Consisting of thirty-six tracks, this album is the longest in duration produced by Prince. The music stands as a testament to his versatility as a producer and musician, drawing on influences from jazz, R&B, rock, funk, pop, and dance styles. One of the features that stands out most throughout this album is the complexity of the artist's jamming style, which gives the album a sense of extravagance and celebration. Not quite the commercial success he had hoped it would be, Prince banked on his next album, Crystal Ball, to do better. Released in 1998, the album proved to Prince and his fans how difficult it is to distribute records independently through websites. As a result sales were disappointing, as they were for his next album, New Power Soul.
In 1999 Prince released the remix collection 1999 (The New Master), The Vault: Old Friends 4 Sale and Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic. In December 1999 his publishing contract with Warner-Chappell expired, and Prince reverted to his original name. From 2000 to 2003 he went on successive small-town tours in the United States and Europe promoting his albums Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic, The Beautiful Experience (2001), and The Rainbow Children (2001). All these tours were relatively low-level events compared to the spectacle of his former tours.
Despite a slump in popularity and drop in record sales at the turn of the millennium, Prince nevertheless continues to occupy a central position in the pop industry as one of the most musically innovative artists of all time. During the 1980s and 1990s he emerged as a highly eccentric and influential artist with promo videos and live concerts that were pioneering for their time. Prince's brand of pop—a hybrid of funk, rock, jazz, R&B, and dance-pop—is unique and distinguishable through both its mode of performance and its pathbreaking production, which has had a major impact on the development of popular music worldwide.
For You (Warner Bros., 1978); Prince (Warner Bros., 1979); Dirty Mind (Warner Bros., 1980); Controversy (Warner Bros., 1981); 1999 (Warner Bros., 1983); Purple Rain (Warner Bros., 1984); Parade (Paisley Park, 1986); Sign o' the Times (Paisley Park, 1987); The Black Album (Paisley Park, 1987); Lovesexy (Paisley Park, 1988); Batman (Warner Bros., 1989); Graffiti Bridge (Pasiley Park, 1990); Diamonds and Pearls (Paisley Park, 1991); The Love Symbol Album (Warner Bros., 1992); Gold Experience (Warner Bros., 1995); Chaos & Disorder (Warner Bros., 1996); Emancipation (NPG, 1996); New Power Soul (NPG, 1998); Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic (Arista, 1999); Crystal Ball (NPG, 1999); The Rainbow Children (Redline, 2001).
"Prince." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/prince
"Prince." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved May 29, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/prince
Prince Charming a fairy-tale hero who first appears as in French Roi Charmant, hero of the Comtesse d'Aulnoy's L'Oiseau Bleu (1697), and in English as King Charming or Prince Charming by James Robinson Planché (1796–1880). The name was later adopted for the hero of various fairy-tale pantomimes, especially the Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella.
Prince Imperial the title of the heir apparent (1854–79) of Napoleon III. Exiled with his parents after his father's abdication, in 1879 he joined the British expedition to Zululand, where he was killed.
Prince of Darkness a name for the Devil, recorded from the early 17th century; in recent usage, it has been taken as a humorous appellation for the Labour politician Peter Mandelson (1953– ), in tribute to his perceived mastery of the ‘black art’ of spin-doctoring.
Prince of Peace a title given to Jesus Christ, in allusion to the prophecy in Isaiah 9:6.
Prince of the Asturias the title of the heir to the throne of Spain.
Prince of Wales a title traditionally granted to the heir apparent to the British throne (usually the eldest son of the sovereign) since Edward I of England gave the title to his son in 1301 after the conquest of Wales.
The Prince of Wales' feathers are a plume of three ostrich feathers, first adopted as a crest by the eldest son of Edward III, Edward Plantagenet (1330–76), the Black Prince.
Prince Regent a prince who acts as regent, in particular the title of the future George IV, who was regent from 1811 until he became king in 1820.
See also whosoever draws his sword against the prince must throw the scabbard away at draw, Hamlet without the prince, princes.
"prince." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/prince
"prince." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved May 29, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/prince
prince / prins/ • n. the son of a monarch. ∎ a close male relative of a monarch, esp. a son's son. ∎ a male royal ruler of a small state, actually, nominally, or originally subject to a king or emperor. ∎ (in France, Germany and other European countries) a nobleman, usually ranking next below a duke. ∎ (prince of/among) a man or thing regarded as outstanding or excellent in a particular sphere or group: arctic char is a prince among fishes. DERIVATIVES: prince·dom / dəm/ n.
"prince." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/prince-1
"prince." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved May 29, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/prince-1
"prince." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/prince-0
"prince." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved May 29, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/prince-0
"Prince." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/prince
"Prince." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved May 29, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/prince
"prince." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/prince-2
"prince." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved May 29, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/prince-2
"prince." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 29, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/prince-0
"prince." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved May 29, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/prince-0