Prince (born Prince Rogers Nelson; June 7, 1958) is an American singer, songwriter, musician, and actor. Prince has produced ten platinum albums and thirty Top 40 singles during his career. Prince founded his own recording studio and label; writing, self-producing and playing most, or all, of the instruments on his recordings. In addition, Prince has been a “talent promoter” for the careers of Sheila E., Carmen Electra, The Time and Vanity 6, and his songs have been recorded by these artists and others (including Chaka Khan, The Bangles, Sinéad O’Connor, and even Kim Basinger).
Prince also has several hundred unreleased songs in his “vault”. He has won seven Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe, and an Academy Award. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, the first year he was eligible.
Rolling Stone has ranked Prince No.27 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
Prince’s music has been influenced by rock, R&B, soul, funk, rap, blues, New Wave, electronica, disco, psychedelia, folk, jazz, and pop. His artistic influences include Sly & the Family Stone, Parliament-Funkadelic, Joni Mitchell, The Beatles, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Miles Davis, Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, Led Zeppelin, Marvin Gaye, the Isley Brothers, Duke Ellington, Curtis Mayfield, and Stevie Wonder. Prince pioneered the “Minneapolis sound“, a hybrid mixture of funk, rock, pop, R&B and New Wave that has influenced many other musicians.
Prince Rogers Nelson was born June 7, 1958, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to John L. Nelson and Mattie Shaw. Prince’s father was a pianist and songwriter and his mother was a jazz singer. Prince was named after his father, whose stage name was Prince Rogers, and who performed with a jazz group called the Prince Rogers Trio. In a 1991 interview with A Current Affair, Prince’s father said, “I named my son Prince because I wanted him to do everything I wanted to do.” Prince’s childhood nickname was Skipper.
In a PBS interview Prince told Tavis Smiley that he was “born epileptic” and “used to have seizures” when he was young. During the interview Prince also said that “my mother told me one day I walked in to her and said, ‘Mom, I’m not going to be sick anymore,’ and she said ‘Why?’ and I said ‘Because an angel told me so.’ “
Prince’s sister Tika Evene (usually called Tyka) was born in 1960. Both siblings developed a keen interest in music, and this was encouraged by their father. Prince wrote his first tune, “Funk Machine” on his father’s piano when he was seven. Prince’s parents then separated when Prince was ten years old. Following their separation, Prince constantly switched homes: sometimes he lived with his father, and sometimes with his stepfather. Finally he moved into the home of a neighbor, the Andersons, and befriended their son, Andre Anderson who later became known as André Cymone.
Prince and Anderson joined Prince’s cousin, Charles Smith, in a band called Grand Central while they were attending Minneapolis’s Central High School. Smith was later replaced by Morris Day on the drums. Prince played piano and guitar for the band which performed at clubs and parties in the Minneapolis area. Grand Central later changed its name to Champagne and started playing original music influenced by Sly & the Family Stone, James Brown, Earth, Wind & Fire, Miles Davis, Parliament-Funkadelic, Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix, and Todd Rundgren. Prince also played basketball in high school.
Musical beginnings: 1974–80
In 1975, Pepe Willie, the husband of Prince’s cousin, Shauntel, formed the band 94 East with Marcy Ingvoldstad and Kristie Lazenberry. Willie hired Andre Cymone and Prince to record tracks with 94 East. Those songs were written by Willie and Prince contributed guitar tracks. Prince also co-wrote, with Willie, the 94 East song, “Just Another Sucker”. The band recorded tracks which later became the album Minneapolis Genius – The Historic 1977 Recordings. Prince also recorded, but never released, a song written by Willie, “If You See Me” (also known as, “Do Yourself A Favor”). In 1995, Willie released the album 94 East featuring Prince, Symbolic Beginning which included original recordings by Prince and Cymone.
In 1976, Prince created a demo tape with producer Chris Moon in Moon’s Minneapolis studio. Unable to secure a recording contract, Moon brought the tape to Minneapolis businessman Owen Husney. Husney signed Prince, at the age of 17, to a management contract and helped Prince create a demo recording at Sound 80 Studios in Minneapolis using producer/engineer David Z. The demo recording, along with a press kit produced at Husney’s ad agency, resulted in interest from several record companies including Warner Bros. Records, A&M Records, and Columbia Records. With the help of Husney, Prince signed a recording contract with Warner Bros.. Warner Bros. agreed to give Prince creative control for three albums and ownership of the publishing rights. Husney and Prince then left Minneapolis and moved to Sausalito, California where Prince’s first album, For You, was recorded at Record Plant Studios. Subsequently, the album was mixed in Los Angeles and released in on April 7, 1978. According to the For You album notes, Prince produced, arranged, composed and played all 27 instruments on the recording. The album was written and performed by Prince, except for the song “Soft and Wet” which had lyrics co-written by Moon.
The cost of recording the album was twice Prince’s initial advance. Prince used the Prince’s Music Co. to publish his songs. “Soft and Wet” reached No. 12 on the Hot Soul Singles chart and No. 92 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song “Just as Long as We’re Together” reached No.91 on the Hot Soul Singles chart.
In 1979 Prince created a band which included André Cymone on bass, Dez Dickerson on guitar, Gayle Chapman and Doctor Fink on keyboards, and Bobby Z. on drums. Their first show was at the Capri Theater on January 5, 1979. Warner Bros. executives attended the show but decided that Prince and the band needed more time to develop his music.
In October 1979, Prince released a self-titled album, Prince, which was No.4 on the Billboard Top R&B/Black Albums charts, and No.22 on the Billboard 200, going platinum. It contained two R&B hits: “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?” and “I Wanna Be Your Lover“. “I Wanna Be Your Lover” sold over a million copies, and reached No.11 on the Billboard Hot 100, and No.1 for two weeks on the Hot Soul Singles chart. Prince performed both these songs on January 26, 1980 on American Bandstand. On this album, Prince used Ecnirp Music – BMI.
Controversy era: 1980–84
In 1980 Prince released the album, Dirty Mind, which he recorded in his own studio. The album was certified gold and the attendant single “Uptown” reached No.5 on the Billboard Dance chart and No.5 on the Hot Soul Singles charts. Prince was also the opening act for Rick James‘ 1980 Fire it Up tour. Dirty Mind contained sexually explicit material, including the title song, “Head“, and the song “Sister”. In February 1981, Prince made his first appearance on Saturday Night Live, performing “Partyup”.
In October 1981, Prince released the album, Controversy. He played several dates in support of it, at first as one of the opening acts for The Rolling Stones, who were then on tour in the U.S. He began 1982 with a small tour of college towns where he was the headlining act. The songs on Controversy were published by Controversy Music – ASCAP, a practice he continued until the Emancipation album in 1996.
In 1981, Prince formed a side project band called The Time. The band released four albums between 1981 and 1990, with Prince writing and performing most of the instrumentation and backing vocals, with lead vocals by Morris Day.
In late 1982, Prince released a double album, 1999, which sold over three million copies. The title track was a protest against nuclear proliferation and became his first top ten hit in countries outside the U.S. Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” was one of the first two videos by a black artist played in heavy rotation on MTV, along with Michael Jackson‘s “Billie Jean“.
The Revolution and Purple Rain: 1984–87
During this period Prince referred to his band as The Revolution. The band’s name was also printed, in reverse, on the cover of 1999 inside the letter “I” of the word “Prince”. The band consisted of Lisa Coleman and Doctor Fink on keyboards, Bobby Z. on drums, Brown Mark on bass, and Dez Dickerson on guitar. Jill Jones, a backing singer, was also part of The Revolution line up for the 1999 album and tour. Following the 1999 Tour, Dickerson left the group for religious reasons. In the 2003 book Possessed: The Rise and Fall of Prince, author Alex Hahn says that Dickerson was reluctant to sign a three year contract and wanted to pursue other musical ventures. Dickerson was replaced by Wendy Melvoin, a childhood friend of Coleman. At first the band was used sparsely in the studio but this gradually changed during the mid-1980s.
Prince’s 1984 album Purple Rain sold more than thirteen million copies in the U.S. and spent twenty-four consecutive weeks at No.1 on the Billboard 200 chart. The film of the same name won an Academy Award and grossed more than $80 million in the U.S.
Songs from the film were hits on pop charts around the world, while “When Doves Cry” and “Let’s Go Crazy” reached No.1 and the title track reached No.2 on the Billboard Hot 100. At one point in 1984, Prince simultaneously had the number one album, single, and film in the U.S.; it was the first time a singer had achieved this feat. Prince won the Academy Award for Best Original Song Score for Purple Rain, and the album is ranked 72nd Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. The album is included on the list of Time magazine’s All-Time 100 Albums.
After Tipper Gore heard her 12-year-old daughter Karenna listening to Prince’s song “Darling Nikki“, she founded the Parents Music Resource Center. The center advocates the mandatory use of a warning label (“Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics”) on the covers of records that have been judged to contain language or lyrical content unsuitable for minors. The recording industry later voluntarily complied with this request. Of what is considered the Filthy Fifteen Prince’s compositions appear no. 1 and no. 2, with the fourth position occupied by his protegee Vanity.
In 1985 Prince announced that he would discontinue live performances and music videos after the release of his next album. His subsequent recording Around the World in a Day held the No.1 spot on the Billboard 200 for three weeks.
In 1986 his album Parade reached No.3 on the Billboard 200 and No.2 on the R&B charts. The first single, “Kiss“, with the video choreographed by Louis Falco, reached No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was originally written for a side project called Mazarati. That same year the song “Manic Monday“, which was written by Prince and recorded by The Bangles, reached No.2 on the Hot 100 chart.
The album Parade served as the soundtrack for Prince’s second film, Under the Cherry Moon. Prince directed and starred in the movie, which also featured Kristen Scott Thomas. He received the Golden Raspberry Award for his efforts in acting and directing. In 1986, Prince began a series of sporadic live performances called the Hit n Run – Parade Tour. The European tour went to Europe in the summer and ended that September in Japan.
After the tour Prince abolished The Revolution, fired Wendy & Lisa and replaced Bobby Z. with Sheila E. Brown Mark quit the band while keyboardist Doctor Fink remained. Prince then recruited new band members Miko Weaver on guitar, Atlanta Bliss on trumpet, Eric Leeds on saxophone, Boni Boyer on keyboards, Levi Seacer, Jr. on bass and dancer Cat Glover.
Solo again and spiritual rebirth: 1987–91
Prior to the disbanding of The Revolution, Prince was working on two separate projects, The Revolution album Dream Factory and a solo effort, Camille. Unlike the three previous band albums, Dream Factory included significant input from the band members and even featured a number of songs with lead vocals by Wendy & Lisa, while the Camille project saw Prince create a new persona primarily singing in a sped up, female-sounding voice. With the dismissal of The Revolution, Prince consolidated material from both shelved albums, along with some new songs, into a three-LP album to be titled Crystal Ball. However, following the low sales of his previous two albums, Warner Bros. forced Prince to trim the triple album to a double album and Sign o’ the Times was released on March 31, 1987.
The album peaked at No.6 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. The first single, “Sign o’ the Times“, would chart at No.3 on the Hot 100. The follow-up single, “If I Was Your Girlfriend” charted poorly at No.67 on the Hot 100, but went to No.12 on R&B chart. The third single, a duet with Sheena Easton, “U Got the Look” charted at No.2 on the Hot 100, No.11 on the R&B chart, and the final single “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man” finished at No.10 on Hot 100 and No.14 on the R&B chart.
Despite receiving the greatest critical acclaim of any album in Prince’s career, including being named the top album of the year by the Pazz & Jop critics’ poll, and eventually selling 3.2 million copies, album sales steadily declined. In Europe, however, it performed well and Prince promoted the album overseas with a lengthy tour. Putting together a new backing band from the remnants of The Revolution, Prince added bassist Levi Seacer, Jr., Boni Boyer on keyboards, and dancer/choreographer Cat Glover to go with new drummer Sheila E. and holdovers Miko Weaver, Doctor Fink, Eric Leeds, Atlanta Bliss, and the Bodyguards (Jerome, Wally Safford, and Greg Brooks) for the Sign o’ the Times Tour.
The tour was a huge success overseas, with Warner Bros. and Prince’s managers wanting to bring it to the U.S. to resuscitate sagging sales of Sign o’ the Times; however, Prince balked at a full U.S. tour, as he was ready to produce a new album. As a compromise the last two nights of the tour were filmed for release in movie theaters. Unfortunately, the film quality was deemed subpar and reshoots were performed at his Paisley Park studios. The film Sign o’ the Times was released on November 20, 1987. Much like the album, the film garnered more critical praise than the previous year’s Under the Cherry Moon; however, its box office receipts were minimal, and it quickly left theaters.
The next album intended for release was to be The Black Album. More instrumental and funk and R&B themed than recent releases, The Black Album also saw Prince experiment with hip hop music on the songs “Bob George” and “Dead on It.” Prince was set to release the album with a monochromatic black cover with only the catalog number printed, but after 500,000 copies had been pressed, Prince had a spiritual epiphany that the album was evil and had it recalled. It would later be released by Warner Bros. as a limited edition album in 1994. Prince went back in the studio for eight weeks and recorded Lovesexy.
Released on May 10, 1988, Lovesexy serves as a spiritual opposite to the dark The Black Album. Every song is a solo effort by Prince, with exception of “Eye No” which was recorded with his backing band at the time, dubbed the “Lovesexy Band” by fans. Lovesexy would reach No.11 on the Billboard 200 and No.5 on the R&B albums chart. The lead single, “Alphabet St.“, peaked at No.8 on the Hot 100 and No.3 on the R&B chart, but finished with only selling 750,000 copies.
Prince again took his post-Revolution backing band (minus the Bodyguards) on a three leg, 84-show Lovesexy World Tour; although the shows were well received by huge crowds, they lost money due to the expensive sets and incorporated props.
In 1989, Prince appeared on Madonna‘s studio album Like a Prayer, co-writing and singing the duet “Love Song” and playing electric guitar (uncredited) on the songs “Like a Prayer“, “Keep It Together“, and “Act of Contrition”. He also began work on a number of musical projects, including Rave Unto the Joy Fantastic and early drafts of his Graffiti Bridge film, but both were put on hold when he was asked by Batman director Tim Burton to record several songs for the upcoming live-action adaptation. Prince went into the studio and produced an entire nine-track album that Warner Bros. released on June 20, 1989. Batman peaked at No.1 on the Billboard 200, selling 4.3 million copies. The single “Batdance” topped the Billboard and R&B charts.
Additionally, the single “The Arms of Orion” with Sheena Easton charted at #36, and “Partyman” (also featuring the vocals of Prince’s then-girlfriend, nicknamed Anna Fantastic) charted at No.18 on the Hot 100 and at No.5 on the R&B chart, while the love ballad “Scandalous!” went to No.5 on the R&B chart. However, he did have to sign away all publishing rights to the songs on the album to Warner Bros. as part of the deal to do the soundtrack.
In 1990, Prince went back on tour with a revamped band for his stripped down, back-to-basics Nude Tour. With the departures of Boni Boyer, Sheila E., the horns, and Cat, Prince brought in Rosie Gaines on keys, drummer Michael Bland, and dancing trio The Game Boyz (Tony M., Kirky J., and Damon Dickson). The European and Japanese tour was a financial success with its short, greatest hits setlist. As the year progressed, Prince finished production on his fourth film, Graffiti Bridge, and the album of the same name. Initially, Warner Bros. was reluctant to fund the film, but with Prince’s assurances it would be a sequel to Purple Rain as well as the involvement of the original members of The Time, the studio greenlit the project. Released on August 20, 1990, the album reached No.6 on the Billboard 200 and R&B albums chart. The single “Thieves in the Temple” reaching No.6 on the Hot 100 and No.1 on the R&B chart. Also from that album, “Round and Round” placed at number 12 on the U.S. charts and Number 2 on the R&B charts. The song featured the teenage Tevin Campbell (who also had a role in the film) on lead vocals. The film, released on November 20, 1990, was a critical and box office flop, grossing just $4.2 million. After the release of the film and album, the last remaining members of The Revolution, Miko Weaver and Doctor Fink, left Prince’s band.
The New Power Generation and name change: 1991–94
1991 marked the debut of Prince’s new band, The New Power Generation. With guitarist Miko Weaver and long-time keyboardist Doctor Fink gone, Prince added bass player Sonny T., Tommy Barbarella on keyboards, and a brass section known as the Hornheads to go along with Levi Seacer (taking over on guitar), Rosie Gaines, Michael Bland, and the Game Boyz. With significant input from his band members, Diamonds and Pearls was released on October 1, 1991. Reaching No.3 on the Billboard 200 album chart, Diamonds and Pearls saw 4 hit singles released in the United States. “Gett Off” peaked at No.21 on the Hot 100 and No.6 on the R&B charts, followed by “Cream” which gave Prince his fifth U.S. number one single. The title track “Diamonds and Pearls” became the album’s third single, reaching No.3 on the Hot 100 and the top spot on the R&B charts. “Money Don’t Matter 2 Night” peaked at No.23 and No.14 on the Hot 100 and R&B charts respectively.
1992 saw Prince and The New Power Generation release his twelfth album, ‘Love Symbol Album’, bearing only an unpronounceable symbol on the cover (later copyrighted as Love Symbol #2). The album, generally referred to as the Love Symbol Album, would peak at No.5 on the Billboard 200. While the label wanted “7” to be the first single, Prince fought to have “My Name Is Prince” as he “felt that the song’s more hip-hoppery would appeal to the same audience” that had purchased the previous album. Prince got his way but “My Name Is Prince” only managed to reach No.36 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No.23 on the R&B chart. The follow-up single “Sexy MF” fared worse, charting at No.66 on the Hot 100 and No.76 on the R&B chart. The label’s preferred lead single choice “7” would be the album’s lone top ten hit, reaching #7. ‘Love Symbol Album’ would go on to sell 2.8 million copies worldwide.
After two failed attempts in 1990 and 1991, Warner Bros. finally released a greatest hits compilation with the three-disc The Hits/The B-Sides in 1993. The first two discs were also sold separately as The Hits 1 and The Hits 2. In addition to featuring the majority of Prince’s hit singles (with the exception of “Batdance” and other songs that appeared on the Batman soundtrack), The Hits includes an array of previously hard-to-find recordings, notably B-sides spanning the majority of Prince’s career, as well as a handful of previously unreleased tracks such as the Revolution-recorded “Power Fantastic” and a live recording of “Nothing Compares 2 U” with Rosie Gaines. Two new songs, “Pink Cashmere” and “Peach“, were chosen as promotional singles to accompany the compilation album.
1993 also marked the year in which Prince changed his stage name to the Love Symbol (see left), which was explained as a combination of the symbols for male (♂) and female (♀). In order to use the symbol in print media, Warner Bros. had to organize a mass mailing of floppy disks with a custom font. Because the symbol had no stated pronunciation, he was often referred to as “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince,” as well as “The Artist.”
Increased output: 1994–2000
In 1994, Prince’s attitude towards his artistic output underwent a notable shift. He began to view releasing albums in quick succession as a means of ejecting himself from his contractual obligations to Warner Bros. The label, he believed, was intent on limiting his artistic freedom by insisting that he release albums more sporadically. He also blamed Warner Bros. for the poor commercial performance of the Love Symbol Album, claiming that it was insufficiently marketed by Warner. It was out of these developments that the aborted The Black Album was officially released, approximately seven years after its initial recording and near-release. The “new” release, which was already in wide circulation as a bootleg, sold relatively poorly.
Following that disappointing venture, Warner Bros. succumbed to Prince’s wishes to release an album of new material, to be entitled Come. When Come was eventually released, it confirmed all of Warner’s fears. It became Prince’s poorest-selling album to date, struggling to even shift 500,000 copies. Even more frustrating was the fact that Prince insisted on crediting the album to “Prince 1958–1993”.
Prince pushed to have his next album The Gold Experience released simultaneously with Love Symbol-era material. Warner Bros. allowed the single “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” to be released via a small, independent distributor, Bellmark Records, in February 1994. The release was successful, reaching No.3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and No.1 in many other countries, but it would not prove to be a model for subsequent releases. Warner Bros. still resisted releasing The Gold Experience, fearing poor sales and citing “market saturation” as a defense. When eventually released in September 1995, The Gold Experience failed to sell well, although it reached the top 10 of the Billboard 200 initially, and many reviewed it as Prince’s best effort since Sign o’ the Times. The album is now out-of-print. Chaos and Disorder, released in 1996, was Prince’s final album of new material for Warner Bros., as well as one of his least commercially successful releases. Prince attempted a major comeback later that year when, free of any further contractual obligations to Warner Bros., he released Emancipation, a 36-song, 3-CD set (each disc was exactly 60 minutes long). The album was released via his own NPG Records with distribution through EMI. To publish his songs on Emancipation, Prince did not use Controversy Music – ASCAP, which he had used for all his records since 1981, but rather used Emancipated Music Inc. – ASCAP.
Certified Platinum by the RIAA, Emancipation is the first record featuring covers by Prince of songs of other artists: Joan Osborne‘s top ten hit song of 1995 “One of Us“; “Betcha by Golly Wow!” (written by Thomas Randolf Bell and Linda Creed); “I Can’t Make You Love Me” (written by James Allen Shamblin II and Michael Barry Reid); and “La-La (Means I Love You)” (written by Thomas Randolf Bell and William Hart).
Prince released Crystal Ball, a 5-CD collection of unreleased material, in 1998. The distribution of this album was disorderly, with some fans pre-ordering the album on his website up to a year before it was eventually shipped to them; these pre-orders were eventually delivered months after the record had gone on sale in retail stores. The retail edition has only four discs, as it is missing the Kamasutra disc. There are also two different packaging editions for retail, one being in a 4-disc sized jewel case with a simple white cover and the Love Symbol in a colored circle; the other is all four discs in a round translucent snap jewel case. The discs are the same, as is the CD jacket. The Newpower Soul album released three months later failed to make much of an impression on the charts. His collaboration on Chaka Khan‘s Come 2 My House, and Larry Graham‘s GCS2000, both released on the NPG Records label around the same time as Newpower Soul met with the same fate, despite heavy promotion and live appearances on Vibe with Sinbad, and the NBC Today show’s Summer Concert Series.
In 1999, Prince once again signed with a major label, Arista Records, to release a new record, Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic. In an attempt to make his new album a success, Prince easily gave more interviews than at any other point in his career, appearing on MTV’s Total Request Live (with his album cover on the front of the Virgin Megastore, in the background on TRL throughout the whole show), Larry King Live (with Larry Graham) and other media outlets. Nevertheless, Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic failed to perform well commercially. 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 EP 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.
The pay-per-view concert, Rave Un2 the Year 2000, was broadcast on December 31, 1999 and consisted of footage from the December 17 and December 18 concerts of his 1999 tour. The concert featured appearances by many guest musicians including Lenny Kravitz, George Clinton, Jimmy Russell, and The Time. It was released to home video the following year. A remix album, Rave In2 the Joy Fantastic (as opposed to “Un2”) was released exclusively through Prince’s NPG Music Club in April 2000.
On May 16, 2000, Prince ceased using the Love Symbol moniker and returned to using “Prince” again, after his publishing contract with Warner/Chappell expired. In a press conference, he stated that, after being freed from undesirable relationships associated with the name “Prince”, he would formally revert to using his real name. Prince still frequently uses the symbol as a logo and on album artwork and continues to play a Love Symbol-shaped guitar.
For several years following the release of Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic, Prince primarily released new music through his Internet subscription service, NPGOnlineLtd.com (later NPGMusicClub.com). Two albums that show substantive jazz influence were available commercially at record stores: 2001’s The Rainbow Children, and the 2003 instrumental record N.E.W.S which was nominated for a Best Pop Instrumental Album Grammy Award. Another album of largely jazz-influenced music, Xpectation, was released via download in 2003 to members of the NPGMusicClub. Xpectation is jazz themed along with new age and atmospheric themes.
In 2002, Prince released his first live album, One Nite Alone… Live!, which features performances from the One Nite Alone…Tour. The 3-CD box set, which also includes a disc of “aftershow” music entitled It Ain’t Over!, failed to chart. During this time, Prince sought to engage more effectively with his fan base via the NPG Music Club, pre-concert sound checks, and at yearly “celebrations” at Paisley Park, his music studios. Fans were invited into the studio for tours, interviews, discussions and music-listening sessions. Some of these fan discussions were filmed for an unreleased documentary, directed by Kevin Smith. Smith discusses what happened during those days at length in his An Evening with Kevin Smith DVD. Performances were also arranged to showcase Prince’s talents, as well as to collaborate with popular and well-established artists and guests including Alicia Keys, The Time, Erykah Badu, Nikka Costa, George Clinton, and Norah Jones.
On February 8, 2004, Prince appeared at the Grammy Awards with Beyoncé Knowles. In a performance that opened the show, Prince and Knowles performed a medley of “Purple Rain“, “Let’s Go Crazy“, “Baby I’m a Star“, and Knowles’ “Crazy in Love” to positive reviews. The following month, Prince was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The award was presented to him by Alicia Keys along with Big Boi and André 3000 of OutKast. As well as performing a trio of his own hits during the ceremony, Prince also participated in a tribute to fellow inductee George Harrison in a rendition of Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps“, playing a long guitar solo that ended the song. In addition, he performed “Purple House” on the album Power of Soul: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix.
On February 19, The Tavis Smiley Show broadcast included a performance of “Reflection” from Prince’s Musicology album. Prince was accompanied by Wendy Melvoin, formerly of The Revolution.
In April 2004, Prince released Musicology through a one-album agreement with Columbia Records. The album rose as high as the top five on a number of international charts (including the U.S, UK, Germany and Australia). The U.S. chart success was assisted by the CD being included as part of the concert ticket purchase, and each CD thereby qualifying (as chart rules then stood) towards U.S. chart placement. Musicology is R&B and soul themed along with funk, pop, quiet storm, and rock.
That same year, Rolling Stone magazine named Prince as the highest-earning musician in the world, with an annual income of $56.5 million, largely due to his Musicology Tour, which Pollstar named as the top concert draw among musicians in U.S. The artist played an impressive run of 96 concerts; the average ticket price for a show was U.S.$61. Further highlighting the success of the album, Prince’s Musicology went on to receive two Grammy wins, for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for “Call My Name” and Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance for the title track. Musicology was also nominated for Best R&B Song and Best R&B Album, while “Cinnamon Girl” was nominated for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. The album became the artist’s most commercially successful since Diamonds and Pearls, partly due to a radical scheme devised which included in Billboard’s sales figures those that were distributed to each customer during ticket sales for the Musicology tour, with concert figures accounting for 25% of the total album sales.
Rolling Stone magazine has ranked Prince No.27 on their list of 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the city of New Orleans on August 29, 2005, Prince offered a personal response by recording two new songs, “S.S.T.” and the instrumental “Brand New Orleans”, at Paisley Park in the early hours of September 2. Prince again performed all instrumental and vocal parts. These recordings were quickly dispersed to the public via Prince’s NPG Music Club, and “S.S.T.” was later picked up by iTunes, where it reached No.1 on the store’s R&B chart. On October 25, Sony Records released a version of the single on CD.
Move to Universal and 3121: 2005–06
In late 2005 Prince signed with Universal Records to release his album, 3121, on March 21, 2006 (3/21). The first single was the Latin-tinged “Te Amo Corazón“, the video for which was directed by actress Salma Hayek and filmed in Marrakech, Morocco, featuring Argentine actress and singer Mía Maestro. The video for the second single, “Black Sweat“, was nominated at the MTV VMAs for Best Cinematography. The immediate success of 3121 gave Prince his first No.1 debut on the Billboard 200 with the album.
To promote the new album, Prince was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live on February 4, 2006, seventeen years after his last SNL appearance on the 15th anniversary special and nearly 25 years since his first appearance on a regular episode in 1981, making Prince the only SNL musical guest to have that long of a gap between appearances. He performed two songs from the album, “Fury” and “Beautiful, Loved & Blessed”, with Támar. Prince also held a contest to win a trip to see a ‘Purple Ticket Concert’ at his private residence in Hollywood, California. Seven winning tickets were placed inside 3121 CD packages in the U.S., and other tickets were given away in various contests on the Internet and around the world. On May 6, 2006, twenty-four prize winners (with a guest each) attended a star-studded private party and performance at Prince’s home.
On June 12, 2006, Prince received a Webby Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his “visionary” use of the Internet; Prince was the first major artist to release an entire album, 1997’s Crystal Ball, exclusively on the Internet (although he did take phone orders for it as well…1-800-NEW-FUNK).
Only weeks after winning a Webby Award, Prince abruptly shut down his then-official NPG Music Club website at 12:00 am on July 4, 2006 after over five years of operation. The NPG Music Club sent out an email, claiming that “in its current 4m there is a feeling that the NPGMC gone as far as it can go. In a world without limitations and infinite possibilities, has the time come 2 once again make a leap of faith and begin anew? These r ?s we in the NPG need 2 answer. In doing so, we have decided 2 put the club on hiatus until further notice.” On the day of the music club’s shutdown, a lawsuit was filed against Prince by the British company HM Publishing (owners of the Nature Publishing Group, also NPG). Despite these events occurring on the same day, Prince’s attorney has called it pure coincidence and stated that the site did not close due to the trademark dispute.
Prince appeared at multiple award ceremonies in 2006. On February 15, 2006, Prince performed at the BRIT Awards along with Wendy & Lisa and Sheila E. He played “Te Amo Corazón” and “Fury” from 3121 and “Purple Rain” and “Let’s Go Crazy” from Purple Rain. On June 27, 2006, Prince appeared at the BET Awards, where he was awarded Best Male R&B Artist. In addition to receiving his award, Prince performed a medley of Chaka Khan songs for Khan’s BET Lifetime Award. Prince had previously written and performed several songs with the singer. In November 2006, Prince was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame, appearing to collect his award but not performing. Also in November 2006, Prince opened a nightclub named 3121 in Las Vegas at the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino. He performed weekly on Friday and Saturday nights until April 2007, when his contract with the Rio ended.
On August 22, 2006, Prince released Ultimate Prince. The double disc set contains one CD of previous hits, and another of extended versions and mixes of material that had largely only previously been available on vinyl record B-sides.
Prince wrote and performed a song for the hit 2006 animated film Happy Feet. The song, entitled “The Song of the Heart“, appears on the film’s soundtrack, which also features a cover of Prince’s earlier hit “Kiss”, sung by Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. In January 2007, “The Song of the Heart” won a Golden Globe for Best Original Song. Prince arrived late, apparently due to traffic problems, and thus was unable to make an acceptance speech, but actor Hugh Grant prompted him later in the ceremony to take a bow.
Super Bowl XLI and Planet Earth: 2007–08
On February 2, 2007, Prince played at the Super Bowl XLI press conference. He and the band played a set comprising Chuck Berry‘s hit, “Johnny B. Goode“, “Anotherloverholenyohead” from Parade and “Get On the Boat” from 3121. Prince performed at the Super Bowl XLI halftime show in Miami, Florida on February 4, 2007. The performance consisted of three Purple Rain tracks (“Let’s Go Crazy”, “Baby I’m a Star” and the title track), along with cover versions of “We Will Rock You” by Queen, “All Along the Watchtower” by Bob Dylan, the Foo Fighters song “Best of You” and “Proud Mary” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Coincidentally, Miami had rain on the day of the Super Bowl, which was lit purple during the performance of “Purple Rain”. He played on a large stage shaped as his symbol. The event was carried to 140 million television viewers, the largest audience of his life. On February 4, 2010, Billboard.com ranked the performance as the greatest Super Bowl performance ever.
Prince played 21 concerts in London during the summer of 2007. The Earth Tour included 21 nights at the 20,000 capacity O2 Arena, with Maceo Parker in his band. Tickets for the O2 Arena were priced at £31.21 (including a free copy of Prince’s latest album), in order to make the concerts “affordable for everybody”. The residency at the O2 Arena was increased to 15 nights after all 140,000 tickets for the original seven sold out in just 20 minutes. It was then further extended to 21 nights.
On May 10, 2007, Prince performed a ‘secret’ gig at London’s KOKO in front of a small crowd of fans and celebrities. Tickets went on sale that morning on a first-come-first-served basis (again at £31.21). A prelude to the forthcoming summer gigs in London, Prince played a relaxed set of classic hits (“Kiss“, changing the lyric from “You don’t have to watch Dynasty” to Desperate Housewives, “Girls & Boys“, and “Nothing Compares 2 U“) alongside more recent tracks, plus a well-received cover version of Gnarls Barkley‘s “Crazy“.
Prince made an appearance at the 2007 ALMA Awards, performing with Sheila E. in June 2007. On June 28, 2007, the UK national newspaper The Mail on Sunday revealed that it had made a deal to give Prince’s new album, Planet Earth, away for free with an “imminent” edition of the paper, making it the first place in the world to get the album. This move sparked controversy among music distributors and also led the UK arm of Prince’s distributor, Sony BMG, to withdraw from distributing the album in UK stores. The UK’s largest high street music retailer, HMV, decided to stock the paper on release day due to the giveaway. Planet Earth is rock-oriented along with disco, and other various music styles.
On July 7, 2007 Prince returned to his hometown of Minneapolis to perform three shows in what was unofficially declared Prince Day in Minnesota. He performed concerts at the Macy’s Auditorium (to promote his new perfume “3121”) on Nicollet Mall, the Target Center arena, and First Avenue. It was the first time he had played at First Avenue (the club appeared in the film Purple Rain) since 1987.
On April 25, 2008, Prince performed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, where he debuted a new song, “Turn Me Loose”. Days after, he headlined the Coachella Festival 2008. Prince was paid more than $5 million for his performance at Coachella, according to Reuters.
Prince cancelled a concert, planned at Dublin’s Croke Park on June 16, 2008, at just 10 days’ notice. In October 2009 promoters MCD Productions went to court to sue Prince for €1.6 million, after paying him $1.5 million, half his agreed fee of $3 million for the concert. MCD claim they had to refund 55,126 tickets purchased and its total losses exceeded $1.66 million. Prince’s lawyers argued the MCD claim was “greatly inflated”. Prince settled the case out of court in February 2010 for $2.95 million. During the trial, it was revealed that Prince had been offered $22 million for seven concerts as part of a proposed 2008 European tour.
In October 2008, Prince released a live album entitled Indigo Nights, as well as 21 Nights, an accompanying book of poems, lyrics and photos. The book chronicled his record-breaking tenure at London’s O2 Arena in 2007, while the album is a collection of songs performed live at aftershows in the IndigO2.
LOtUSFLOW3R and beyond: 2008–10
On December 18, 2008, Prince premiered four songs from his new album on LA’s Indie rock radio station Indie 103.1. The radio station’s programmers Max Tolkoff and Mark Sovel had been invited to Prince’s home to hear the new rock oriented music. Prince then surprised the two by giving them a CD with 4 songs to premiere on their radio station. The music debuted the next day on Jonesy’s Jukebox, hosted by Sex Pistol Steve Jones. The music comprised a cover of “Crimson and Clover” by Tommy James and the Shondells, together with “Colonized Mind”, “Wall of Berlin” and “4ever”. The same day, another new Prince composition entitled “(There’ll Never B) Another Like Me” premiered on the now obsolete and defunct website, mplsound.com — replacing a shorter, instrumental version of the song which streamed several days previously.
On January 3, 2009, a new website LotusFlow3r.com was launched, streaming some of the recently-aired material (“Crimson and Clover”, “(There’ll Never B) Another Like Me” and “Here Eye Come”) and promising opportunities to listen to and buy music by Prince and guests, watch videos and buy concert tickets for future events. On January 31, Prince released two more songs on LotusFlow3r.com: “Disco Jellyfish”, and “Another Boy”. “Chocolate Box”, “Colonized Mind”, and “All This Love” have since been released on the website.
Prince released a triple album set containing LOtUSFLOW3R, MPLSoUND, and an album credited to his new protege, Bria Valente, called Elixer, on March 24, 2009, followed by a physical release on March 29. The release was preceded by performances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. It was released in other countries digitally, with official physical release dates yet to be announced. The album peaked at No.2 on the Billboard 200, and critics’ opinions were mixed to positive.
On July 18, 2009, Prince performed two shows at the Montreux Jazz Festival, being backed by The New Power Generation including Rhonda Smith, Renato Neto and John Blackwell. There he played “A Large Room with No Light” which had been in Prince’s “vault” for some time.
On October 11, 2009, Prince gave two surprise concerts at the glass-and-iron Grand Palais exhibition hall after visiting the landmark Paris building on the banks of the Seine. On October 12, he gave another surprise gig at La Cigale. On October 24, Prince played a concert at his own Paisley Park complex in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
20Ten, rejection of the Internet and touring.: 2010–present
In January 2010, Prince wrote a new song, “Purple and Gold”, inspired by his visit to a Minnesota Vikings football game against the Dallas Cowboys. The song is a simple, drumline-driven track. The following month, Prince let Minneapolis-area public radio station 89.3 The Current premiere his new song “Cause and Effect” as a gesture in support of independent radio.
In a poll by BBC 6 Music listeners in April 2010, Prince was ranked the eighth-best guitarist of the previous 30 years. Prince was also listed in TIME magazine’s 2010 annual ranking of the “100 Most Influential People in the World”.
Prince released a new single on Minneapolis radio station 89.3 The Current called “Hot Summer” on June 7, his 52nd birthday. Also in June, Prince appeared on the cover of the July 2010 issue of Ebony, and he received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2010 BET Awards.
Prince released his album 20Ten in July 2010 as a free covermount with publications in the UK, Belgium, Germany, and France. Prince has refused access to the album to digital download services. He also closed his official website, LotusFlow3r.com. In an interview with the Daily Mirror, Prince said, “The Internet’s completely over. I don’t see why I should give my new music to iTunes or anyone else. They won’t pay me an advance for it and then they get angry when they can’t get it… Anyway, all these computers and digital gadgets are no good. They just fill your head with numbers and that can’t be good for you.”
On July 4, 2010 Prince began his 20Ten Tour, a concert tour in two legs with shows in Europe. The second leg began on October 15 and ended with a concert following the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on November 14. The second half of the tour has a new band, John Blackwell, Ida Kristine Nielsen, and Sheila E. Prince let Europe 1 debut the snippet of his new song “Rich Friends” from the “new” album 20Ten Deluxe on October 8, 2010. Prince started the Welcome 2 Tour on December 15, 2010.
Prince was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame on December 7, 2010.
On February 12, 2011, Prince presented Barbra Streisand with an award and donated $1.5 million to charities. On the same day, it was reported that he was unimpressed about Glee covering his hit “Kiss“, and that he had not authorised this.
Despite having previously rejected the internet for music distribution, on 24 November 2011 Prince re-released a reworked version of the song “Extraloveable”. The track first appeared on his 1999 album Bootleg Collection Vol. 1 and is available online through both iTunes and Spotify..
Over the years Prince has been romantically linked with many celebrities, including Kim Basinger, Madonna, Vanity, Sheila E., Carmen Electra, Susanna Hoffs, Anna Fantastic, Sherilyn Fenn, and Susan Moonsie of Vanity 6 and Apollonia 6.
He married his backup singer and dancer, Mayte Garcia, on Valentine’s Day, 1996. They had a son, Boy Gregory (born October 16, 1996), who was born with Pfeiffer syndrome and died a week after birth. Prince and Mayte divorced in 1999. In 2001, Prince married Manuela Testolini in a private ceremony. Testolini filed for divorce in May 2006. He has been in a relationship with protégée Bria Valente since 2007.
Prince became a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2001 following a two-year-long debate with friend and fellow Jehovah’s Witness, musician Larry Graham. Prince said he didn’t consider it a conversion, but a “realization”; “It’s like Morpheus and Neo in The Matrix“, he explained. He attends meetings at a local Kingdom Hall and occasionally knocks on people’s doors to discuss his faith. Prince has reportedly needed double-hip-replacement surgery since 2005 but won’t undergo the operation unless it is a bloodless surgery because Jehovah’s Witnesses do not accept blood transfusions. The condition is rumored to be aggravated by repeated onstage dancing in high-heeled boots. However, when Prince was interviewed in 2010, journalist Peter Willis said he believed the rumors of Prince needing double hip surgery to be unfounded and untrue as Prince appeared to be agile.
Prince is a vegetarian. In 2006 he was voted the “world’s sexiest vegetarian” in PETA‘s annual online poll. The liner notes for his album Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic featured a message about the cruelty involved in wool production.
In June 2011, Prince was quoted in The Guardian as saying “It’s fun being in Islamic countries, to know there’s only one religion. There’s order. You wear a burqa. There’s no choice. People are happy with that.”
In 1993, during negotiations regarding the release of Prince’s album The Gold Experience, a legal battle ensued between Warner Bros. and Prince over the artistic and financial control of Prince’s output. During the lawsuit, Prince appeared in public with the word “slave” written on his cheek. Prince explained his name change as follows:
The first step I have taken toward the ultimate goal of emancipation from the chains that bind me to Warner Bros. was to change my name from Prince to the Love Symbol. Prince is the name that my mother gave me at birth. Warner Bros. took the name, trademarked it, and used it as the main marketing tool to promote all of the music that I wrote. The company owns the name Prince and all related music marketed under Prince. I became merely a pawn used to produce more money for Warner Bros… I was born Prince and did not want to adopt another conventional name. The only acceptable replacement for my name, and my identity, was the Love Symbol, a symbol with no pronunciation, that is a representation of me and what my music is about. This symbol is present in my work over the years; it is a concept that has evolved from my frustration; it is who I am. It is my name.
Prince is a trademark owned by Paisley Park Enterprises Inc. It was initially filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in 2005 in the categories of printed materials, clothing, electronic commerce, and entertainment services based on first commercial in 1978. Various searches to the USPTO did not find any registrations or transfers of “Prince” or related names by Warner Bros. In 1991, PRN Music Corporation assigned the trademarks Prince, The Time, Paisley Park, New Power Generation, and Prince and the Revolution to Paisley Park Enterprises.
Prince has used pseudonyms to separate himself from the music (either his own or that of others) for which he has had input; “I was just getting tired of seeing my name,” he said, “If you give away an idea, you still own that idea. In fact, giving it away strengthens it. Why do people feel they have to take credit for everything they do? Ego, that’s the only reason.” These pseudonyms include: Jamie Starr and The Starr Company (for the songs he wrote for The Time and many other artists from 1981–1984), Joey Coco (for many unreleased Prince songs in the late 1980s, as well as songs written for Sheena Easton & Kenny Rogers), Paisley Park (occasionally used in the early 1990s for his production credits on songs, including those written for Martika and Kid Creole), Alexander Nevermind (for writing the 1984 song “Sugar Walls” by Sheena Easton), and Christopher (used for his song writing credit of “Manic Monday” for The Bangles