Prince Rogers Nelson (born June 7, 1958 in Minneapolis, MN) is an iconic, award-winning American musician. He is best known for performing under the name Prince, though his name and identity have varied for strong personal reasons over the years.
His music has spanned myriad styles; from his early material, rooted in R&B, funk, and soul, he has constantly expanded his musical palette throughout his career, absorbing many other genres including New Wave, pop, rock, blues, jazz, and hip hop. The distinctive characteristics of the early-to-mid 1980s work which brought him to super-stardom (including sparse and industrial-sounding drum machine arrangements, and the use of synthesizer riffs to serve the role traditionally occupied by horn riffs in earlier R&B, funk and soul music) became known as the "Minneapolis sound," which proved heavily influential.
Prince has been a remarkably prolific artist, having released several hundred songs, both under his own name and through other artists. Regarded as a perfectionist, Prince is known for being highly protective of his music. He produces, composes, arranges and performs nearly all of the songs on his albums. Many critics have dubbed him a musical genius due to the quality of his compositions and proficiency at various instruments
After the birth of his sister, Tika Evene in 1960, Prince's parents gradually drifted apart. After they formally separated, he had a troubled relationship with his stepfather, causing him to run away from home. He lived briefly with his father, who bought him his first guitar. Later, Prince moved in with a neighborhood family, the Andersons, and became friends with their son, Andre Anderson (later called AndrÃ© Cymone).
Prince and Anderson joined Prince's cousin Charles Smith in a band called Grand Central, formed in junior high school. Initially his involvement was just part of a mainly instrumental band that played clubs and parties in the Minneapolis area. As time went by and Prince's musical knowledge broadened he found himself dictating the arrangements to the rest of the band. Before long he had become the band's frontman. By the time Prince had entered high school, Grand Central evolved into Champagne and started playing original music already drawing on a range of influences including Sly Stone, James Brown, Jimmy Page, and Jimi Hendrix. At some point Prince was a student at the Minnesota Dance Theatre.
In 1976, he started working on a demo tape with producer Chris Moon in a Minneapolis studio. He also had the patronage of Owen Husney, to whom Moon introduced him, allowing him to produce a quality demo. Husney started contacting major labels and ran a campaign promoting Prince as a star of the future, resulting in a bidding war eventually won by Warner Bros. Records. They were the only label to give Prince creative control of his songs and offered him a contract.
By 1979, Prince had recruited his first backing band with Andre Cymone on bass, Gayle Chapman and Matt Fink on keyboards, Bobby Z on drums and Dez Dickerson on guitar. Prince intentionally enlisted a multi-racial, mixed-gender group, much like the backing band of one of Prince's most salient influences, Sly Stone. He recorded his self-titled album still mostly on his own, which made the Billboard 200 and contained two R&B hits in "Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?" and "I Wanna Be Your Lover." These two R&B hits were performed on January 26, 1980 on the TV show American Bandstand with his first backing band.
In 1980, Prince released Dirty Mind, a solo effort released using the original demos. On stage, Lisa Coleman replaced Chapman in the band, who felt the sexually explicit lyrics and stage antics of Prince's concerts conflicted with her religious beliefs. Dirty Mind was particularly notable for its sexually explicit material.
Prince also wrote, produced, and in some instances performed on, the debut album for The Time, containing former members of Flyte Tyme, including front-man Morris Day. In the coming decade, Prince would also collaborate with Vanity (of Vanity 6), Apollonia (of Apollonia 6) and Sheila E. He also composed material, using former band-mates as another outlet for his prolific output. He also wrote hits for artists such as Sheena Easton and The Bangles and his songs would be covered in hit versions by artists as diverse as Chaka Khan, Tom Jones with Art of Noise, and SinÃ©ad O'Connor. O'Connor's cover of a song Prince initially wrote for The Family, "Nothing Compares 2 U," was a huge commercial success in 1990.
Prince was backed in the '80s by The Revolution, and in the '90s by the New Power Generation. He also worked on different occasions with famous jazz and funk musicians, such as Miles Davis, Larry Graham, George Clinton, and Maceo Parker. Throughout his career, Prince has also recorded with Ani DiFranco, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Kate Bush, Rosie Gaines, Carmen Electra, No Doubt, Chuck D, Angie Stone, Chaka Khan, and Sheryl Crow.
In 1982 Prince released the 1999 double-album which proved to be a breakthrough album both in the U.S. and internationally, selling over three million copies. The title track was a protest about nuclear proliferation and become his first top ten hit internationally. With "Little Red Corvette" he joined Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie as part of the first wave of black artists on MTV and "Delirious" also went top ten on the Billboard Hot 100. The album was placed at number six in The Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop critics poll.
In 1984, Purple Rain (in conjunction with the film of the same name) sold more than thirteen million copies in the U.S. and spent twenty-four consecutive weeks at the top of the Billboard 200. The film grossed more than $80 million in the United States alone, and would prove to be Prince's biggest cinematic success.
Two songs from Purple Rain, "When Doves Cry" and "Let's Go Crazy," would both top the U.S. singles charts and were hits around the world, while the title track would go to number two on the Billboard Hot 100. Simultaneously, Prince held the spot of number one film, number one single, and number one album in the U.S. Prince won the Academy Award for Best Original Song Score for "Purple Rain", and the album ranks in the top 100 of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list
In 1985, after the U.S. Purple Rain Tour,which was a smash hit in the U.S. and Canada, Prince announced he was giving up live performances and making videos on the release of Around the World in a Day, which went to the top of the U.S. album charts for three weeks. Prince's ban on videos ended as the album stalled in the charts with a video for "Raspberry Beret" which reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100.
In 1986, Prince released the album Parade. The album went to number three on the Billboard 200 album chart and number two on the R&B album charts. The first single, "Kiss," would top the Billboard Hot 100. At the same time, "Manic Monday" by The Bangles reached number two on the Hot 100, which Prince had written under the pseudonym "Christopher." Parade served as a soundtrack to Prince's second film, a romantic comedy, Under The Cherry Moon in which Prince starred and directed.
Following the film and album, Prince returned to touring with a stripped-down show.
Sign "O" the Times, released in 1987 as a double album, reached the top 10 of the Billboard 200 and achieved the greatest critical acclaim of his career, topping the annual and highly reputable Pazz & Jop critics poll, reaching the top 100 of Rolling Stone's list and The All-TIME 100 Albums of TIME Magazine, which declared it was the best album of the 1980s. Following the album and associated tour, Prince disbanded his long-time performance band, known since the release of the movie and album Purple Rain as The Revolution (although 'The Revolution' is mentioned on the album "1999"), and parted ways with Wendy Melvoin, Lisa Coleman, Bobby "Z" Rivkin, and Mark Brown (Brown Mark). His follow-up live performance band retained Matt Fink on keyboards, and added Boni Boyer on keyboards, Sheila E on drums, Levi Seacer, Jr. on bass, and Miko Weaver on guitar.
In 1989, Prince recorded the soundtrack for Batman, which would return him to the top of the U.S. album charts at number one, with the single and worldwide hit "Batdance" reaching number one of the Billboard Hot 100, while another track, "Partyman" would be the most remembered song from the film. Prince next released the film sequel to Purple Rain, titled Graffiti Bridge, which performed poorly at the box office. The soundtrack to Graffiti Bridge featured Prince and other artists such as Tevin Campbell, Mavis Staples of the Staple Singers, and Morris Day and The Time. It reached a chart peak of number six in the U.S. and number one in the UK. He also collaborated with Madonna on her Like a Prayer album for the song entitled "Love Song".
The Diamonds and Pearls album in 1991 gave Prince his fifth U.S. number one single with the song "Cream". Diamonds and Pearls also marked the debut of Prince's new band, the New Power Generation featuring rapper Tony M, Rosie Gaines on vocals, Michael Bland on drums, Levi Seacer on guitar, Sonny T on bass, and Tommy Barbarella on keyboards.
In 1993, he would change his name to a an unpronounceable symbol. He was thereafter often referred to as "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince," or simply "The Artist. In 1994, during negotiations regarding the release of Prince's album The Gold Experience, a battle between Warner Bros. and Prince ensued, struggling over the artistic and financial control of Prince's output. 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 he release albums on a more sporadic basis. He also blamed it for the poor commercial performance of his work.
The Chaos And Disorder album of 1996 was his final album of new material for Warner Bros., and was one of his least successful. Prince attempted a major comeback later that year, when, free of any further contractual obligations to Warner Bros., he released Emancipation. The album was released via his own NPG Records with distribution through EMI. While certified platinum by the RIAA, some critics felt that the sprawling 36-song, 3-CD set (each disk was exactly 60 minutes long) lacked focus.
In 1999, Prince once again teamed up with a major record label, this time Arista Records, for a new album, Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic. In an attempt to make his new album a success, Prince gave more interviews than he'd ever done in his career. But Rave failed to make much of a commercial impression.
In 2000, Prince again using the name "Prince," after his publishing contract with Warner-Chappell expired. In a press conference stating that he was now free from undesirable relationships associated with the name "Prince", he formally reverted to his original name.
For several years, after the release of Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic, Prince primarily released new music through his Internet subscription service, NPGOnlineLtd.com (later NPGMusicClub.com).
On February 8, 2004, Prince appeared at the Grammy Awards with BeyoncÃ© Knowles. In a performance that opened the show, Prince and BeyoncÃ© performed a medley of classic "Purple Rain", "Let's Go Crazy", "Baby I'm a Star" and BeyoncÃ©'s "Crazy in Love", to rave 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 AndrÃ© 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 the deceased artist's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."
In April 2004, Prince released Musicology through a unique one-album agreement with Columbia Records. The album, which rose to the top 5 in the album charts of several countries (including the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Australia), featured some of the artist's most economical and commercially appealing music in years. 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.
On February 4, 2007, Prince performed at the Super Bowl XLI halftime show in Miami, Florida. The performance consisted of 3 Purple Rain tracks ("Let's Go Crazy", "Baby, I'm a Star" and the title track), along with cover versions of "All Along the Watchtower","Best of You" and "Proud Mary". The event was carried "to the biggest audience of his life -- 140 million television viewers [worldwide]".
In May, 2007, the title and tentative release date of the new album, were revealed: Planet Earth will be released in July 2007 and distributed by Columbia Records.