Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Prince (born Prince Rogers Nelson on June 7, 1958 in Minneapolis, Minnesota) is a popular and influential singer, songwriter, record producer, and multi-instrumentalist. His music has spanned myriad styles including funk, pop, rock, R&B/soul, and hip hop, and is regarded as the definition of "The Minneapolis Sound". Many critics refer to the quality of his work and its versatility as being indicative of musical genius.
Uptown: Early years
Prince Rogers Nelson was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota at Mount Sinai Hospital on June 7, 1958, to John L. Nelson and Mattie Shaw, both jazz musicians. There are a number of myths regarding Prince's ethnicity, some spread by Prince himself. The most pervasive is that he is the child of a black father and white mother, a myth later bolstered by the cult film Purple Rain starring Prince, Morris Day of The Time , and pop singer Apollonia. However, both Prince's parents are African-American, and, like many African-Americans, their lineage is an amalgam of ethnicities.
Prince's parents separated and 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 Andre Cymone).
Prince and Anderson joined Prince's cousin Charles Smith in a band called Grand Central, formed in junior high school. 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 Sun Ra, Sly Stone, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana and Joni Mitchell.
Prince became a central figure of "Uptown," a 1970s underground funk scene in Minneapolis which also included Flyte Time , Jellybean Johnson , Terry Lewis and Alexander O'Neal. In 1976, he started working on a demo with producer Chris Moon in a Minneapolis studio. He also had the patronage of Owen Husney who Moon introduced him to allowing him to produce an excellent quality demo. Husney started contacting major labels and ran a clever campaign promoting Prince as a star of the future, resulting in a bidding war eventually won by Warner Bros., who offered him a long-term contract.
Controversy: Early career 1975–83
Pepe Willie, husband of Prince's cousin, was an influential presence in Prince's early career. Willie acted as mentor and manager, along with Husney, for Prince in the Grand Central days, and employed Prince in the studio for his own recordings. In 1977, Willie formed 94 East , a band with Marcy Ingvoldstad and Kristie Lazenberry. Willie enlisted the talents of Prince and Andre Cymone as session musicians for their studio recordings, and in 1986 released the re-recorded tracks (except for Prince and Cymone's parts) from 1975-1977 as Minneapolis Genius. In 1995, the original recordings with Prince and Cymone were released by Willie as 94 East featuring Prince, Symbolic Beginning.
Prince's first album for Warner Bros, released in 1978, was titled For You. The majority of the album was written and performed by Prince, spawning the now ubiquitous phrase on Prince albums: "Written, composed, performed, and recorded by Prince". He spent twice his initial advance recording the first album, which sold modestly, making the bottom reaches of the Billboard 200, while the single "Soft And Wet" performed well on the R&B charts.
By 1979, Prince had recruited his first backing band with Cymone on bass, Gayle Chapman and Matt Fink on keyboards, Bobby Z on drums and Dez Dickerson on guitar. He recorded his second, 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".
Ambitious, talented, and hardworking, if sometimes overstretched, Prince tried to bring modern ideas and attitudes into pop music. He first attracted attention with his spacey soulful sound topped with screaming guitar, not to mention the colorful clothes he put on his 5 ft 2 inch frame (1.57 meters). In his early years, he liked to dress in a suspender belt and lacy women's lingerie.
In 1980, Prince dropped Dirty Mind. Recorded mostly as a solo effort and released using the original demos, the album served to establish Prince as a critical favorite. 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 holdings. Dirty Mind was particularly notable for its sexually explicit material, such as in the songs "Head" and "Sister". However, some critics opted to focus predominantly on the sexual content of the music, rather than on the raw talent and musicianship found on the album.
Prince supported Rick James in a 1980 tour with the label "punk funk" being applied to both artists, although it didn't sit comfortably with Prince, who did not consider his music so narrowly defined. He recorded the album Controversy, released in 1981, with the single of the same name making international charts for the first time.
Prince also wrote, produced, and in some instances performed, the debut album for The Time , containing former members of Flyte Time, including frontman Morris Day. They would be the first of the proteges who Prince would assist in the next decade including Vanity, Apollonia and Sheila E. Behind the scenes, Prince often wrote, composed, performed and recorded the material for his protege acts, using them as another outlet for his prolific output. He would also write 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 The Art of Noise and Sinéad O'Connor.
Purple reign: Chart success 1983–1993
Prince was backed in the 80s by The Revolution, and in the 90s by The New Power Generation. He has gained attention for hiring and recording with women considered attractive or sexy, including Sheena Easton amongst others. He also worked on different occasions with famous jazz and funk musicians, such as Miles Davis, Larry Graham and Maceo Parker. Prince has also recorded with Ani DiFranco, Madonna, Rosie Gaines and Gwen Stefani.
In 1983 Prince released the 1999 album which proved to be a breakthrough album both in the US and internationally selling over three million copies. The title track managed both to make a protest about nuclear proliferation, fill dance floors around the world and become his first top ten hit internationally. With "Little Red Corvette" he joined Michael Jackson 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 also a critical smash rated as a career highlight with the All Music Guide rating it as five stars out of five.
The release of Purple Rain along with the film of the same name would establish Prince amongst the top rank of popular musicians in the 1980s. It sold millions of copies in the first week alone. The album would sell over thirteen million copies in the US alone and spend 24 weeks at the top of the Billboard 200. The movie, while dismissed by humorist-critic Joe Queenan as "sexist, juvenile, and moronic", was nevertheless an enormous success, grossing over US$80 million in the United States alone. However, "Purple Rain" would prove to be Prince's first and only cinematic success. Although Prince would later direct and star in "Under the Cherry Moon" (1986) and "Graffiti Bridge" (1990), both films were met with critical derision and public indifference.
Two songs from "Purple Rain", "When Doves Cry" and "Let's Go Crazy" would both top the US singles charts and be smash 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 1 movie, Number 1 single, and Number 1 album in the US. The album is also a critical favorite again being rated in the top 100 of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, released in late 2003. When she overheard her 12 year-old daughter, Karenna , playing "Darling Nikki" (whose lyrics include"I found her in a hotel lobby/masturbating to a magazine), Tipper Gore founded the Parents Music Resource Center, which has spurred the use of 'explicit lyric' stickers and imprints on album covers.
In 1985, at the pinnacle of super-stardom, after touring the US tirelessly with the Purple Rain Tour, Prince briefly decided to give up live performances and making videos on the release of Around The World In A Day, which went to the top of the US album charts for three weeks. Prince's momentary 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" as a soundtrack to the film "Under the Cherry Moon". The album went to number 3 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 2 on the Hot 100, which Prince had written under the pseudonym "Christopher". Following the movie and album, Prince returned to touring with a stripped-down tour-de-force , focusing on the music itself and the talent of The Revolution members.
Prince is often mentioned in the tradition of Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke in mixing spirituality and sensuality . "I Would Die 4 U", for instance, can be compared to Gaye's "Sexual Healing", with its not-so-subtle reference to Jesus. The track "The Cross," off Sign O' The Times, is a stronger reference to Prince's Christian beliefs, which have since shifted. Sign O' The Times, released in 1987 as a double album, reached the top 10 of the Billboard 200 and is regarded as one of his greatest albums. It is perhaps his most critically-acclaimed effort, reaching the top 100 of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list, et al.
Following the album, Prince launched the Sign O' The Times Tour in Europe. At the end of the last tour, Prince disbanded The Revolution, parting ways with Wendy Melvoin , Lisa Coleman , Bobby "Z" Rivkin and Mark "Brown Mark" Brown. The so-called "Counter-Revolution" retained Matt Fink on keyboards, and added Boni Boyer on keyboards, Sheila E on Drums, Levi Seacer on bass, and Miko Weaver on guitar. In 1987, a movie was shot of the Sign O' the Times Tour in Rotterdam and Antwerp, Holland. Portions were re-recorded and the performances mimed in the soundstage of his newly-opened [Paisley Park Studios] complex in Chanhassen, MN. Housing three complete recording studios, and a complete soundstage for performances and video production, the studios have been Prince's playground since their opening. Situated near his home in Minnesota, Paisley Park has allowed Prince to record at the drop of a hat.
In 1987 Prince also recorded The Black Album, a funk-oriented album whose erotically-charged lyrics were considered so blatant that Prince developed a crisis of conscience and decided not to officially release it. The album circulated through the bootleg underground music world until it was finally given an official release in 1994. The 1988 album Lovesexy was Prince's positive and spiritual answer to the dark message of The Black Album. Lovesexy was a relative disappointment in its chart performance, only reaching number 11 on the Billboard 200. The Lovesexy Tour in the US also proved to be commercial disappointment. Refusing a commercial sponsor for the large, expensive tour, Prince lost money as dates failed to sell out. In turn, Prince toured Europe, where his popularity had reached a fever pitch . Prince recouped his losses with the European and Japanese legs of the tour, and connected on a spiritual level with audiences across the world. The show design, with the front half influenced by "Spooky Electric", Prince's euphemism for the devil, and the second half revitalized by "lovesexy", a feeling of love inspired by and connected with God, was a powerhouse showcase for Prince, his music, and the band.
In 1989, Prince would record the soundtrack for Batman, which would return him to the top of the US album charts, with the single and worldwide hit "Batdance" reaching the top of the Billboard Hot 100. Prince released the film sequel to Purple Rain, titled Graffiti Bridge , which performed poorly at the box office, but provided another outlet for Prince's spiritually-inspired messages. The soundtrack featured Prince on one side and other artists such as Tevin Campbell, Mavis Staples of the Staple Singers, and Morris Day and The Time . It would reach a chart peak of number 6 in the US and number one in the UK.
The Diamonds & Pearls album in 1991 gave Prince another big hit on the album charts with the song "Cream" giving him his fifth US number one single. Diamonds & Pearls also marked the debut of the New Power Generation featuring rapper Tony M , Rosie Gaines on vocals, Michael Bland on drums, Levi Seacer and Kirk Johnson on guitar, Sonny T on bass, and Tommy Barbarella on keyboards.
Prince's 12th album bore an indecipherable symbol and was dubbed The Love Symbol album. It reached the top ten of the US album charts. In 1993, he would change his name to the symbol (see above) which marked the start of a decade of declining commercial and critical success. The symbol, written here as O(+> as the closest text representation of the symbol, is said to be a melding of the symbols for male and female, and its roots can be seen in basic characters found in alchemy. Due to the symbol O(+> being unpronounceable, he was often referred to as "The artist formerly known as Prince".
Throughout the ups and downs of his commercial success and chart performance, Prince has been regarded as one of top live acts in the music business, often performing not only in large arenas, but also late at night in small clubs for a select audience. He maintained a strong live following despite spending most of the 1990s and early 2000s in commercial exile. Performing often at Paisley Park, local and international audiences of 5-2500 people have witnessed rare musical moments produced by a consumate performer who emphasizes musicianship above all else.
Chaos and disorder: 1994–2003
Prince released a greatest hits package in 1993 which failed to do as well as one would suspect from an artist with his track record. In 1994, The Black Album was released by Warner Bros in an attempt to capitalize on its underground success. Following that disappointing release, Warner Bros released the final album of "Prince" material, Come, which was moderately successful, selling over 500,000 copies. Prince pushed to have his next album The Gold Experience released simultaneously as "O(+>" material. As a test case, Warner Bros allowed the single "The Most Beautiful Girl In The World" to be released via a small, independent distributor, Bellmark . The release was very successful, reaching number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 1 in the UK, but this was not to be a forerunner of what was to come. Warner Bros still resisted releasing The Gold Experience , fearing poor sales and citing "market saturation" as a defense. A battle between Warner Bros and Prince ensued, struggling over the artistic and financial control of Prince's output. When eventually released, The Gold Experience failed to sell well, although it reached the top 10 of the Billboard 200 initially.
The Chaos & Disorder album of 1996 was his final album of new material for Warner Brothers, and was one of his least successful. He released the Emancipation album also in 1996 via his own NPG Records with distribution through EMI. While certified Platinum by the RIAA, it failed to do as well as he had hoped, with critics complaining that the sprawling 3-CD set lacked focus.
Prince released The Crystal Ball , a 4-CD collection of unreleased material, in 1998. The distribution of this album was shambolic with some fans who pre-ordered the album on his website not receiving the album for months after the record had gone on sale in retail stores. The New Power Soul album released three months later failed to make much of an impression on the charts, as many fans failed to realize it was out.
His 1999 album Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic , released through Arista Records, also failed to make much of a commercial impression. A few months earlier, Warner Bros had also released The Vault , a collection of material recorded by Prince circa 1991, and Prince's final recording commitment on his contract with Warner Bros. The greatest success he had during the year was with the single 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.
In May 2000, O(+> reclaimed his birth 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 and opened the door to endless "The Artist Formerly Known As The Artist Formerly Known As Prince" digs.
For the next three years, Prince primarily released new music through his Internet subscription services, first NPGOnlineLtd.com, and now NPGMusicClub.com. He also released two jazz-influenced albums, The Rainbow Children in 2001 and the all-instrumental N.E.W.S in 2003. In addition, he has brought in a newfound openness with his fans, connecting with them through the NPG Music Club, at pre-concert soundchecks, and at yearly "celebrations" at Paisley Park. Several hundred to several thousand observers are invited into his studios for tours, interviews, discussions (including with Prince himself), new music listening sessions, and of course numerous performances by Prince, related artists, and invited guests (including Alicia Keys, The Time , Erykah Badu, Nikka Costa , George Clinton and others).
2004: "Don't Call it a Comeback"
In 2003, Prince's lawyer, Londell Macmillan, confirmed his client had become one of Jehovah's Witnesses and that the star was "very committed" to them. As a consequence, he no longer performs many of his more sexually explicit songs such as "Darling Nikki" in concert.
In 2004, Prince mesmerized audiences with show-stopping performances at his induction ceremony to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (in his first eligible year), the year's Grammy Awards with Beyonce Knowles, and the top-grossing tour of 2004, his best tour to date. He signed a deal with Columbia Records, part of Sony Music, to distribute, but gain no other rights to, future albums through his NPG Records label. He released the Musicology album on April 20, 2004. It was his best-received album critically since Diamonds & Pearls and reached the top 5 of the Billboard 200 album charts upon release. Concert-goers who bought tickets to his Musicology Tour received a copy of Musicology with the cost forming part of the ticket price. Prince and Sony negotiated to have each copy given out at concerts count towards his sales totals for the album charts, thus ensuring a long stay in the top 40 while the Musicology Tour continued throughout the year. Since that deal, Billboard and others revised the policy such that artists must give ticket buyers the option of foregoing the album for a discounted ticket price, in order for the album sales to count on the charts; Prince's deal was grandfathered in.
- For You (1978) #163 US
- Prince (1979) #22 US, US sales: 1,000,000
- Dirty Mind (1980) #45 US, US sales: 500,000
- Controversy (1981) #21 US, US sales: 1,000,000
- 1999 (1982) #9 US, #30 UK (1984 release), US sales: 4,000,000
- Purple Rain (1984) #1 US, #7 UK, US sales: 13,000,000
- Around The World In A Day (1985) #1 US, #5 UK, US sales: 2,000,000
- Parade (1986) #3 US, #4 UK, US sales: 1,000,000
- Sign O' The Times (1987) #6 US, #4 UK, US sales: 1,000,000
- Lovesexy (1988) #11 US, #1 UK, US sales: 500,000
- Batman (1989) #1 US, #1 UK, US sales: 2,000,000
- Graffiti Bridge (1990) #6 US, #1 UK, US sales: 500,000
- Diamonds and Pearls (1991) #3 US, #2 UK, US sales: 2,000,000
- The Love Symbol Album (1992) #5 US, #1 UK, US sales: 1,000,000
- The Hits/The B-Sides (1993) #19 US, #4 UK, US sales: 1,000,000
- The Hits 1 (1993) #46 US, #5 UK, US sales: 1,000,000
- The Hits 2 (1993) #54 US, #5 UK, US sales: 1,000,000
- Goldnigga (1993)
- Come (1994) #15 US, #1 UK
- The Black Album (1994 - recorded 1987-1988) #47 US, #36 UK
- The Gold Experience (1995) #6 US, #4 UK, US sales: 500,000
- Exodus (1995)
- Chaos & Disorder (1996) #26 US, #14 UK
- Emancipation (1996) #11 US, #18 UK, US sales: 2,000,000
- Crystal Ball (1997) #62 US
- The Truth (1997)
- Kamasutra (1997)
- Newpower Soul (1998) #22 US
- Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic (1999) #18 US, US sales: 500,000
- Rave In2 The Joy Fantastic (1999 NPG Music Club)
- The Very Best Of Prince (2001) #66 US, #2 UK, US sales: 500,000
- The Rainbow Children (2001) #109 US
- One Nite Alone (2002 NPG Music Club)
- One Nite Alone...Live! (2002)
- Xpectation (2003 NPG Music Club)
- N.E.W.S (2003)
- Musicology (2004) #3 US, #3 UK, US sales: 2,000,000
- The Chocolate Invasion (2004 NPG Music Club)
- The Slaughterhouse (2004 NPG Music Club)
- C-Note (2004 NPG Music Club)
- "I Wanna Be Your Lover" (1980) #11 US
- "1999" (1983) #12 US; #25 UK
- "Delirious" (1983) #8 US
- "Little Red Corvette" (1983) #6 US
- "Purple Rain" (1984) #2 US; #4 UK
- "When Doves Cry" (1984) #1 US; #4 UK
- "I Would Die 4 U" (1984) #8 US
- "1999/Little Red Corvette" (re-issue) (1985) #2 UK
- "Let's Go Crazy/Take Me with You" (1985) #1 US; #7 UK
- "Pop Life" (1985) #7 US
- "Paisley Park" (1985) #18 UK
- "Raspberry Beret" (1985) #2 US; #25 UK
- "Take Me with U" (1985) #25 US
- "Kiss" (1986) #1 US; #6 UK
- "Mountains" (1986) #23 US
- "Girls and Boys" (1986) #11 UK
- "Anotherloverholenyohead" (1986) #36 UK
- "Sign 'O the Times" (1987) #3 US; #10 UK
- "If I Was Your Girlfriend" (1987) #20 UK
- "U Got the Look" (1987) #2 US; #11 UK
- "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man" (1987) #10 US; #29 UK
- "Alphabet Street" (1988) #8 US; #9 UK
- "Glam Slam" (1988) #29 UK
- "I Wish U Heaven" (1988) #24 UK
- "Batdance" (1989) #1 US; #2 UK
- "Partyman" (1989) #18 US; #14 UK
- "The Arms of Orion" (with Sheena Easton) (1989) #36 US; #27 UK
- "Thieves in the Temple" (1990) #6 US; #7 UK
- "New Power Generation" (1990) #26 UK
- "Gett Off" (1991) #21 US; #4 UK
- "Cream" (1991) #1 US; #15 UK
- "Diamonds and Pearls" (1991) #3 US; #25 UK
- "Money Don't Matter 2 Night" (1992) #23 US; #19 UK
- "Thunder" (1992) #28 UK
- "Sexy MF/Strollin'" (1992) #4 UK
- "My Name is Prince" (1992) #36 US; #7 UK
- "7" (1992) #7 US; #27 UK
- "Peach" (1993) #14 UK
- "Controversy" (1993) #5 UK
- "Letitgo" (1994) #31 US; #30 UK
- "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" (1994) #3 US; #1 UK
- "The Beautiful Experience" (1994) #18 UK
- "Eye Hate U" (1995) #12 US; #20 UK
- "Gold" (1995) #10 UK
- "Purple Medley" (1995) #33 UK
- "Dinner with Delores" (1996) #36 UK
- "Betcha By Golly Wow" (1996) #11 UK
- "The Holy River" (1997) #19 UK
- "1999" (re-issue) (1999) #40 US; #10 UK
- Purple Rain (1984): actor, composer; When Doves Cry, Purple Rain
- Under the Cherry Moon (1986): actor, composer, director
- Sign o' the Times (1987): performer, director
- Batman (1989): composer (songs)
- Graffiti Bridge (1990): actor, composer, writer, director
- Showgirls (1995): composer (songs) Ripopgodazippa , 319
- Girl 6 (1996): composer (songs) Erotic city
- NPG Music Club, Prince's official site
- prince.org, a fan site
- Housequake.com, Prince discussion forum with news, photos and video.
- schkopi.com, Prince french fan community
- Princefams.com, Prince news and pictures
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