aka aka The Artist Formerly Known As Prince aka T.A.F.K.A.P.
Birth name: Prince Rogers Nelson
Birthplace: Minneapolis, Minnesota
June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016
Years Active: June 7, 1978 (Released first single on Warner Bros.) – April 21, 2016
While he had several monikers and used a symbol rather than a name for the better part of a decade, Prince Rogers Nelson is mostly credited as Prince. Born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Prince was a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, composer, producer and filmmaker who sold millions of Rock and Pop records, including definitive recordings in the New Wave, Funk, R&B and Dance music.
The son of an amateur pianist and songwriter father and a vocalist mother, Prince began to teach himself the piano when his parents divorced and his father moved out of the house and left his piano behind. Prince would go on to master guitar, bass and drums and become a formidable vocalist before hitting the stages of Minneapolis clubs. Prince began his career in the same scene that spawned Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the production duo that created Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation and defined the synthesizer driven R&B of the nineties.
With a persona, mystique and appeal that matched his virtuosity and output, Prince was equally influential as a shaper of the sounds of the Rock and Soul genres during the course of his career. Over the course of thirty-eight albums and nearly four decades, Prince worked across a wide range of formats — from stripped down arrangements that featured Prince’s vocals unadorned except for guitar or piano accompaniment to performances of his bands, including The Revolution and later, the technology-forward New Power Generation. By the age of 20, Prince had relocated to Los Angeles and released his first album For You. It would take four years and another four albums before he would have a commercial breakthrough with 1999 (1982), a hit record that sold over three million copies and whose title track “1999” anticipated the coming 21st century.
Prince’s first film Purple Rain (1984) and sixth studio album of the same name, would eventually sell over ten million copies in the United States and make Prince a global superstar. The film won an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score and would later be added to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.” On Purple Rain, the guitar stylings that defined Prince’s sound were on display from the shredding intro of “When Doves Cry” to the solo that defines the power ballad title track, “Purple Rain.” The album would pave the way to the first three of Prince’s seven GRAMMY Awards including awards for Purple Rain in the categories Best Album Of Original Score Written For A Motion Picture Or A Television Special and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. On that award show, Prince made his GRAMMY stage debut with a performance of “Baby, I’m A Star.”
The Revolution, the racially and gender diverse band that recorded Purple Rain and cemented Prince’s place in music history and popular culture, recalled the ground-breaking make-up of Sly and the Family Stone. Prince was influenced by Sly Stone’s sound as well as the work of Earth Wind & Fire, Joni Mitchell, James Brown, Parliament Funkadelic, Stevie Wonder and Jimi Hendrix. Throughout his career, Prince would feature women instrumentalists and in 2014 he recorded with the all-female power trio 3rdEyeGirl. Amongst Prince’s most notable collaborators were percussionist Sheila E. and Wendy and Lisa, performing and writing duo Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman, who were members of The Revolution.
Purple Rain began the era of Prince’s singles dominating the Billboard charts with other hits including “Kiss,” “Raspberrry Beret,” and “Little Red Corvette”. A prolific composer, Prince scored the film Batman (1989), and penned such chart-topping hits for other artists as Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U”, “Manic Monday” for the Bangles and T.L.C.’s “Waterfalls,” Sheila E.’s “Glamorous Life” and“I Feel for You” by Chaka Khan.
After the 1991 release of his thirteenth studio album and his biggest hit since 1985, Diamonds and Pearls, Prince became embroiled a legal disagreement between Prince and his long- time label Warner Brothers that resulted in Prince legally changing his name to a visual symbol. Over the course of the next few years, Prince would frustrate Warner Brothers until they released recorded material under the name Prince, while he worked as The Artist Formerly Known As Prince. In 1996 Prince set up his own label NPG, which was distributed by EMI. Prince would continue recording and performing for another two decades, on his own terms, a rarity in a music industry driven by corporate interests. In early 2016, Prince began a rare solo tour entitled “Piano and a Microphone.” The tour was cut short in April due to sickness and Prince returned home to Minneapolis where on April 21, 2016 he was found dead of an accidental overdose at the age of 57.
Prince had 5 No. 1 Hits, 19 Top 10 Hits and a total of 47 songs on the Hot 100 Billboard Chart. He has sold over 100 million records worldwide.