Prince Rogers Nelson (June 7, 1958 - April 21, 2016) was an American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and actor. Prince was renowned as an innovator and was widely known for his eclectic work, flamboyant stage presence, and wide vocal range. He was widely regarded as the pioneer of Minneapolis sound. His music integrated a wide variety of styles, including funk, rock, R&B, soul, hip hop, disco, psychedelia, jazz, and pop.
Prince was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and developed an interest in music at an early age, writing his first song at age seven. After recording songs with his cousin's band 94 East, 19-year-old Prince recorded several unsuccessful demo tapes before releasing his debut album For You in 1978, under the guidance of manager Owen Husney. His 1979 album Prince went platinum due to the success of the singles "Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?" and "I Wanna Be Your Lover". His next three records—Dirty Mind (1980), Controversy (1981), and 1999 (1982)—continued his success, showcasing Prince's trademark of prominently sexual lyrics and incorporation of elements of funk, dance, and rock music. In 1984, he began referring to his backup band as The Revolution and released Purple Rain, which served as the soundtrack to his film debut of the same name. A prolific songwriter, Prince in the 1980s wrote songs for and produced work by many other acts, often under pseudonyms.
After releasing the albums Around the World in a Day (1985) and Parade (1986), The Revolution disbanded and Prince released the critically acclaimed double album Sign "O" the Times (1987) as a solo artist. He released three more solo albums before debuting The New Power Generation band in 1991. He changed his stage name in 1993 to an unpronounceable symbol, also known as the "Love Symbol". He then began releasing new albums at a faster pace to remove himself from contractual obligations to Warner Bros.; he released five records between 1994 and 1996 before signing with Arista Records in 1998. In 2000, he began referring to himself as "Prince" again. He released 15 albums since then, including his latest, HITnRUN Phase One, which was first released exclusively on the Tidal streaming service on September 7, 2015 before being released on CD on September 15, 2015 by NPG Records.
Prince sold over 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling artists of all time. He 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 of his eligibility. Rolling Stone has ranked Prince at number 27 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
He died at his Paisley Park recording studio and home in Chanhassen, Minnesota, near Minneapolis, on April 21, 2016, after suffering flu-like symptoms for about two weeks prior to his death.
Prince was born Prince Rogers Nelson in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the son of Mattie Della (Shaw) and John Lewis Nelson. His parents were both African-American and his family ancestry is centered in Louisiana, with all four of his grandparents hailing from that state. 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 an interview, Prince told Tavis Smiley that he was "born epileptic" and "used to have seizures" when he was young. During the interview, he also said: "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. When Prince was ten years old, his parents separated. Prince repeatedly switched homes following the separation, sometimes living with his father and sometimes with his mother and stepfather. Finally, he moved into the home of neighbors named 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 and the Family Stone, James Brown, Earth, Wind & Fire, Miles Davis, George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic, Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix, and Todd Rundgren. Rock critics have noted similarities between Prince's later androgynous look, music and vocal style and that of Little Richard.
Prince also played basketball in high school, and continued to play it for recreation as an adult, which later inspired a famous Dave Chappelle sketch.
In 1975, Pepe Willie, the husband of Prince's cousin, Shauntel, formed the band 94 East with Marcy Ingvoldstad and Kristie Lazenberry. Willie hired André 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 Owen Husney, a Minneapolis businessman. 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.. The record company 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 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 that 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.
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 US. 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. Controversy also marked the introduction of Prince's use of abbreviated spelling, such as spelling the words you as U, to as 2, and for as 4, as indicated by the inclusion of the track "Jack U Off". (His earlier song titles had used conventional spelling.) By 2002, MTV.com noted that "ow all of his titles, liner notes and Web postings are written in his own shorthand spelling, as seen on 1999's Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic, which featured 'Hot Wit U.'"
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 (sometimes credited under the pseudonyms "Jamie Starr" or "The Starr Company"), 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 US. 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 song "Delirious" also placed in the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
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 13 million copies in the US and spent 24 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 US.
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 No. 1 album, single, and film in the US; 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 protégée 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 Kristin 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. 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.
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 speeded-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. 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 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 success overseas, with Warner Bros. and Prince's managers wanting to bring it to the US to resuscitate sagging sales of Sign "O" the Times; Prince balked at a full US 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. 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, but 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 No. 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. He had 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 No. 12 on the US charts and No. 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.
Prince's Yellow Cloud Guitar at the Smithsonian Castle. Prince can be seen playing this guitar in the "Gett Off" video.
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 four 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 US No. 1 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 12th 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 No. 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 , 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. In those days, a commonly used typed approximation of the Symbol was "O(+>". The symbol would soon be dubbed "The Love Symbol" and Prince would be referred to as "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince", "TAFKAP", or simply "The Artist". Later, when he changed his name back to Prince again, he was sometimes called "The Artist Formerly Known as 'The Artist Formerly Known as Prince'".
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 US 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 five-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 four-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 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 continued to use the symbol as a logo and on album artwork and 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". 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 rendering of Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", playing a long guitar solo that ended the song. In addition he performed "Red 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 US, UK, Germany and Australia). The US 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 US chart placement. Musicology is R&B and soul-themed along with funk, pop, quiet storm, and rock. Three months later, Spin named him the greatest frontman of all time. 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 US. The artist played an impressive run of 96 concerts; the average ticket price for a show was US$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 April 2005, Prince played guitar (along with En Vogue singing backing vocals) on Stevie Wonder's single "So What the Fuss", Wonder's first since 1999. 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.
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, 17 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 US, and other tickets were given away in various contests on the Internet and around the world. On May 6, 2006, 24 prizewinners (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 FREE).
Only weeks after winning a Webby Award, Prince abruptly shut down his then-official NPG Music Club website on July 4, 2006, after more than five years of operation.. 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
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 "biggest audience of his life." In 2015, 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 capped by Prince at £31.21 ($48.66). 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. A prelude to the forthcoming summer gigs in London, Prince played a relaxed set of hits including ("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 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 2008 Coachella Festival. 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.
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 four 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 that 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 protégé, 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.
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 2010, Prince was listed in TIME magazine's 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 refused access to the album to digital download services. He also closed his official website, LotusFlow3r.com.
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 had 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 authorized its use.
On the May 18, 2011, it was announced that Prince would be headlining Hop Farm Festival on July 3, 2011, marking his first UK show since 2007 and his first ever UK festival appearance.
Despite having previously rejected the Internet for music distribution, on November 24, 2011, Prince re-released a reworked version of the previously unreleased song "Extraloveable" through both iTunes and Spotify. Purple Music, a Switzerland-based record label, released a CD single "Dance 4 Me" on December 12, 2011, as part of a club remixes package including Bria Valente CD single "2 Nite" released on February 23, 2012. The CD features club remixes by Jamie Lewis and David Alexander, produced by Prince.
In January 2013, Prince released a lyric video for a new song called "Screwdriver". A couple of months later in April 2013, Prince announced a West Coast tour titled Live Out Loud Tour with 3rdeyegirl as his backing band. The final two dates of the first leg of the tour were in Minneapolis where former Revolution drummer Bobby Z. sat in as guest drummer on both shows. In May, Prince announced a deal with Kobalt Music to market and distribute his music.
On August 14, 2013, Prince officially sent his first tweet through the 3RDEYEGIRL Twitter account. The same day, he released a new solo single for exclusive download through the 3RDEYEGIRL.com website. The single "Breakfast Can Wait" received attention for its cover art, featuring comedian Dave Chappelle's notable impersonation of the singer in a sketch on the 2000s Comedy Central series Chappelle's Show.
In February 2014, Prince performed concerts with 3rdeyegirl in London titled the Hit and Run Tour. Beginning with intimate shows, the first was held at the London home of singer Lianne La Havas, followed by two performances of what Prince described as a "sound check" at the Electric Ballroom in Camden, and another at Shepherds Bush Empire.
On April 18, 2014, Prince released a new single entitled "The Breakdown". Along with the surprise release, news came that he had re-signed with his former label, Warner Bros. Records after an 18-year split. Warner announced that Prince would release a remastered deluxe edition of his 1984 album Purple Rain in 2014 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the breakthrough album. In return Warner would give Prince ownership of the master recordings of his Warner recordings.
In May 2015, following the death of Freddie Gray and the subsequent riots, Prince released a song entitled "Baltimore" in tribute to Gray and in support of the protesters in Baltimore. He also held a surprise tribute concert for Gray at his Paisley Park estate called 'Dance Rally 4 Peace' in which he reportedly encouraged fans to wear the color gray in honor of Freddie Gray.
His final album HITnRUN Phase One was first made available on September 7, 2015 on music streaming service Tidal before being released on CD and download on
In addition to his singing abilities (which encompassed a wide range from falsetto to baritone and rapid, seemingly effortless shifts of register) Prince was renowned as a multi-instrumentalist. On his debut album, he was credited with having played 27 instruments, which based on the album credits included various types of bass, keyboard and synthesizer in the total. He played nearly all the instruments on his first five albums. The precise number of instruments he was capable of playing remains obscure; when asked during a television interview by Dick Clark how many instruments he could play, he responded, "Thousands."
In 1993, during negotiations regarding the release of The Gold Experience, a legal battle ensued between Warner Bros. and Prince over the artistic and financial control of his musical output. During the lawsuit, he 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 used pseudonyms to separate himself from the music (either his own or that of others) for which he had input during his career; "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).
On September 14, 2007, Prince announced that he was going to sue YouTube and eBay because they "are clearly able filter porn and pedophile material but appear to choose not to filter out the unauthorized music and film content which is core to their business success." Prince hired the international Internet policing company Web Sheriff, and they told Reuters: "The problem is that one can reduce it to zero and then the next day there will be 100 or 500 or whatever. This carries on ad nauseam at Prince's expense."
In October 2007, Stephanie Lenz filed a lawsuit against Universal Music Publishing Group claiming that they were abusing copyright law after the music publisher had YouTube take down Lenz's home movie in which the Prince song "Let's Go Crazy" played faintly in the background.
On November 5, 2007, several fan sites of Prince formed "Prince Fans United" to fight back against legal requests which, they claim, Prince made to cease and desist all use of photographs, images, lyrics, album covers, and anything linked to Prince's likeness. Prince's lawyers claimed that the use of such representations constituted copyright infringement, while the Prince Fans United claimed that the legal actions were "attempts to stifle all critical commentary about Prince." A few days later, Prince released a statement denying the fansites' claims, stating, "The action taken earlier this week was not to shut down fansites, or control comment in any way. The issue was simply to do with in regards to copyright and trademark of images and only images, and no lawsuits have been filed." The statement from Prince's promoter AEG asserted that the only "offending items" on the three fansites were live shots from Prince's 21 nights in London at the O2 Arena earlier in the year.
On November 8, 2007, Prince Fans United received a song named "PFUnk", providing a kind of "unofficial answer" to their movement. The song originally debuted on the PFU main site, was retitled "F.U.N.K.", and is available on iTunes.
On November 14, 2007, it was reported that the satirical website b3ta.com had pulled their "image challenge of the week" devoted to Prince after legal threats from the star under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. B3ta co-founder Rob Manuel wrote on the site: "Under threat of legal action from Prince's legal team of 'potential closure of your web site' – We have removed the Prince image challenge and B3ta apologizes unreservedly to AEG / NPG and Prince for any offence caused. We also ask our members to avoid photoshopping Prince and posting them on our boards."
At the 2008 Coachella Music Festival, Prince performed a cover of Radiohead's "Creep", but immediately after he forced YouTube and other sites to remove footage that fans had taken of the performance, despite Radiohead's demand for it to remain on the website. Days later, YouTube reinstated the videos while Radiohead claimed, "it's our song, let people hear it." In 2009, Prince put the video of that Coachella performance on his official website LotusFlow3r.com.
In 2013, the Electronic Frontier Foundation granted to Prince the inaugural "Raspberry Beret Lifetime Aggrievement Award", a reference to resentment of parties who allege unfair treatment and misuse of copyright claims by the artist and his lawyers.
In January 2014, Prince filed a lawsuit titled Prince v. Chodera against 22 online users for direct copyright infringement, unauthorized fixation, and contributory copyright infringement and bootlegging. Several of the users were fans who had shared links to bootlegged versions of several Prince concerts through social media websites like
Prince resided near Minneapolis at the time of his death. Over the years Prince was 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. Prince was engaged to Susannah Melvoin in 1985. When he was 37, he married his 22-year-old backup singer and dancer Mayte Garcia on Valentine's Day 1996. They had a son named Boy Gregory on 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; she filed for divorce in May 2006.
Prince joined the Jehovah's Witnesses in 2001 following a two-year-long debate with friend and fellow Jehovah's Witness musician Larry Graham. Prince said that he didn't consider it a conversion, but a "realization". "It's like Morpheus and Neo in The Matrix," he explained. He attended meetings at a local Kingdom Hall and occasionally knocked on people's doors to discuss his faith. Prince reportedly needed double hip-replacement surgery since 2005 but wouldn't undergo the operation unless it was a bloodless surgery because Jehovah's Witnesses do not accept blood transfusions. The condition was rumored to be aggravated by repeated onstage dancing in high-heeled boots.
Prince was a vegetarian. The liner notes for his album Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic featured a message about the cruelty involved in wool production.
Beginning in 2008, Prince was managed by UK-based Kiran Sharma.
Sinéad O'Connor spoke about her relationship with Prince in an interview with Norwegian station NRK in November 2014. She said that Prince had summoned her to his house after "Nothing Compares 2 U", a song that Prince wrote, became a worldwide hit for O'Connor in 1990. O'Connor said, "I made it without him. I'd never met him. He summoned me to his house—and it's foolish to do this to an Irish woman—he said he didn't like me saying bad words in interviews. So I told him to fuck off." O'Connor alleged, "He got quite violent. I had to escape out of his house at 5 in the morning. He packed a bigger punch than mine."
In 2016, Prince announced that he was writing a memoir, tentatively titled The Beautiful Ones.
Prince saw Michael T. Schulenberg, a Twin Cities specialist in family medicine, in Excelsior on April 7, 2016, and again on April 20. On April 7, Prince postponed two performances at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta from his Piano & A Microphone Tour; the venue released a statement saying he had influenza. Prince rescheduled and performed the show on April 14, even though he still was not feeling well. While flying back to Minneapolis early the next morning, he became unresponsive, and his private jet made an emergency landing at Quad City International Airport in Moline, Illinois, where he was hospitalized and received Narcan. Once he became conscious he left against medical advice. Representatives said he suffered from dehydration and had influenza for several weeks. Prince was seen bicycling the next day in his hometown of Chanhassen. He shopped that evening at the Electric Fetus in Minneapolis for Record Store Day and made a brief appearance at an impromptu dance party at his Paisley Park recording studio complex, stating that he was feeling fine. On April 19, he attended a performance by singer Lizz Wright at the Dakota Jazz Club.
On April 20, Prince's representatives called Howard Kornfeld, a California specialist in addiction medicine and pain management, seeking medical help for Prince. Kornfeld scheduled to meet with Prince on April 22, and he contacted a local physician who cleared his schedule for a physical examination on April 21. On April 21, at 9:43 am, the Carver County Sheriff's Office received a 9-1-1 call requesting that an ambulance be sent to Prince's home at Paisley Park. The caller initially told the dispatcher that an unidentified person at the home was unconscious, then moments later said he was dead, and finally identified the person as Prince. The caller was Kornfeld's son, who had flown in with buprenorphine that morning to devise a treatment plan for opioid addiction. Emergency responders found Prince unresponsive in an elevator and performed CPR, but a paramedic said he had been dead for about six hours, and they were unable to revive him. They pronounced him dead at 10:07 am, 19 minutes after their arrival. There were no signs of suicide or foul play. A press release from the Midwest Medical Examiner's Office in Anoka County on June 2 stated that Prince had died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl, at the age of 57.
It is not yet known whether Prince obtained the fentanyl by a prescription or through an illicit channel. The question of how and from what source Prince obtained the drug which led to his death has been the subject of investigations by several law enforcement agencies. A sealed search warrant was issued for his estate, and another, unsealed, warrant was issued for the local Walgreens pharmacy. On April 19, 2018, the Carver County Attorney announced that the multi-agency investigation related to the circumstances of Prince's death had ended with no criminal charges filed.
Following an autopsy, his remains were cremated. On April 26, 2016, Prince's sister and only full sibling Tyka Nelson filed court documents in Carver County, to open a probate case, stating that no will had been found. Prince's five half-siblings also have a claim to his estate, which totals millions of dollars and includes real estate, stocks, and cars. As of three weeks after his death, 700 people claimed to be half-siblings or descendants. Bremer Trust was given temporary control of his estate, had his vault drilled open, and was authorized to obtain a blood sample for DNA profiling.
Prince's ashes were placed into a custom, 3D printed urn shaped like the Paisley Park estate. The urn was placed on display in the atrium of the Paisley Park complex in October 2016.
Numerous musicians and cultural figures reacted to Prince's death. President Barack Obama mourned him, and the United States Senate passed a resolution praising his achievements "as a musician, composer, innovator, and cultural icon". Cities across the US held tributes and vigils, and lit buildings, bridges, and other venues in purple. In the first five hours after the media reported his death, "Prince" was the top trending term on Twitter, and Facebook had 61 million Prince-related interactions. MTV interrupted its programming to air a marathon of Prince music videos and Purple Rain. AMC Theatres and Carmike Cinemas screened Purple Rain in select theaters over the following week. Saturday Night Live aired an episode in his honor titled "Goodnight, Sweet Prince", featuring his performances from the show.
Nielsen Music reported an initial sales spike of 42,000 percent. Prince's catalog sold 4.41 million albums and songs from April 21 to 28, with five albums simultaneously in the top ten of the Billboard 200, a first in the chart's history. At the 59th Grammy Awards, Morris Day with the Time and Bruno Mars performed a tribute to him.
In June 2016 Vanity Fair /Condé Nast, released a special edition commemorative magazine, The Genius of Prince. The magazine was a celebration of Prince's life and achievements, with new photography and archive articles, including the original Vanity Fair article from Nov 1984, written in the wake of Prince's breakout success, with other content from Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Wired, and Pitchfork. The cover of The Genius of Prince featured a portrait by Andy Warhol, Orange Prince (1984).
On August 21, 2016, Prince was posthumously inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame.
The first album released following Prince's death was a greatest hits album, 4Ever, which was released on November 22, 2016. The album contains one previously unreleased song: "Moonbeam Levels", recorded in 1982 during the 1999 sessions.
On April 19, 2017, an EP featuring six unreleased Prince recordings, titled Deliverance, was announced, with an expected release date for later that week. The next day, Prince's estate was granted a temporary restraining order against George Ian Boxill – an engineer who co-produced the tracks and was in possession of the master tapes – and halted the release of the EP.
On February 9, 2017, Prince's estate signed a distribution deal with Universal Music Group, which includes the post-1995 recordings on his NPG Records label and unreleased tracks from his vault. On June 27, Comerica (acting on behalf of the estate) requested that Carver County District Judge Kevin Eide cancel the estate's deal with Universal, as UMG's contract would interfere with a contract with Warner Music Group that Prince signed in 2014. After Universal's attorneys were granted access to the Warner contract, the attorneys also offered to cancel the deal. On July 13, the court voided Universal's deal with Prince's estate, though Universal will continue to administer Prince's songwriting credits and create merchandise.
On June 23, 2017, Purple Rain was re-released as the Deluxe and Deluxe Expanded editions. It is the first Prince album to be remastered and reissued. The Deluxe edition consists of two discs, the first being a remaster of the original album made in 2015 overseen by Prince himself and a bonus disc of previously unreleased songs, called From the Vault & Previously Unreleased. The Deluxe Expanded edition consists of two more discs, a disc with all the single edits, maxi-single edits and B-sides from the Purple Rain era, and a DVD with a concert from the Purple Rain Tour filmed in Syracuse, New York on March 30, 1985, previously released on home video in 1985. The album debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 and at No. 1 on both the Billboard R&B Albums and Vinyl Albums charts.
On April 19, 2018, the previously unreleased original recording of "Nothing Compares 2 U" from 1984 was released as a single by Warner Bros. Records in conjunction with Prince's estate. In addition, the Prince version was given its own music video, released in conjunction with the single; the video consists of edited rehearsal footage for the Purple Rain tour, shot in the summer of 1984. Troy Carter, adviser for Prince's estate, later announced in an interview with Variety that a full-length album is planned for release on September 28, 2018.
In May 2018, it was announced that a second album of new material is set for release in 2019 on Tidal. This album is rumored to be Prince's planned follow-up to Hit n Run Phase Two, as part of his original deal with the streaming service. It has also been announced for a worldwide physical CD release a month after.
In June 2018, the Prince estate signed a distribution deal with Sony Music Entertainment, which includes the rights to all of Prince's studio albums, plus unreleased music, remixes, live recordings, music videos and B-sides from before 1995. The deal will immediately include Prince's albums from 1995 to 2010. Beginning in 2021, Prince's Warner Bros. albums from 1978–1996 will become distributed by Sony/Legacy Recordings in the United States, with Warner Music Group still controlling the international rights.
On July 11, 2018, Heritage Auctions announced the auction of Prince's personal possessions to be conducted in Dallas, Texas on July 21, 2018. Total of 27 items was announced to be put in the auction, including Prince's bible, stage worn clothing, and some personal documents.
On August 17, 2018, by NPG Records released all 23 post Warner Bros albums by Prince digitally on streaming platforms like Tidal, Spotify and Apple Music together with a new compilation album named Anthology: 1995–2010 containing 37 tracks.
On September 21, 2018, the album Piano and a Microphone 1983 was released on CD, vinyl, and digital formats. It is the first album released by the Prince estate with material from his archive, the Vault.
The Los Angeles Times called Prince "our first post-everything pop star, defying easy categories of race, genre and commercial appeal." Jon Pareles of The New York Times described him as "a master architect of funk, rock, R&B and pop", and highlighted his ability to defy labels. Los Angeles Times writer Randall Roberts called Prince "among the most versatile and restlessly experimental pop artists of our time," writing that his "early work connected disco and synthetic funk [while his] fruitful mid-period merged rock, soul, R&B and synth-pop." Simon Reynolds called him a "pop polymath, flitting between funkadelia, acid rock, deep soul, schmaltz—often within the same song". AllMusic wrote that, "With each album he released, Prince showed remarkable stylistic growth and musical diversity, constantly experimenting with different sounds, textures, and genres no other contemporary artist blended so many diverse styles into a cohesive whole." Rolling Stone ranked Prince at number 27 on its list of 100 Greatest Artists, "the most influential artists of the rock & roll era".
As a performer, he was known for his flamboyant style and showmanship. He came to be regarded as a sex symbol for his androgynous, amorphous sexuality, play with signifiers of gender, and defiance of racial stereotypes. His "audacious, idiosyncratic" fashion sense made use of "ubiquitous purple, alluring makeup and frilled garments." His androgynous look has been compared to that of Little Richard and David Bowie. In 2016, Reynolds described it as "Prince's '80s evasion of conventional gender definitions speaks to us now in this trans-aware moment. But it also harks backwards in time to the origins of rock 'n' roll in racial mixture and sexual blurring".
Prince also wore high-heeled shoes and boots both on- and off-stage. Prince had needed double hip replacement surgery since 2005 and the condition was reportedly caused by repeated onstage dancing in high-heeled boots. Prince had been using canes as part of his outfit from the early 1990s onwards; towards the end of his life he regularly walked with a cane in public engagements, which led to speculation that it resulted from his not having undergone the surgery.
Prince was known for the strong female presence in his bands and his support for women in the music industry throughout his career. Slate said he worked with an "astounding range of female stars" and "promised a world where men and women looked and acted like each other."
In August 2017, Pantone Inc. introduced a new shade of purple in their color system in honor of Prince. The shade is called Love Symbol #2 and is defined as Pantone color number 19-3528, web palette #4F3D63 or RGB 79,61,99.
Prince's music synthesized a wide variety of influences, and drew inspiration from a range of musicians, including James Brown, George Clinton, Joni Mitchell, Duke Ellington, Jimi Hendrix, the Beatles, Chuck Berry, David Bowie, Earth, Wind & Fire, Mick Jagger, Rick James, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Curtis Mayfield, Elvis Presley, Todd Rundgren, Carlos Santana, Sly Stone, Jackie Wilson, Chicago and Stevie Wonder. Prince has been compared with jazz great Miles Davis in regard to the artistic changes throughout his career. Davis said he regarded Prince as an otherworldly blend of James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Marvin Gaye, Sly Stone, Little Richard, Duke Ellington, and Charlie Chaplin. Prince and Miles Davis performed together for a Charity Event at Paisley Park. This performance was viewed as the pinnacle of their on-again, off-again partnership.
Journalist Nik Cohn described him as "rock's greatest ever natural talent". His singing abilities encompassed a wide range from falsetto to baritone and rapid, seemingly effortless shifts of register. Prince was also renowned as a multi-instrumentalist. He is considered a guitar virtuoso and a master of drums, percussion, bass, keyboards, and synthesizer. On his first five albums, he played nearly all the instruments, including 27 instruments on his debut album, among them various types of bass, keyboards and synthesizers. Prince was also quick to embrace technology in his music, making pioneering use of drum machines like the Linn LM-1 on his early '80s albums and employing a wide range of studio effects. The LA Times also noted his "harnessing new-generation synthesizer sounds in service of the groove," laying the foundations for post-'70s funk music. Prince was also known for his prolific and perfectionist tendencies, which resulted in him recording large amounts of unreleased material.
Prince also wrote songs for other artists, and some songs of his were covered by musicians, such as the hit songs "Manic Monday", written specifically for the Bangles (as Prince was dating Susanna Hoffs), "I Feel For You", originally on Prince's self-titled second album from 1979, covered by Chaka Khan, and "Nothing Compares 2 U", written for Prince's side project the Family, and covered very successfully by Sinead O'Connor. Neither "I Feel For You" nor "Nothing Compares 2 U" were actually written for the singers who made them famous. Prince co-wrote "Love... Thy Will Be Done" with singer Martika, for her second album Martika's Kitchen, and also gifted Celine Dion a song for her second album, Celine Dion, titled "With This Tear"; a song Prince had written specifically for her. Prince also wrote "U" for Paula Abdul, appearing on her 1991 release Spellbound.
Many notable artists have also drawn inspiration from Prince, including Alicia Keys, Usher, Janelle Monáe, The Weeknd, Justin Timberlake, Lenny Kravitz, Andre 3000, and Frank Ocean.
In 1993, during negotiations regarding the release of The Gold Experience, a legal battle ensued between Warner Bros. and Prince over the artistic and financial control of his musical output. During the lawsuit, Prince appeared in public with the word "slave" written on his cheek. He explained that he had changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol to emancipate himself from his contract with Warner Bros., and that he had done it out of frustration because he felt his own name now belonged to the company.
Prince sometimes used pseudonyms to separate himself from the music he had written, produced, or recorded, and at one point stated that his ownership and achievement were strengthened by the act of giving away ideas. Pseudonyms he adopted, at various times, include: Jamie Starr and The Starr Company (for the songs he wrote for the Time and many other artists from 1981 to 1984), Joey Coco (for many unreleased Prince songs in the late 1980s, as well as songs written for Sheena Easton and Kenny Rogers), Alexander Nevermind (for writing the song "Sugar Walls" (1984) by Sheena Easton), and Christopher (used for his song writing credit of "Manic Monday" (1986) for the Bangles).
On September 14, 2007, Prince announced that he was going to sue YouTube and eBay, because they hosted his copyrighted material, and he hired the international Internet policing company Web Sheriff. In October, Stephanie Lenz filed a lawsuit against Universal Music Publishing Group claiming that they were abusing copyright law after the music publisher had YouTube take down Lenz's home movie in which the Prince song "Let's Go Crazy" played faintly in the background. On November 5, several Prince fan sites formed "Prince Fans United" to fight back against legal requests which, they claim, Prince made to prevent all use of photographs, images, lyrics, album covers, and anything linked to his likeness. Prince's lawyers claimed that this constituted copyright infringement; the Prince Fans United said that the legal actions were "attempts to stifle all critical commentary about Prince". Prince's promoter AEG stated that the only offending items on the three fansites were live shots from Prince's 21 nights in London at the O2 Arena earlier in the year.
On November 8, Prince Fans United received a song named "PFUnk", providing a kind of "unofficial answer" to their movement. The song originally debuted on the PFU main site, was retitled "F.U.N.K.", but this is not one of the selected songs available on the iTunes Store. On November 14, the satirical website b3ta.com pulled their "image challenge of the week" devoted to Prince after legal threats from the star under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
At the 2008 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival ("Coachella Festival"), Prince performed a cover of Radiohead's "Creep", but immediately afterward he forced YouTube and other sites to remove footage that fans had taken of the performance, despite Radiohead's request to leave it on the website. Days later, YouTube reinstated the videos, as Radiohead said: "it's our song, let people hear it." In 2009, Prince put the video of the Coachella performance on his official website.
In 2010 he declared "the internet is completely over", elaborating five years later that "the internet was over for anyone who wants to get paid, tell me a musician who's got rich off digital sales".
In 2013, the Electronic Frontier Foundation granted to Prince the inaugural "Raspberry Beret Lifetime Aggrievement Award" for what they said was abuse of the DMCA takedown process.
In January 2014, Prince filed a lawsuit titled Prince v. Chodera against 22 online users for direct copyright infringement, unauthorized fixation, contributory copyright infringement, and bootlegging. Several of the users were fans who had shared links to bootlegged versions of Prince concerts through social media websites like Facebook. In the same month, he dismissed the entire action without prejudice.
Prince was one of a small handful of musicians to deny "Weird Al" Yankovic permission to parody his music. By Yankovic's account, he'd done so "about a half-dozen times" and has been the sole artist not to give any explanation for his rejection beyond a flat "no".
Prince was romantically linked with many celebrities over the years, including Kim Basinger, Madonna, Vanity, Sheila E., Carmen Electra, Susanna Hoffs, Anna Fantastic, Sherilyn Fenn, and Susan Moonsie. He was engaged to Susannah Melvoin in 1985. In 1990, he met 16-year-old Mayte Garcia backstage in Germany after he saw a tape of her dancing. She moved into his Paisley Park home and he became her guardian. After graduating high school, she began working as one of his backup singers and dancers. When she was 19, he instructed her to get on birth control, thus beginning their sexual relationship. They were married on February 14, 1996; he was 37 and she was 22. They had a son named Amiir Nelson, who was born on October 16,
1996 and died a week later on October 23 after suffering from Pfeiffer syndrome. The distress of losing a child and a subsequent miscarriage took a toll on the marriage, and the couple divorced in 2000. In 2001, Prince married Manuela Testolini in a private ceremony. They separated in 2005 and divorced in May 2006.
Prince was an animal rights activist who followed a vegan diet for part of his life, but later described himself as vegetarian. The liner notes for his album Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic (1999) featured a message about the cruelty involved in wool production. He became a Jehovah's Witness in 2001, following a two-year debate with bassist Larry Graham who became his mentor and a close friend at this time. Prince said that he did not consider it a conversion, but a "realization", comparing it to "Morpheus and Neo in The Matrix". Prince attended meetings at a local Kingdom Hall and occasionally knocked on people's doors to discuss his faith.
Prince had needed double hip replacement surgery since 2005. A false rumor was spread by the tabloids that he would not undergo the operation because of his refusal to have blood transfusions. The Star Tribune reported that Graham "denied claims that Prince couldn't have hip surgery because his faith prohibited blood transfusions" and put the false rumor to rest as hip surgery does not require blood transfusions. According to Morris Day, Prince in fact had the hip surgery in 2008.
Prince did not speak publicly about his charitable endeavors; the extent of his activism, philanthropy, and charity was publicized after his death. In 2001, Prince donated $12,000 anonymously to the Louisville Free Public Library system to keep the historic Western Branch Library, the first full service library for African Americans in the country, from closure. Also in 2001, he anonymously paid off the medical bills of drummer Clyde Stubblefield, who was undergoing cancer treatment. In 2015, he conceived and launched YesWeCode, paying for many hackathons outright and performing at some of them. He also helped fund Green for All.
In late March 2016, Prince told an audience he was writing a memoir, tentatively titled The Beautiful Ones.
• For You (1978)
• Prince (1979)
• Dirty Mind (1980)
• Controversy (1981)
• 1999 (1982)
• Purple Rain (1984)
• Around the World in a Day (1985)
• Parade (1986)
• Sign o' the Times (1987)
• Lovesexy (1988)
• Batman (1989)
• Graffiti Bridge (1990)
• Diamonds and Pearls (1991)
• (Love Symbol Album) (1992)
• Come (1994)
• The Black Album (1994)
• The Gold Experience (1995)
• Chaos and Disorder (1996)
• Emancipation (1996)
• Crystal Ball (1998)
• The Truth (1998)
• The Vault: Old Friends 4 Sale (1999)
• Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic (1999)
• The Rainbow Children (2001)
• One Nite Alone... (2002)
• Xpectation (2003)
• N.E.W.S (2003)
• Musicology (2004)
• The Chocolate Invasion (2004)
• The Slaughterhouse (2004)
• 3121 (2006)
• Planet Earth (2007)
• Lotusflow3r (2009)
• MPLSound (2009)
• 20Ten (2010)
• Plectrumelectrum (2014)
• Art Official Age (2014)
• HITnRUN Phase One (2015)
• HITnRUN Phase Two (2015)
• Piano and a Microphone 1983 (2018)
Sources: Last.fm, Wikipedia
Prince in the news
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