Prince Rogers Nelson († April 21, 2016 in Chanhassen, Minnesota) was an American singer, composer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, music producer and actor.
Prince was active in the music business since 1978. Especially in the 1980s, he influenced the international music scene by combining different musical genres. The stylistic spectrum of his music ranged from contemporary R&B, funk, soul, pop and rock to blues and jazz. Prince wrote his own lyrics, and also composed, arranged and produced his songs. He also played instruments such as guitar, electric bass, piano, keyboard and drums. In most of his studio recordings, he played all the instruments himself.
Prince made his international breakthrough in 1984 with the single and album Purple Rain to the film of the same name, in which he also plays the leading role. During his lifetime, more than 100 million of his records were sold worldwide and Prince won seven Grammy Awards, an Oscar in 1985 and a Golden Globe Award in 2007. In 2004, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In the 1990s, Prince firmly championed the rights to his intellectual property, which he showed, among other things, through his opposition to record companies. Due to differences with his record company at the time, Warner Bros. Records, he dropped his stage name from 1993 to 2000. During this period, instead of a pronounceable name, he wore a symbol as a pseudonym and was often referred to as “The Artist Formerly Known As Prince” or TAFKAP for short. After the end of the contract with Warner Bros. Records, the musician called himself Prince again from May 2000.
At the beginning of the 21st century, he increasingly distanced himself from the music industry and chose unconventional distribution channels for his recordings; some of his albums were at times only available via the Internet or as an insert in a commercial newspaper.
Posthumous tributes to Prince”s career have included Barack Obama, Bono, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Madonna, Mark Knopfler, Michael Jordan and Mick Jagger. Since 2017, all of the musician”s record releases have been officially administered by The Prince Estate.
Childhood and youth
Prince Rogers Nelson was born in Minneapolis in 1958. He was named after the stage name “Prince Rogers” of his father John Louis Nelson († August 25, 2001), who was a full-time employee of Honeywell International in Minneapolis and in his spare time performed on the local stage as a jazz pianist with his band The Prince Rogers Trio. While performing in Minneapolis in 1956, Nelson met jazz singer Mattie Della Shaw († February 15, 2002), who had black and white ancestors. He hired her as a singer in his jazz band, and on August 31, 1957, the two were married. From his first marriage to his wife Vivian (1920-1973), Nelson brought four children. Mattie Shaw also already had a son (1953-2019) with her first husband (1918-1992).
In a later interview, John L. Nelson explained that he named the first son in his second marriage Prince so that he could realize what Nelson had set out to do for himself. the Nelsons also had a daughter together, Tyka Evene, who is thus Prince”s only full sister.
The couple lived together in a house in Minneapolis with seven children from three different relationships until they separated physically in 1965 and divorced on September 24, 1968. John L. Nelson moved out, and Prince stayed with his mother, who was involved with Hayward Julius Baker († December 29, 2010) from 1967 and later married him. “I could not stand him from the beginning,” Prince said of his stepfather in a later interview. had Mattie Shaw and Baker a son together, making him one of Prince”s six half-siblings.
Because of disputes with Baker, Prince moved in with his biological father in 1970 at the age of twelve. But John L. Nelson banished his son from the house in 1972 because he had met with a girl. From then on, Prince lived with his aunt, Nelson”s sister, until he was finally taken in by Bernadette Anderson (1932-2003) in 1973. The latter was divorced and also had six children. Prince had already met her son André Simon Anderson (* 1958), who later called himself André Cymone, at school in 1965.
From August 1985 to the end of April 1986, the 160 cm tall singer Prince was engaged to Susannah Melvoin and lived with her in Chanhassen in Minnesota. From 1987 he was engaged to Sheila E., who ended the relationship in 1988. The couple kept their partnership and engagement secret at the time. It was not until September 2014 that Sheila E. made both public in her autobiography.
On August 8, 1990, Prince met Mayte Garcia, a dancer 15 years his junior, at a tour concert in Mannheim. With the then underage Garcia Prince was then permanently in touch; he integrated her in 1992 as a dancer and background singer in his backing band The New Power Generation. On February 14, 1996, the two were married in Minneapolis, and the marriage produced a son, who was born on October 16, 1996, in Minneapolis. The child was premature, suffered from Pfeiffer syndrome type 2 with physical and mental disabilities, and died after one week on October 23, 1996. In August 1997, Garcia was pregnant again, but suffered a miscarriage three months later. In the summer of 1998, Prince and Garcia separated, and she moved to Marbella to a mansion Prince had bought her. The marriage was divorced in May 2000.
The second time Prince married on December 31, 2001 in Hawaii, this time the Canadian Manuela Testolini (b. September 19, 1976), whom he met in 1997 on his then Love-4-One-Another-Charities tour, where she worked as a consultant. The marriage remained childless, and on May 24, 2006 Testolini filed for divorce.
From the fall of 2014 until his death, Prince was in a relationship with singer Judith Hill, which Hill only announced on June 16, 2016 – two months after Prince”s death. News and reports concerning his private life, Prince commented decidedly rarely. He rigorously shielded it.
On the evening of April 14, 2016, Prince finished his second concert of the day at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia, around 23:30. On the overnight flight home, he lost consciousness and his rented private jet made an emergency landing at 01:00 in Moline, Illinois, about 60 minutes into the flight before his scheduled arrival in his hometown of Minneapolis. He had overdosed on the painkiller Percocet, a combination drug of oxycodone – a powerful opioid – and acetaminophen, after which rescue workers administered the opioid antagonist naloxone as an antidote while he was still on the airfield. He was then admitted to a hospital. He had been addicted to medication for years, according to The New York Times, and Sheila E. said after Prince”s death that as a result of years of dancing in high heels, he had suffered from hip and knee pain.
Prince left the hospital in Moline around 8:30 a.m. on April 15 and flew back to Minneapolis. On April 20, due to a “severe medical emergency,” his management contacted California-based physician Howard Kornfeld, who specializes in patients with a drug addiction. Since Kornfeld was unable to attend, his son Andrew, a co-worker and medical student at the time, flew to Minneapolis to visit Prince the following day.
On April 21, 2016, Prince was found lifeless in an elevator at his Paisley Park studio in Chanhassen by his personal assistant and collaborator Kirk Johnson, prompting Andrew Kornfeld to alert emergency services at 9:43 a.m. local time. Attempts at resuscitation were unsuccessful and Prince was pronounced dead at 10:07 a.m. local time at the age of 57. The body was cremated the next day. Prince”s urn is designed as a miniature model of his Paisley Park studio, decorated with the purple symbol he wore as his stage name from 1993 to 2000. The urn is located in the Paisley Park Studio, but can no longer be officially visited.
On June 2, 2016, Minnesota coroners released the autopsy report; the cause of death was determined to be an overdose of the painkiller fentanyl, which Prince had self-administered. The musician”s death is being called accidental. In August 2016, investigators announced they had found tablets during a search of the Paisley Park studio at 2:28 p.m. local time on April 21, 2016, which, according to the imprint on the medication package, were the painkiller hydrocodone; however, the tablets actually contained the far more potent opioid fentanyl, for which Prince had not had a prescription. Doctors did not write the prescriptions under his real name, but used an alias for Prince to disguise his true identity. The evidence says there is nothing to suggest Prince knowingly took fentanyl. Where the musician obtained the fake painkillers could not be determined.
Two years after Prince”s death, prosecutors ended their investigation on April 19, 2018, without charges; no evidence of malicious motive, felony, intent or conspiracy has been found. After the prosecutorial investigation concluded, Prince”s family filed lawsuits against the musician”s treating physicians, but all were dismissed by U.S. courts in late 2019.
Since Prince had not written a will, his biological sister Tyka Evene Nelson (b. 1960) and his then five living half-siblings Sharon Louise Nelson († Sept. 3, 2021), Alfred Alonzo Jackson († Aug. 29, 2019) and Omarr Julius Baker (b. 1970) were named heirs by court order in May 2017.
But a legal dispute arose over Prince”s estate, which included real estate holdings as well as the value of his music catalog and recordings of unreleased records. Most notably, Comerica Bank & Trust, probate court responsible for Prince”s estate, and the United States Internal Revenue Service could not agree on a unified sum. In the process, the three younger siblings, Tyka Nelson, Alfred Jackson and Omarr Baker, were represented by U.S. music publisher Primary Wave, as it bought out all or most of the interests from the three in the summer of 2020, giving it a 42 percent stake. The three older siblings, Sharon Nelson, Norrine Nelson and John Rodger Nelson, were represented by Charles F. Spicer Jr, a court-appointed consultant as well as director and music producer, and attorney L. Londell McMillan (b. 1966), who worked with Prince in the 1990s and 2000s, advising him on legal matters.
In January 2022, nearly six years after Prince”s death, all parties finally agreed on a sum of $156.4 million (about 140 million euros at the time), which means the distribution of the assets could begin in February 2022. The assets will be divided between Primary Wave and Prince”s three oldest siblings or their families. The settlement of Prince”s estate was considered one of the most complicated and expensive probate cases in Minnesota history, with tax collectors withholding tens of millions of dollars from Prince”s estate.
When Prince”s father John L. Nelson moved away from his family, he left his piano in the house. Prince took advantage of this to learn to play the piano himself. When he lived with André Anderson”s family starting in 1973, the two teenagers did a lot of things together and learned to play guitar, electric bass, keyboards, drums, and later synthesizers. Together with a second cousin of Prince, they formed their first band Phoenix. It was named after a 1972 album by the band Grand Funk Railroad, and Prince took over vocals and played electric guitar. After Phoenix was renamed Soul Explosion, Grand Central Corporation became the band”s new name in 1974. It covered songs by well-known performers. The drums in Grand Central Corporation were taken over that same year by Morris Day, who later became the lead singer of the band The Time. In 1975 Prince was hired by the musician Pepé Willie (* 1948) as a studio musician and recorded various songs with his band 94 East, but they were not released until 1986 on the album Minneapolis Genius.
In the spring of 1976, Grand Central Corporation was renamed Shampayne and Prince recorded more songs with the band at the MoonSound studio in Minneapolis. This studio belonged to English-born Chris Moon (* 1952), who wrote poems and lyrics that he wanted to set to music. Prince helped him with this and in return was allowed to record his own music in the MoonSound studio free of charge. This allowed him to develop his knowledge in sound engineering and also to continue his education as a musician. The band Champagne broke up during this time. Chris Moon advised Prince to drop his last name Nelson and perform under the stage name “Prince”. However, Moon refused to become Prince”s manager. Instead, he contacted Owen Husney (b. 1947), owner of an advertising agency in Minneapolis, and played him songs by Prince. In December 1976, Husney became Prince”s first manager by contract, and the two flew to California in early April 1977. There, Husney had arranged meetings with representatives of various record companies in an effort to secure an artist contract for Prince. On June 25, 1977, Prince signed his first recording contract with Warner Bros. Records, which, among other things, guaranteed him a budget of $180,000 for his first three albums. Prince was under contract with Warner Bros. Records until December 31, 1999.
The first steps in the music business (1978-1981)
The debut album For You was released in April 1978, but the album was not commercially successful, falling short of gold status in the USA. In addition, the production costs were so high that the budget of 180,000 US dollars planned for the first three albums was almost used up with the first one.
In the spring of 1979 Prince hired the management agency Bob Cavallo (* 1939) and Joseph Ruffalo, because of their Italian origin at the time also jokingly called Spaghetti Inc. Together with partner Steven Fargnoli (1949-2001), they took over advisory functions for the artist until December 31, 1988. His second album Prince was much more successful than his first, but Prince considered it a concession to public musical taste. He himself would have preferred to take other musical directions and try new things.
In 1980 his third album Dirty Mind was released, with which Prince finally said goodbye to the image of possibly becoming the new Stevie Wonder. He parted with his Afro look and adopted a short hairstyle. In addition, he often appeared in public during this period in a thong and trench coat, combined with overknees stockings and high heels. In musical terms, Prince became increasingly experimental and devoted himself to musical genres that did not appear on his first two albums.
Prince”s music contained different styles and thus did not appeal to a clear target group. His androgynous appearance and unusual style of dress gave him the image of an eccentric early on. His sometimes very salacious song lyrics and his media shyness also made him seem mysterious. In one of his rare interviews, Prince said at the time that he was “really very shy” with strangers. From 1982 to 1990, he gave only five interviews.
The national and international breakthrough (1982-1986)
The double album 1999, released in October 1982, did not initially play a major role in the U.S. charts until the television station MTV put the music video for the single 1999 into its rotation in December 1982. The album, as well as the singles Little Red Corvette and Delirious, became Prince”s first top ten placings in the U.S. in 1983. This marked his commercial breakthrough and crossover on a national level.
But behind the scenes, tensions arose between him and his band members. Prince had himself shielded by a personal bodyguard. Only during live performances he was still together with his musicians. In August 1983, Prince finally presented a new backing band and called it The Revolution.
1984 was the most commercially successful year of Prince”s career. The album Purple Rain was released and occupied the number one spot on the US album charts for 24 uninterrupted weeks. It also won two Grammy Awards. The album”s lead-off single, When Doves Cry, spent five weeks at number one on the U.S. singles chart. The Purple Rain tour became the most successful tour of Prince”s career; he won an Oscar for best film score for the musical film Purple Rain. Prince also achieved a commercial breakthrough internationally. The rock ballad Purple Rain and the album of the same name reached top ten positions in a number of countries. Purple Rain is Prince”s best-selling album worldwide, with 25 million records.
In the meantime, Prince placed more emphasis on choreography in his performances; idiosyncratic costumes continued to be part of his image. In addition to his high heels, Prince”s stage outfit in 1984 and 1985 was conspicuous for its tight pants with ruffled shirts and lace cuffs, as well as a purple trench coat.
Immediately after the American Music Awards ceremony on January 28, 1985, where Prince won in three categories, numerous musicians met to record the song We Are the World for the music project USA for Africa. A lyric line was set aside for Prince and a place was reserved for him in the studio so that he could sing it right next to Michael Jackson. However, without giving any reason, Prince did not appear and instead later contributed his own song for the album. Thus, he consolidated his reputation as an egocentric.
In 1985 Prince founded the music label Paisley Park Records with the financial participation of Warner Bros. Records. His album Around the World in a Day was released on this label in the same year. It did not reach the sales figures of Purple Rain, but still stood for three weeks at number one on the US album charts. At the end of March 1986 appeared Parade, the last album that Prince recorded in collaboration with The Revolution. It contains Kiss, one of his most successful singles. Parade serves as the soundtrack of the second Prince film Under the Cherry Moon, which, however, did not come close to the success of the film Purple Rain. On October 17, 1986, the separation of The Revolution was officially announced.
Sign “☮” the Times until the name change (1987-1992).
In March 1987, the double album Sign “☮” the Times was released, which critics consider a highlight of Prince”s musical output. Warner Bros. Records wanted Prince to tour the U.S. during this period, but he refused.
On September 11, 1987 opened in Chanhassen, Minnesota, a building complex that cost ten million US dollars at the time. The property was his main private residence until his death, as well as his private music studio and had various recording studios and rooms for concert, video and film recordings. Posthumously, the Paisley Park studio can be officially visited for a fee. Prince”s half-sister Sharon Nelson (b. 1940) said, “He wanted it to be a museum. All the items are strategically placed. That”s what the fans will see. Prince planned it out exactly. He had a vision and he made it happen.”
Prince”s subsequent album should have been released in December 1987 under the name Black Album. But a week before the release date Prince canceled the delivery of the album. The reason he gave in 1990 was that he realized that you could die at any moment and be judged by what you left behind. The Black Album became one of the best-selling bootlegs in music history, selling over 250,000 copies before it was officially released by Warner Bros. Records in November 1994 after all.
Despite good reviews for his last albums, Prince”s popularity in the U.S. declined in 1988, and his commercial success there declined. In contrast, his popularity in Europe grew. For the first time, a Prince album, Lovesexy, sold better in Europe than in his homeland.
When the motion picture Batman was released in June 1989, national commercial success returned for Prince. His album of the same name was released as a soundtrack to the motion picture and, like the single Batdance, became number one on the U.S. charts. The following year, his album Graffiti Bridge served as the soundtrack to his musical film of the same name, but it turned into a failure. Unlike the Batman film, Graffiti Bridge was poorly attended in theaters. As a result, Prince fired his then-management at the end of 1990. Since then, he no longer had a manager and handled his business on his own.
At the end of 1990, Prince formed his new backing band, The New Power Generation, or The NPG for short. This band, whose lineup he changed over the years, supported him in concerts and studio recordings from then on. Thanks to the success of the singles Gett Off and Cream, his 13th album Diamonds and Pearls (1991) became Prince”s second best-selling album worldwide after Purple Rain. However, much like 1983, there was behind-the-scenes tension between Prince and his musicians during the Diamonds and Pearls tour in 1992. For example, the band rode together in a tour bus, while Prince rode separately in a limousine with bodyguards and dancers.
On August 31, 1992 Prince extended his current contract with Warner Bros. Records for six more albums until December 31, 1999. However, all information about financial details of the contents of the contract are speculation, because there are only very different information about it, but no official reports. In 1992 Prince blamed the record company Warner Bros. Records for the moderate sales figures of the following album Love Symbol compared to Diamonds and Pearls. He accused it of not having promoted the album intensively enough. In addition, Prince generally disagreed with the record company about its sales strategy. This had urged him in the past several times not to publish too many albums in succession, in order not to oversaturate the music market with his music. Alan Leeds (b. 1947), then managing director of Paisley Park Studio, said of the musician after Prince”s death in 2016: “But when something didn”t go his way, he decided it was the fault of management and the record company, and ignored decisions he”d made himself.”
The nameless time (1993-2000)
In early 1993, it finally came to open conflict between Prince and Warner Bros. Records. The record company demanded a creative break and wanted to bring a Greatest Hits album of him on the market. Prince then saw himself restricted in his artistic freedom. On June 7, 1993, the 35th birthday of the musician, the Paisley Park Studio announced via press release that Prince was changing his stage name to an unpronounceable symbol, which he called “Love Symbol
In his private life, Prince didn”t mind if family members and longtime friends continued to call him “Prince,” but in public he no longer wanted to be addressed by his old stage name. In the mass media he was now called, among other things, “The Artist Formerly Known As Prince” – abbreviated to “TAFKAP” – or simply “The Artist”, and Prince wrote the term “Slave” on his cheek. As justification, he explained, “If you don”t own your masters, the master owns you.” This statement alluded to the fact that Warner Bros. Records at the time owned the copyrights to all the songs Prince recorded for them during his career. He felt “hobbled and restricted,” Prince expressed in a 1994 interview.
Subsequently, Prince increasingly distanced himself from the ongoing contract with Warner Bros. Records. He himself organized only minimal or no more advertising for his albums and singles released by Warner. From 1993 Prince delivered mainly older and qualitatively weaker song material to the record company to fulfill the contract. Warner lawyers, however, refrained from suing the artist over the matter. A similar lawsuit filed by Geffen Records against Neil Young in 1983 had resulted in a protracted trial, and Warner Bros. Records feared possible damage to its image. In 1994, Warner Bros. Records ended its association with Prince”s label Paisley Park Records, whereupon he founded his label NPG Records that same year, which still exists today. In 1995 Prince snubbed Warner Bros. Records by saying he had 50 new songs and had been working for some time on an album called Emancipation, which would be his first album when he was free again. In the booklet of the album Chaos and Disorder (1996) the following text could be read: “Originally intended 4 private use only, this compilation serves as the last original material recorded by O(+> 4 warner brothers records”.
In the period from 1994 to 2000, Prince also signed contracts with various other record companies under the name of the unpronounceable symbol, with which he released several albums – in parallel with the contract running at Warner Bros. Records. In all the record contracts that Prince signed after his last signing with Warner Bros. Records, he secured the copyrights to his own songs. Those albums that Prince released as a “symbol” with record companies such as EMI or Arista Records, he marketed very intensively. On the occasion of the release of the album Emancipation (1996), for example, Prince was a discussion guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and as part of the international advertising campaign for Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic (1999) he appeared for the first time on German television as a musical guest on Die Harald Schmidt Show.
On August 23, 1997, Prince met bassist Larry Graham at an aftershow in Nashville, Tennessee, after which a friendship developed between the two musicians. From 1998 on, Graham was a regular guest musician at Prince concerts and also participated as a studio musician in Prince productions. Graham was then, as now, a member of Jehovah”s Witnesses; Prince also joined this denomination in 2001 and remained a member until his death.
In January 1998, Prince released the album Crystal Ball. After his years of disagreements with Warner Bros. Records, he now set himself apart from the record industry in general for the first time: he distributed his album exclusively on the Internet via his website at the time. There, a limited 5-CD set edition could be ordered, which was only released by his own label NPG Records.
On December 31, 1999, the contract with Warner Bros. Records ended and on May 16, 2000, The Artist Formerly Known As Prince announced at a press conference in New York that he would return to his original stage name of Prince.
Prince and the Internet (2001-2004)
After the end of his contract with Warner Bros. Records, Prince did not work with any major label for more than four years. Instead, in February 2001, he created his website NPG Music Club.com, where people could register as lifetime members for a fee at the time. With the help of this website, Prince conducted his music distribution from 2001 to early 2004. This allowed him to decide for himself how many and which songs he wanted to release and when, since he was no longer dependent on decisions made by a record company. He was also able to make his music available more quickly, with some of his albums available exclusively as downloads.
For some albums, Prince also signed contracts with independent labels that distributed the albums in the traditional way. Members of NPG Music Club.com could download or pre-order albums for free sale four weeks before the regular release. Prince also offered members other options; for example, they could reserve the best seats for the One Nite Alone Tour (2002) through the website and had access to sound checks that Prince usually gave before each concert.
Prince was honored with the Webby Lifetime Achievement Award, recognizing his use of the Internet. On the one hand, he had been the first artist already established in the music industry to sell an album – Crystal Ball in 1998 – exclusively via the Internet, and on the other hand, he had created NPG Music Club.com in 2001, a contact and sales platform that was novel at the time. NPG Music Club.com, which not only served as the official website but was also a popular fan platform with its extensive information, chat and download options, was closed by Prince in July 2006.
The Comeback (2004-2007)
Prince”s popularity had declined over the years and he was hardly represented in the international charts when he made a comeback in 2004. At the Grammy Awards in February 2004, he appeared with Beyoncé and sang a duet with her on his hit Purple Rain. The Grammy Awards were televised in various countries, so that he came back into the international conversation.
In April 2004, he released his album Musicology. After five years, an album was released that was marketed worldwide in the conventional way with the support of a major label, Columbia Records. Musicology reached double platinum status in the U.S. and was awarded two Grammys. The Musicology tour was the most successful tour of 2004 worldwide.
In 2006 he released the album 3121 on Universal, which received good reviews. It became his fourth and last number one in the US album charts during his lifetime, after Purple Rain (1984), Around the World in a Day (1985) and Batman (1989).
In early February 2007, Prince made a live appearance during halftime of Super Bowl XLI in Miami, reflecting his renewed national popularity. The performance was watched by approximately 140 million U.S. television viewers. He also enjoyed renewed international success; for example, tickets for his appearance at the Montreux Jazz Festival in July 2007 sold out in ten minutes.
Demarcation from the music industry (2007-2013).
Despite the regained success, Prince still did not want to subordinate himself to any record company. Readers of the British Sunday newspaper The Mail on Sunday received the album Planet Earth, released by Sony Music at the end of July 2007, as a free supplement as early as July 15, 2007, because Prince had signed his own contract with this newspaper. Sony BMG Music England considered this to be an affront and as a result did not release the Planet Earth album in Great Britain.
A year later, Prince published the coffee table book 21 Nights. The 256-page photo book documents Prince”s stay in London during his concert series from August to September 2007. In addition, the book contains the CD Indigo Nights, a compilation of various aftershows at the music club indigO2, which Prince gave after the regular London concerts. Indigo Nights was published exclusively as a book supplement and did not go on sale as a CD.
In March 2009, the two albums Lotusflow3r and MPLSound were released, which were only available for purchase via Prince”s website at the time and via the U.S. retail chain Target Corporation, with whom he had signed a contract. In this way, Prince again avoided record companies and organized his CD sales through alternative channels. He ran elaborate advertising for the albums in the U.S. and appeared on various television shows. Outside the USA, the albums were only available as imports at the time.
Prince”s album 20Ten, released in July 2010, was sold in Germany, Austria and Switzerland exclusively as a supplement to the August issue of the music magazine Rolling Stone. In other European countries, too, the CD was only available as a newspaper insert. In this way, Prince once again set himself apart from the music industry and distributed an album in a similar way as he had in 2007. After ten years, he once again gave an interview to a British newspaper. To the Daily Mirror newspaper, he expressed the opinion that the Internet is “completely over”. There would be no downloads of his new songs because he doubted the acceptance of the payment system. However, he believes he will find new ways to distribute his music.
Although Prince signed a contract with Swiss independent label Purple Music in October 2011, he said in September 2012 that he did not want to record a new album at the moment: “We are back in a singles market. It seems crazy to me to come in there with a new album.”
In December 2012, Prince formed a new backing band called 3rdEyeGirl. This band consisted of three musicians Donna Grantis on electric guitar, Hannah Ford on drums and Ida Kristine Nielsen on electric bass.
Last creative period (2014-2016)
On March 31, 2014, Prince”s recording contract with major label Universal, which had been in place since 2005, ended, so in April he signed a new contract with Warner Bros. Records for a period of twelve months and returned to the label. According to the company, he now owned all rights to songs he had recorded for Warner. Nothing was disclosed about financial details of the contents of the contract. At the end of September 2014, Prince released two studio albums with Warner Bros. Records, Art Official Age and PlectrumElectrum. He also deleted his Facebook, Instagram and YouTube accounts at the end of November. Prince did not give an official reason for this.
In December 2015, Prince released his 39th studio album called HITnRUN Phase Two, making it his last album released during his lifetime. HITnRUN Phase Two was distributed through his own music label NPG Records.
On the evening of April 16, 2016, Prince performed in public for the last time; he played two songs on the piano as part of a “dance party” at his Paisley Park studio and announced a new live album called Piano & A Microphone.
The Prince Estate (since 2017)
Since 2017, all of Prince”s recorded music releases have been officially managed by Comerica in collaboration with The Prince Estate. Trustees of The Prince Estate are Troy Carter (Carter was a former music manager for Lady Gaga and has also been an advisor to Spotify since September 2018. Howe was vice president of artists and repertoire at Warner Bros. Records from 2014 to 2017.
In late June 2018, The Prince Estate announced that major label Sony Music Entertainment had acquired the distribution rights to 35 previously released Prince albums. The deal specified two phases: From the conclusion of the contract, Sony could release 23 albums that Prince had released between 1995 and 2010, including singles, B-sides, remixes, non-album tracks, live recordings and music videos released during that period. The second phase began in 2021 and includes twelve more Prince albums from 1978 to 1996, as well as songs from 2014 to 2015. The purchase amount was not disclosed. Until 2021, Warner Bros. Records owned the distribution rights to Prince songs from 1978 to 1994 and from 2014 to 2015.
In 2019, Michael Howe said it was “detective work” to catalog the Prince archive because many recordings were unlabeled. In addition, the amount of music Prince produced and then discarded was “massive,” he said. The archive, he said, has since been moved from Paisley Park Studio in Minneapolis “to a secret and secure location in Hollywood” where it is “very well guarded”; you could call it “a fortress.” Any Prince release will be decided by Prince”s heirs in cooperation with The Prince Estate, he continued. In addition, Howe is in contact with some fan experts. Many tapes, however, are not in good condition, he said, because they “have been collecting dust for decades.” But “irrecoverable” was so far nothing. Howe knows that Prince has said a few times that he was aware that the contents of his archive would be released posthumously. There would be enough material to release “many, many, many years of Prince albums.” But the legal situation is not simple, he said, because various record companies and musicians are involved.
In July 2021, The Prince Estate released Welcome 2 America, a studio album that Prince recorded in 2010 but did not release.
Ever since Prince”s debut album For You in 1978, the phrase “Produced, Arranged, Composed and Performed by Prince” has appeared on the records he released; it can almost be considered his trademark. Prince wrote all the lyrics and melodies of his songs, he also played many musical instruments on his studio albums himself. The accompanying musicians who supported him during the recording of his studio albums only played instruments such as bass, drums or guitar on individual songs. Regular guest musicians on Prince”s studio albums since the 1980s were Clare Fischer and Sheila E., since the 1990s Candy Dulfer, Larry Graham and Maceo Parker, and since 2002 trombonist Greg Boyer. Furthermore, Prince collaborated with violinist Vanessa-Mae in 2003 and with former The Revolution members Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman in 2007.
The typical feature of Prince”s musical work is its stylistic diversity. First, he moved in his career on very different musical terrain, secondly, he repeatedly combined different musical styles in his albums and songs. He can therefore not be assigned exclusively to a particular musical genre.
His musical development began in the 1970s. As a teenager, he played songs with his bands at the time, for example, by performers such as Earth, Wind and Fire, Grand Funk Railroad, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Parliament, Sly & the Family Stone and Stevie Wonder. Prince was also influenced by Carlos Santana and Joni Mitchell.
His first two albums, For You (1978) and Prince (1979), were dominated by contemporary R&B as well as funk, rock and pop with disco influences. In the 1980s, he expanded his musical spectrum and became increasingly inventive in combining different musical styles. Songs from the new wave, rockabilly and rock ”n” roll genres were added to the albums Dirty Mind (1980) and Controversy (1981). 1999 (1982) and Purple Rain (1984) are also influenced by electro funk and electronic dance music. On Around the World in a Day (1985), Prince discovered the hippie era and created an album of psychedelic soul, psychedelic rock and R&B songs.
It was noticeable during this period that he initially dispensed with standard instruments typical of R&B music, such as wind instruments. Instead of saxophone and trumpets, he used synthesizers. It was not until his album Parade (1986) that he also used wind and string instruments – partly in collaboration with arranger Clare Fischer. At the same time, the first jazz influences appeared in his music. The stylistic range of his album Sign “☮” the Times (1987) extends from gospel and soul ballads to R&B, funk and rock. On the album Batman (1989), for the first time he used samples in some of his songs that came from movie quotes from the Batman movie.
Prince first used the Linn LM-1 as a drum machine in 1981 and used it to record some of his songs up to and including 1987. Prior to that and in the years that followed, he usually played in the beats using drums. It was not until the albums Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic (1999) and 20Ten (2010) that Prince again used the Linn LM-1, typical of the 1980s, for recordings of some of his songs. Another typical feature of his studio albums are guitar-heavy songs, which is why Prince was occasionally compared to Jimi Hendrix, although Prince himself held the opinion that he sounded similar to Carlos Santana. In 1983, Prince commissioned the U.S. guitar company Knut-Koupee Enterprises to build his “Cloud” electric guitar, whose shape is based on that of a cloud and was designed by David Rusan. In the 1990s he also played a “Symbol” model designed by David Auerswald, which was later manufactured by Schecter.
In the 1980s, Prince was considered a rebellious pioneer who was not afraid to combine different musical styles paired with sometimes very salacious lyrics. But he gradually lost this reputation in the 1990s. In his albums Diamonds and Pearls (1991) and Love Symbol (1992), he devoted himself to musical styles such as hip-hop and rap, among others, which were increasingly influencing the international music scene at the time. Prince followed trends for the first time, having previously set some himself. Critics accused him of dwindling creativity in the 1990s. The unplugged album The Truth (1998), dominated by acoustic guitars, was hardly noticed because it was released only through his websites at the time. The same was true of the album Crystal Ball (1998), which included songs from the blues and reggae genres.
At the beginning of the 21st century, Prince”s albums were marked by jazz influences. These include The Rainbow Children (2001) as well as the instrumental fusion albums C-Note, N.E.W.S and Xpectation in 2003. The album One Nite Alone (2002) is again an acoustic album, on which Prince this time plays all the songs on the piano.
Beginning with his 2004 album Musicology, Prince returned to the mix of musical styles that had made him famous and successful in the 1980s; R&B, funk, soul, pop and rock elements, backed by wind and string instruments, were present on subsequent albums.
Prince”s song lyrics are mostly about love, interpersonal relationships or sexuality. But also political and socio-critical topics as well as religious and spiritual content appear in his lyrics.
In the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, Prince devoted his song lyrics to various facets of sexuality, among other things. In 1979, for example, he sang about lesbian love in the song Bambi, and the lyrics of the album Dirty Mind (1980) were considered obscene at the time. Whether it was about sexual intercourse, allusions to oral sex or incest – Prince provoked on a whole level. In his lyrics he used metaphors on various occasions. For example, the song Little Red Corvette (1982) seems to be about a vagina rather than a sports car. In this case, cars and horses serve as a metaphor for pleasure.
The song Darling Nikki from the album Purple Rain was the decisive factor in the introduction of the warning “Parental Advisory – Explicit Lyrics” on music releases in the USA in 1984 on the initiative of Tipper Gore. Tipper Gore was snubbed when her then-eleven-year-old daughter heard a line of lyrics in the song that referenced masturbation. However, Prince continued to include obscenities and lewdness in his song lyrics in the years that followed. The single Sexy MF (1992) was played at the time mainly in a censored version on the radio because of the word motherfucker in the chorus. As is clear only from song titles such as Orgasm (1994) and Pussy Control (1995), Prince continued not to shy away from song lyrics with sexual content.
Since the 21st century, however, Prince distanced himself from his overly explicit lyrics and no longer played corresponding songs live. In 2001, he declared in an interview that he wanted to remove all expletives from his song lyrics. Since then, Prince has acted accordingly. It is only on posthumous record releases that song lyrics with sexual content can be heard from him again.
When his lyrics deal with political or socially critical content, Prince typically describes a situation or a topic without making his own opinion known. For example, in the song Annie Christian (1981), he addresses the murder of John Lennon. In the songs 1999 (1982), America (1985), and Crystal Ball (1998), he depicts fears of nuclear war. Other apocalyptic tendencies can be found in the songs Sign “☮” the Times (1987), in which he sings about AIDS and the Challenger disaster, and Planet Earth (2007), in which he describes climate change. Prince also refers to the second Gulf War in the songs Money Don”t Matter 2 Night (1991) and Live 4 Love (1991).
In the song Cinnamon Girl (2004), he deals with the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and in the album Welcome 2 America (2021), Prince addresses issues such as exploitation, capitalism, racism and social injustice.
In some of his song lyrics Prince devoted himself to religious and sometimes spiritual themes. In the song Controversy (1981) he quoted the Lord”s Prayer, and especially the lyrics of the album Lovesexy (they are about God, the devil, guilt and atonement. In the song Dolphin (1995) Prince sings about reincarnation, and on the concept album The Rainbow Children (2001) allusions to Jehovah”s Witnesses can be found.
Characteristic for Prince was his sometimes high falsetto singing. Since Prince sings predominantly with a very high head voice on his first two albums For You and Prince, the music magazine Rolling Stone compared his singing to that of Smokey Robinson in 1979. Further examples of Prince”s falsetto singing can be found on the singles Kiss (1986), The Most Beautiful Girl in the World (1994) and Breakdown (2014).
On some songs, Prince created a vocal effect he called “Camille.” This is when the tape runs slower than normal during the vocal recording. Playing the tape at normal speed creates a pitch-shifting effect that makes Prince”s voice seem slightly higher and faster, as if he were singing under the influence of helium. In particular, on the album Sign “☮” the Times (1987), this voice effect can be heard on some songs. “Camille” is interpreted as an alter ego of Prince – his evil side. The voice effect opposite to “Camille” results in Prince”s voice sounding much slower and very deep, similar to Barry White”s. This deep voice can be heard, for example, in the song Bob George (1994) or on the album The Rainbow Children (2001).
Prince sings most of his lyrics melodically set to music, but occasionally there are passages of spoken word vocals in his tracks. Examples include songs like Controversy (1981), Girls & Boys (1986), and Dead on It (1994), which Prince originally recorded in 1986 and intended for the Black Album. In this song he stutters a lyric that makes fun of the musical genre of rap. Nevertheless, Prince occasionally resorted to this form of performance, especially in the 1990s, performing rap-like vocals in some songs.
Prince took over both the main vocals and other polyphonic vocal tracks in his songs, for example in the a cappella piece For You (1978) or in the songs When Doves Cry (1984) and Gold (1995). The accompanying vocals in his songs are also mainly his, but occasionally he is supported by band members. Occasionally, band members sing complete lines of lyrics in Prince”s songs, such as Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman in songs from the 1980s, Rosie Gaines in songs from the 1990s, Shelby J. in songs from the 2000s, and 3rdEyeGirl in songs from 2013.
On individual songs, Prince duets with guest vocalists such asApollonia Kotero (1984),Sheena Easton (1987 and 1989),Carmen Electra (1992),Nona Gaye (1994),Gwen Stefani (1999),Angie Stone (2001),Lianne La Havas (2014) andJudith Hill, Ledisi and Rita Ora (all 2015). Guest rappers who have appeared on some of his songs include Doug E. Fresh (1998), Chuck D (1999), Eve (1999), Q-Tip (2009) and Lizzo (2014).
Influence on other artists
Prince”s musical influence is reflected in diverse areas of the international music scene. The Boston Globe wrote in 2002 that Prince was one of the most covered artists of his time, and many contemporary musicians incorporated elements of Prince”s musical style into their sound. Musicians from a variety of genres recorded cover versions of Prince songs, includingThe Pointer Sisters (1982),Cyndi Lauper (1983),Tina Turner (1985),Billy Cobham (1987),The Art of Noise featuring Tom Jones (1988),Allen Toussaint (1989),Simple Minds (1989),Big Audio Dynamite (1990),Gary Numan (1992),The Jesus and Mary Chain (1994), TLC (1994),Herbie Hancock (1995),Ginuwine (1996),Laibach (1996),Arto Lindsay (1997),Mariah Carey (1997),Ice-T (1999),Rod Stewart (2001),Patti Smith (2002),Foo Fighters (2003),Etta James (2006),Nina Simone (2008),Robert Randolph and the Family Band (2010),Glee Cast (2011),Sufjan Stevens (2012), andLambchop (2017). Various musicians cite Prince as a role model or formative influence, such as Adam Levine, Alicia Keys, Beck, Bruno Mars, D”Angelo, Lenny Kravitz, Macy Gray, and OutKast.
German musicians such as the Palast Orchester featuring Max Raabe (2001), Joy Denalane (2004), Roger Cicero with Soulounge (2004), Texas Lightning (2005),Uwe Schmidt under the pseudonym Señor Coconut (2008), Lisa Wahlandt (2010), Barbara Morgenstern (2011) and David Garrett (2017) also reinterpreted songs by Prince. The first German-language version of a Prince track was recorded by Michy Reincke in 1992; his version Ich bin nicht Dein Mann is based on the song I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man from the album Sign “☮” the Times, and Adel Tawil makes allusions to the songs Purple Rain and When Doves Cry in the song Lieder (2013). Furthermore, pop singer Helene Fischer included Purple Rain in the setlist of her Farbenspiel tour (2014).
The Swiss rock band Züri West recorded I ha di gärn gha (1994), a Swiss German version of When You Were Mine from the album Dirty Mind, and Austrian jazz musician David Helbock released an album of songs by Prince in 2012.
Some of Prince”s songs became famous not through their original versions, but only through new recordings by other musicians. Chaka Khan recorded an international top ten hit in 1984 with I Feel for You, and Sinéad O”Connor scored a global success in 1990 with the single Nothing Compares 2 U. Prince originally wrote this song for the band The Family – his side project at the time – who released Nothing Compares 2 U on their album The Family back in August 1985. A version interpreted by Prince himself appeared only in 1993 on The Hits
Prince, for his part, very rarely covered songs by other artists for release on his own studio albums; only Emancipation (1996), Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic (1999), One Nite Alone … (2002), Lotusflow3r (2009) and PlectrumElectrum (2014) feature songs by other musicians that he interpreted.
In addition, Prince composed songs for various artists, some under pseudonyms such as Alexander Nevermind, Camille, Christopher, Jamie Starr and Joey Coco. These include Stevie Nicks (1983 Stand Back),Sheena Easton (1984 Sugar Walls),The Bangles (1985 Manic Monday),Kenny Rogers (1986 You”re My Love),Madonna (1989 Love Song),Patti LaBelle (1989 Yo Mister),Joe Cocker (1991 Five Women),Martika (1991 Love… Thy Will Be Done),Paula Abdul (1991 U),Céline Dion (1992 With This Tear),Earth, Wind and Fire (1993 Super Hero) andNo Doubt (2001 Waiting Room). Furthermore, Prince wrote songs for Miles Davis, but the latter never released them as studio versions. On December 31, 1987, Davis appeared as a guest at a Prince concert at Paisley Park Studio for about five minutes. When Miles Davis died on September 28, 1991, Prince wrote the instrumental song Letter 4 Miles two days later as a memorial to him, but he never released it.
Prince also formed bands such as Apollonia 6, Madhouse, The Family, The New Power Generation and The Time. He wrote and produced songs for these bands and, as a mentor, supported the careers of Andy Allo, Carmen Electra, Jill Jones and Sheila E. When the musical careers of Chaka Khan, George Clinton and Mavis Staples were in a commercial slump, Prince signed these artists to his labels Paisley Park Records and, from 1994, NPG Records. He wrote songs for them so that the aforementioned musicians could continue their careers.
Occasionally, Prince acted as a guest musician; for example, he sang backing vocals for Ani DiFranco in 1999, played keyboard for Common in 2002, electric guitar for Stevie Wonder in 2005, bass guitar for Janelle Monáe in 2013, and various instruments for Judith Hill in 2015.
Prince went on more than 30 tours in his career. He not only sang at his concerts, but also played various musical instruments. Thus, during his performances he regularly played guitar or piano, on which he sometimes gave a medley of about 15 minutes. Occasionally he also took up drums, bass or synthesizer. The typical Prince concerts of the 1980s and 1990s were glamorous stage shows with elaborate choreography and dozens of costume changes. From the 21st century onward, Prince largely dispensed with such show effects and focused more on his actual musical abilities; for example, he made each concert individual by choosing a different song. At his live concerts, Prince was accompanied by the musicians and background singers who also participated in the recordings of his respective current studio albums. Sheila E. occasionally guested with Prince on stage from 1984 to 2011.
Prince made his concert debut on January 5, 1979, in Minneapolis before an audience of about 300. Before this concert, he had confessed that he found it extremely difficult to play in front of an audience. In 1980, Prince opened for Rick James with his former band and accompanied him for two months on his Fire It Up tour, gaining live experience.
In the spring of 1981, Prince gave his first concerts in Europe, but the club appearances in Amsterdam, London and Paris did not attract much attention; he was still too unknown in Europe at that time. A low point in his career were two concerts at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in October 1981. At that time he performed with his band as an opening act for the Rolling Stones to promote his fourth album, Controversy. But the performances turned into a debacle: boos and flying projectiles caused Prince to stop his first concert on October 9 after 15 minutes; he played the second concert on October 11 despite flying projectiles again.
Three years later, Prince was at the commercial peak of his career, and the Purple Rain Tour from 1984 to 1985 advanced to his most successful tour in his career, with 1.75 million visitors in the USA. His first world tour in 1986 took him to Germany and Japan, among other places, for the first time.
After Prince changed his stage name in 1993, he chose the songs for his concerts differently. From 1994 to 1996, for example, he dispensed with hits such as When Doves Cry, Purple Rain and Kiss. Instead, he played songs that had not even been released at the time, among others. It wasn”t until 1997, during the successful Jam of the Year tour through the U.S. and Canada, that Prince returned to songs that had made him famous. The tour grossed 30 million US dollars.
The Musicology tour in 2004 was also successful; it was attended by about 1.5 million people in the U.S. and grossed $87 million. “Real music 4 real music lovers” (German: “Echte Musik für richtige Musikliebhaber”) was the slogan of this tour, where every concertgoer received a copy of the album CD as a gift. From August 1 to September 21, 2007, Prince gave 21 concerts at the O2 Arena in London, all of which were sold out and raised $22 million. Every concertgoer was again given a copy of a Prince CD with Planet Earth, and on September 13 Elton John made a live guest appearance on stage with him.
In the 21st century, Prince played several times at music festivals, something he had rarely done before. For example, he performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 2007, 2009 and 2013, participated in the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in 2008 and performed at the Roskilde Festival in 2010. From December 2010 to September 2012, Prince toured worldwide with The New Power Generation on the Welcome 2 America tour. During the U.S. leg of the tour, various guest musicians performed, such as Alicia Keys, Carlos Santana, Janelle Monáe, Nicole Scherzinger and Whitney Houston. In 2013 and 2014 Prince performed live mainly with his backing band 3rdEyeGirl.
On June 13, 2015, Prince gave a live concert in front of 500 invited guests at the White House. The hosts were Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama. Among others, Stevie Wonder performed on stage with Prince and the audience included politicians such as Arne Duncan, Eric Holder and Susan Rice, actors such as Angela Bassett, Connie Britton, Tracee Ellis Ross and Tyler Perry, as well as musicians such as Ciara, James Taylor and Jon Bon Jovi. The occasion of Prince”s concert was the “African-American Music Appreciation Month”, which is celebrated every year in the month of June in the USA.
Prince”s latest tour, Piano & A Microphone, from February 16 to April 14, 2016, toured Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States.
From 1986 on, Prince occasionally played aftershows after his concerts. Sometimes these additional concerts were announced over loudspeakers after the end of his main concerts, sometimes the location was publicized via word of mouth and Twitter. His aftershows started after midnight and took place in smaller music clubs in front of about 300 to 1,000 spectators. The aftershows usually created a more intimate atmosphere between Prince and the audience, as he dispensed with stage shows, choreography and the elaborate light shows of his main concerts.
Prince”s song selection was different from his main concerts; he often dispensed with his top ten hits. Not uncommon, however, were ten-minute instrumental versions of, for example, Billy Cobham, Duke Ellington or Miles Davis songs and cover versions of Aretha Franklin,Carlos Santana, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Mother”s Finest, Parliament
Highlights of some of Prince”s aftershows were guest appearances by well-known musicians. On such live occasions he played together withEric Clapton (August 14, 1986 in London),Ron Wood (July 26, 1988 in London),Buddy Miles (April 6, 1993 in Chicago),Bono (March 31, 1995 in Dublin),Rufus Thomas (August 24. August 1997 in Memphis),Hans Dulfer andLenny Kravitz (both on December 24, 1998 in Utrecht),Alicia Keys (April 10, 2002 in New York),Amy Winehouse (September 22, 2007 in London),Janelle Monáe (December 30, 2010 in New York) andFlavor Flav and Seal (both on May 13, 2012 in Sydney).
Intellectual property defense
In the 1990s, Prince began to consistently protect his intellectual property; in particular, he took several copyright infringement cases to court in the 2000s.
In 1992, Prince sued hip-hop group Arrested Development because the band had illegally sampled the word “Tennessee” for their eponymous single from Prince”s top ten hit Alphabet St. (1988). Arrested Development eventually had to pay $100,000 to Prince. Prince”s lawyer at the time, L. Londell McMillan, forbade reporters from running a recording device during interviews in 1998. In justification, he said Prince wanted to prevent his image, likeness or voice from being used in a way it was not originally intended. In early 1999, Prince hired a law firm to take legal action against various fan sites on the Internet. He accused the operators of the websites of profiting from his image and deliberately giving the impression that he approved of their pages. They were also accused of copyright infringement because they used the Prince symbol for their own purposes.
In 2006, Prince filed a lawsuit in the Berlin Regional Court because a DVD with an illegal Prince concert recording from 1983 was distributed in Germany. The competent court upheld his claim in all parts and the DVD was no longer allowed to be sold. From September 2007, Prince took legal action against cases of alleged copyright infringement on the video portal YouTube, among others, with the help of the company Web Sheriff. A Pennsylvania mother had posted a 29-second video on YouTube of her toddler dancing to Prince”s song Let”s Go Crazy. Prince had the video removed and was subsequently in litigation with the mother, but in August 2008 the case was decided in favor of the mother. Prince also had the music video for his cover version of the song Creep by the band Radiohead removed from YouTube in 2008 because he considered himself the copyright holder. However, Thom Yorke, lead singer of Radiohead, lobbied for the video to be viewed online again. Nevertheless, Prince continued to take legal action in appropriate cases.Thus, no cell phone video recordings of Prince concerts were allowed to be published on the Internet. John Giacobbi of Web Sheriff said the Warner Bros. dispute had made Prince wiser about protecting his rights; if it was about records and CDs then, he was fighting for his online rights in the digital age.
In 2010, Prince had the symbol he had used as a pseudonym from 1993 to 2000 removed from the album cover of the Michael Jackson CD Michael before its release. In June 2011, Prince remarked to British newspaper The Guardian that he should “go to the White House to talk about how to protect copyright.” In 2013, he filed a cease-and-desist letter with Twitter Inc. over eight videos on the video portal Vine that featured moving images with audio recordings of him that he had not approved for use. Vine then removed the videos.
In January 2014, Prince filed a lawsuit in a San Francisco court in California for $22 million against 22 bootleggers who allegedly produced bootlegs of the musician”s concert recordings and distributed and uploaded them over the Internet. “Nobody is suing fans,” Prince said in an interview. Sharing music with each other is “cool,” but selling bootlegs is not. Back in February, Prince withdrew the lawsuit, saying the defendants had removed all illegal downloads.
Prince as an actor and film director
From 1984 to 1990, Prince worked as an actor and film director. However, he was unable to follow up on his successful acting debut in the music film Purple Rain. Although he starred in three more films, which he also directed, none of them came close to matching the commercial success of his screen debut.
Purple Rain was released in U.S. theaters on July 27, 1984. With a budget of seven million dollars, director and screenwriter Albert Magnoli managed to achieve commercial success, as the film grossed almost 70 million U.S. dollars in U.S. box offices at the time and 156 million U.S. dollars worldwide. In the film, Prince plays a young musician trying to break through at the First Avenue music club in Minneapolis. The leading actress is Apollonia Kotero. In 1985, Prince won an Oscar for the film in the Best Original Song Score category.
The U.S. premiere of the black-and-white film Under the Cherry Moon took place on July 1, 1986. Prince, this time a film director himself, plays a gigolo who falls in love with a daughter from a wealthy family on the Côte d”Azur. The latter is played by Kristin Scott Thomas, who was making her cinema debut at the time. But the film turned out to be a failure: it cost twelve million U.S. dollars, but only earned ten million U.S. dollars and received several Golden Raspberries. Prince received this negative award at the 1987 ceremony in the categories “worst leading actor” and “worst director” as well as “worst film song” for the song Love or Money – the B-side of the Grammy-winning single Kiss. In addition, Jerome Benton was voted “Worst Supporting Actor” and Under the Cherry Moon was named “Worst Film” of 1986.
Regardless, Prince again directed a film, this time the concert film Prince – Sign O” the Times, which was released in U.S. theaters on November 20, 1987. The film consists mostly of concert footage shot in Rotterdam and Antwerp during Prince”s 1987 European tour, supplemented by some scenes shot at Paisley Park Studio in Chanhassen. However, after the commercial failure of the previous film Under the Cherry Moon, the Warner Bros. film department did not support the film, so Prince had to look for another distributor. Prince – Sign O” the Times cost $2.5 million and grossed $3 million. The film received very positive reviews from critics.
Graffiti Bridge is the last film that Prince directed. He once again took on the lead role and also served as screenwriter. Madonna was originally slated to star, but she turned down the role after reading the script. Instead, Ingrid Chavez (* 1965) took on the female lead. Furthermore, George Clinton, Jill Jones, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Mavis Staples and Tevin Campbell participated in small supporting roles, playing themselves. He did not want to become a Francis Ford Coppola, Prince admitted after the film”s U.S. premiere on November 2, 1990. Graffiti Bridge was conceived as a sequel to the box-office success Purple Rain, but again fell short of expectations: the film cost seven million U.S. dollars, but grossed only 4.2 million dollars in the United States. Prince was again nominated several times for the Golden Raspberry, but was spared an award at the 1991 ceremony.
Other film projects
Without appearing as an actor himself, Prince participated in various other film projects. In June 1989, the film Batman was released in U.S. theaters, which became one of the most successful films of the year worldwide. Prince contributed the soundtrack of the same name, various songs from the album Batman can be heard in the film. In March 1996, the film Girl 6 by Spike Lee was released in US cinemas and the film”s soundtrack consists of music by Prince compositions. In 1997 he appeared as a guest on Muppets Tonight! and in 2014 in an episode of the US sitcom New Girl. In both appearances he plays himself. Prince received his only Golden Globe Award in 2007 in the category of Best Film Song for the song The Song of the Heart, which he contributed to the soundtrack of the computer animation film Happy Feet.
Moreover, Prince has occasionally been thematized or quoted in U.S. film since the 1980s; for example, Spike Lee makes positive allusions to Prince as an identification figure for African Americans in his 1988 film Do the Right Thing. Another example is the 1990 feature film Pretty Woman, in which the title character, played by Julia Roberts, sings a few lines of the song Kiss in the bathtub and shortly thereafter talks about Prince.
Furthermore, Prince songs can be heard in various films, such as Loose Business (1983), Showgirls (1995), Striptease (1996), William Shakespeare”s Romeo + Juliet (1996), Scream 2 (1997), Get Rich or Die Tryin” (2005), P.S. I Love You (2007), Never Have Sex With Ex Again (2008), Gulliver”s Travels – Something Big Is Coming (2010) and BlacKkKlansman (2018).
During his lifetime, Prince”s career sold over 100 million of his records. After changing his stage name to an unpronounceable symbol in 1993, his commercial success declined. Before the name change, most of his album releases had reached platinum status in the U.S., but the albums afterward very rarely reached that status. It was only after Prince returned to his original stage name in 2000 and returned to a major label in 2004 that he again achieved top ten placements in the international charts.
From 1978 to 2015, Prince released 39 studio albums, 19 of which reached the top ten in the US and four of which reached number one on the charts. In the U.S. singles chart, he was represented with 19 singles in the top ten, five of which reached the top position. In Germany, Prince brought 13 albums into the top ten, but number one remained elusive. In the German singles charts, four of his songs entered the top ten, the highest ranking being Kiss, which reached number four in 1986.
Prince was considered a workaholic and, according to official data, wrote almost 900 songs, some of which were not published by himself but by other musicians. In addition, he composed many songs and some albums such as Camille and Dream Factory, which he did not publish; in 1986 he said in a radio interview that he still had 320 unreleased songs in his safe. In the end, Prince wrote over 1,000 unreleased songs in his lifetime.
The commercial success of Prince in the 1980s was analyzed by Der Spiegel: “Quite significantly, this success is related to his above-average talents as a composer, producer, lyricist and as an inventor of synthetic timbres. In addition, he is a virtuoso musical craftsman.” The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) called Prince a “highly talented composer” and wrote: “This talent, far from being a self-citation, has enabled Prince to do something that otherwise seems almost inconceivable in the pop business, namely to combine high musical standards with commercial reality. On the one hand, to be able to make ”music for musicians sake” – that is, to be heard and appreciated by active musician colleagues such as Sting or Bryan Ferry – and on the other hand, to attract the masses.” In another article, however, FAZ opined, “Prince sells himself with the mixture of ideological naiveté and targeted image strategy that is often typical of American idols.” The Melody Maker, referring to Prince, stated simply: “This man is truly a genius!” Music journalist Barry Graves considered Prince to be very polarizing: one feels toward Prince “only total dislike or total sympathy.” Moreover, Graves wrote, “Prince just offers more than a horny gesture; he performs lust and frustration, great drama and gentle poetry, power and vulnerability – the complete potential palette of rock music. He can do it all, and he shows it all off.
Fellow musicians also commented on Prince; Bob Dylan called him a “boy wonder” and Eric Clapton said, “There”s no one I”ve ever met who can just say, ”Well, he”s OK.” You either hate him or you love him.” Randy Newman admitted, “I admire Prince. He has something to say. I prefer him to Springsteen and really any other musician. He tries new things. And he takes chances once in a while on things that people might not like right off the bat in his music.” Miles Davis said, “You”d be amazed at how much Prince knows about music. And he plays as well as any jazz musician I know.” Rick James took a different view, saying, “Prince is a young mental defective. He”s completely off his rocker. You can”t take his music seriously. He sings songs about oral sex and incest.” Keith Richards didn”t think much of Prince”s music either, saying, “I think Prince is totally shallow. He rides a wave like The Monkees used to ride. He juggles the media very skillfully, but his music is kid stuff.”
In the 1980s, various media reported on an alleged rivalry between Prince and Michael Jackson, both of whom were commercially very successful at the time. Alluding to such comparisons, the British magazine The Face at the time called Prince “Lucifer”s answer to Michael Jackson.” The Star wrote that Prince”s music was “more exciting than anything Michael Jackson will ever come up with: a blend of hard rock and soul, punk and blues, carried by a falsetto voice garnished with strident guitar solos that clearly reveal the master”s reverence for Jimi Hendrix.”
The Stuttgarter Zeitung described Prince”s eccentric image in 1987: “He occupies 27 single rooms, ten double rooms and three suites in the ”Graf Zeppelin” hotel, because he already has five bodyguards with him. Not to mention the cook, who is supposed to look over the shoulder of his Zeppelin colleagues so that they don”t spoil the Prince”s breakfast egg. His Highness himself deigns to ennoble two suites with his presence, because a Bechstein grand piano and all the body-building equipment simply need space. He also had his own bed linen flown in: white satin with yellow and pink flowers on it, and two sheepskins as a set. The man wants to be comfortable, that”s for sure.” In contrast, Cat Glover, Prince”s dancer in 1987, said after the musician”s death, “We were on the tour bus; Prince took us to McDonald”s and ordered cheeseburgers for everybody. That was his way of saying, ”I can be normal, too.””
In a 1990 review of the 1980s, Melody Maker wrote of Prince: “He was to the eighties what Little Richard, Bob Dylan and Johnny Rotten were to the fifties, sixties and seventies.” The Süddeutsche Zeitung said, “If Elvis dominated the fifties, the Beatles the sixties and David Bowie the seventies, then this decade is the decade of a physically small but creatively great pop genius from Minneapolis.” Pop music critic Karl Bruckmaier said, “Prince is way ahead on his journey into the next decade, and we”re all lucky to be in his bandwagon.”
In the 1990s, Prince”s popularity increasingly declined. Partly responsible for this was his name change in 1993, which was made fun of in various media. Echoing the lyric line “My Name Is Prince – and I am funky” (1992), the New Musical Express wrote: “My name is O(+> – and I am funky!” US radio journalist Howard Stern called Prince “The artist people formerly cared about”. The U.S. music magazine Rolling Stone wrote: “Normal artists slip up once in a while, but this guy specializes in public-relations disasters that confuse his loyal fans and thoroughly undermine his status as the great genre-bending innovator of the last decade.”
Between 1993 and 2000 Prince gave more interviews than ever before in his career, during which time he sometimes spoke of himself in the third person. For example, he told the British magazine Time Out in 1995: “Prince never used to give interviews. You have to ask Prince why he acted the way he did, and right now they”re not talking to him. They”re talking to me.” In 1999, he told Welt Online: “Me? I had no success in the eighties. Prince had success in the eighties.”
Of Prince”s musical qualities in the 1990s, Entertainment Weekly judged, “This clever fellow keeps coming up with a few good tricks, but the holes in between get bigger on every record,” and the Chicago Sun-Times asked, “Prince: what happened? In the Eighties, Prince Roger Nelson dominated pop music just as Elvis Presley made his mark on the Fifties and John Lennon and Paul McCartney shaped the Sixties. The bold experimentation of songs like Kiss and When Doves Cry, with their minimalist rhythm tracks and edgy guitar solos, has been replaced by heavy-handed pandering to the rap market – and an aesthetic that”s more about indifference than innovation. The fresh vigor that drove his best songs-starting with tracks like 1982”s 1999 and even as late as 1990”s Graffiti Bridge-seems to weaken with each record that comes out in the nineties.”
Rolling Stone considered the 1995 release of the album The Gold Experience an artistic bright spot: “On this LP, our former Prince shows his most versatile side since 1987”s Sign “☮” the Times.” Similarly, the Detroit Press opined in 1996: “Emancipation powerfully reminds us that the former Prince is among the most creative and innovative musicians of the late twentieth century – at least when he”s trying.” Prince had his own take on those years of his career; when asked by The New York Times in 1999 if his album Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic was anything like a comeback attempt, Prince replied, “I never left.” Entertainment Weekly summed up, “Prince is not a pop star designed on the drawing board, but an unusual and brilliant oddball with cult potential who”s had a few huge hits along the way.”
When Prince reverted to his original stage name in 2000, he said at the scheduled press conference in New York that the unpronounceable symbol had been a means of breaking away from “unwanted relationships.”
In 2004, Prince was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Alicia Keys and OutKast gave the eulogy, with Keys saying the following about Prince: “There”s only one man so loud he can make you all soft, so strong he makes you weak, and so honest he makes you feel ashamed.” Prince also gave a speech, saying, among other things: “Without true spiritual guidance, too much freedom can cause the soul to corrupt. So a word to young artists: a true friend and mentor is not on your payroll. I wish you all the best on this fascinating path. It”s not too late. “As a result, the media became more interested in Prince again. Also in 2004, his album Musicology was released, in which several critics saw a comeback of Prince. The U.S. music magazine Rolling Stone wrote: “Since the early nineties, he”s seemed to get lost in his own bizarre fixed ideas – the woolly, religiously-influenced fusion jazz of 2001”s The Rainbow Children and the aimless instrumental improvisations of 2003”s N.E.W.S were just the latest examples. Musicology, on the other hand, is now as appealing, to-the-point and utterly satisfying an album as Prince has recorded in ages.” The British newspaper The Guardian found “that Prince has finally awakened from the self-pitying rigidity that has now lasted ten years.” The e-zine PopMatters celebrated Prince as “one of the last of a dying breed: the cross-generationally attractive pop icon. There”s still no successor in sight, so we should be grateful he hasn”t run out of juice yet.” But there were also less enthusiastic voices. The New Musical Express said it was “sadly wishful thinking to suggest that Musicology is the first really good Prince album since his best days in the Eighties.” The website Pitchfork Media expressed, “I can”t see how anyone can seriously talk about a comeback or suggest that he”s returning to his former best form here.”
In 2010, Prince was honored with a BET Award for lifetime achievement. Stephen G. Hill, president of the BET Society, highlighted his “unique style,” saying, “Prince is dynamic, Prince is genius, Prince is music.” In 2011, Rolling Stone updated its list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time,” in which it placed Prince at number 27.
In 2013, Prince was ranked second behind Bruce Springsteen in Rolling Stone”s “Currently 50 Best Live Acts”. Furthermore, he was accepted as a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; the Academy chooses the Oscar winners every year. In 2015, Rolling Stone created a list of the 100 greatest songwriters of all time, in which it placed Prince at number 18. In the same year, the same magazine put the musician in 33rd place in its list of The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.
After Prince”s death on April 21, 2016, a great many celebrities spoke out about the musician, for example, then-President of the United States Barack Obama said, “Today, the world has lost a creative icon. Few artists have more clearly influenced the sound and development of popular music, or touched so many people with their talent. He was a virtuoso instrumentalist, a brilliant bandleader and an electrifying performer.” Bono of U2 tweeted, “I never met Mozart, I never met Duke Ellington or Charlie Parker. I never met Elvis. But I did meet Prince.” Bruce Springsteen expressed, “I felt a great kinship with Prince. Since the sixties and seventies and your Sam & Daves and your James Browns, he is one of the greatest show people there is.” Madonna wrote on Instagram that Prince changed the world and was a true visionary. Elton John also got in touch on Instagram, saying, “The best artist I”ve ever seen. A true genius. Musically way ahead of any of us.” Mark Knopfler said, “He was a versatile songwriter, singer, instrumentalist and producer who brought great joy to so many.” Michael Jordan said, “In a world of creative artists, Prince was a genius. His impact not only on music but on culture is truly unmeasurable,” and Katy Perry wrote, “And just like that…the world has lost a lot of magic.” Mick Jagger said, “Prince was a revolutionary artist as well as a wonderful musician and composer. His lyrics were original and he was an excellent guitarist. His talent was inexhaustible. He was among the most outstanding artists of the last 30 years.” In addition, Aretha Franklin, Dwayne Johnson, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Kevin Bacon, Magic Johnson, Olivia Wilde, Paul McCartney, Reese Witherspoon, Russell Crowe, Samuel L. Jackson, Slash and Susan Sarandon, among others, commented.
The Recording Academy, which presents the Grammy Awards each year, wrote: “Never conformist, he redefined and forever changed our musical landscape. Prince was an original who influenced so many, and his legacy will live on forever.” He was one of the most gifted artists of all time, he said.
Prince died on the Queen”s 90th birthday, which is why, among other things, Niagara Falls was illuminated in purple. Falsely, it was reported in various mass media that this was done in honor of the musician, which did not correspond to the facts; the project was announced a week earlier, because the color purple is associated, among other things, with the royals. Only when Prince”s death became known during the day of April 21, 2016, the organizers spontaneously announced that Niagara Falls would also be lit in purple in honor of the musician.
Shortly after Prince”s death, older albums and songs by the musician re-entered the international charts in many countries; for example, in Germany, seven albums and four singles were able to place posthumously in the Top 100. In the U.S., a total of 4.41 million Prince albums were sold from April 21 to April 28, 2016, and in May, Prince posthumously set a new record; in one week, 19 of his albums were simultaneously in the Billboard 200, something no artist had previously achieved. In addition, five of his albums were in the top ten, which also no artist had previously achieved. Before Prince, The Beatles held the record in 2004 with 13 albums in the Top 200 at the same time.
In 2017, the US company Pantone LLC adopted a purple hue in honor of the musician with the name of his pseudonym “Love Symbol
In celebration of the 2020 Grammy Awards, a tribute concert for Prince titled “Let”s Go Crazy: The Grammy Salute to Prince,” which featured performances by Beck, Chris Martin, Common, Earth, Wind and Fire, FKA twigs, Foo Fighters, Gary Clark Jr, H.E.R., John Legend, Juanes, Mavis Staples, Miguel, Misty Copeland, Sheila E., St. Vincent, Susanna Hoffs, The Revolution, The Time and Usher, among others. The concert was broadcast on U.S. television on April 21, 2020, the fourth anniversary of Prince”s death.
On May 7, 2021, French soccer club Paris Saint-Germain announced it was collaborating with The Prince Estate and released Partyman (1989), a limited edition vinyl single and streetwear collection. At the end of October 2021, the business magazine Forbes updated its list of “Best-Paid Dead Celebrities,” in which Prince ranked second with $120 million (approximately 103.3 million euros). However, this income implies the sale of an estimated 42 percent of his estate, which three of his siblings had concluded with the private U.S. music publisher Primary Wave in July 2021.
Prince received during his lifetime, among other things, an Oscar and seven Grammy Awards. Posthumously, he was nominated again for a Grammy at the Grammy Awards 2022 in the category “Best Historical Album” for the album Sign o” the Times Super Deluxe Edition. In addition, the song he composed, Nothing Compares 2 U, in the version of Chris Cornell, was nominated in the category “Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance”. But the Grammys went to Joni Mitchell and the Foo Fighters.
Studio albums (selection)
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