Happy birthday to Prince Rogers Nelson, who was born on this day in 1958 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to proud parents John L. Nelson and Mattie Shaw.
Little did they know their son would become the global superstar musician, multi-instrumentalist, arranger, composer, songwriter, record producer, and actor formerly known as Prince, and for a while as an unpronounceable symbol.
Prince was named after his father, a jazz pianist and songwriter whose stage name was Prince Rogers, and his mother, singer with the Prince Rogers Trio.
The young Prince (whose childhood name was "Skipper") wrote his first tune, "Funk Machine", on his father's piano when he was seven. His first band was Grand Central (later known as Champagne), which he joined with his cousin, Charles Smith, while they were attending Minneapolis's Central High School. After recording demos at the age of 17, Prince signed a recording contract with Warner Bros, who agreed to give the young performer creative control of his first three albums.
Prince saw some success with hits on the R&B charts and made his breakthrough in late 1982 with the double album, 1999, which went on to sell over three million copies. The title track was a protest against nuclear proliferation and became his first top ten hit in countries outside the U.S.
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".
Prince's 1984 album Purple Rain sold more than 13 million copies in the U.S. and spent 24 consecutive weeks at #1 on the chart. The film of the same name won an Academy Award and grossed more than $80 million.
Prince had now arrived. At one point in 1984, Prince simultaneously had the number one album, single, and film in the U.S., the first time a singer had ever achieved this feat.
Thanks to Prince we have the "Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics" sticker on album sleeves after Tipper Gore heard her 12-year-old daughter Karenna listening to Prince's song "Darling Nikki". The now-estranged wife of Al Gore went on to found the Parents Music Resource Center, which advocates the mandatory use of the warning label to advise language or lyrical content 'unsuitable for minors'.
More hits, films, and more hits followed; Prince was now a superstar and as a result romantically linked with many celebrities including Kim Basinger, Madonna, Sheila E., Carmen Electra, and Susanna Hoffs from The Bangles.
Prince became a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses in 2001 saying he didn't consider it a conversion, but a "realization" and occasionally knocks on people's doors to discuss his faith. He has reportedly needed double hip-replacement surgery since 2005 but won't undergo the operation unless it is a bloodless surgery because Jehovah's Witnesses do not accept blood transfusions. The condition is rumored to be aggravated by repeated onstage dancing in high-heeled boots.
What else do we know about Prince? Here are a few facts:
He is a vegetarian and was once voted the "world's sexiest vegetarian".
During the legal battle between His Purpleness and Warner Bros, he appeared in public with the word "slave" written on his cheek.
"Prince" is a trademark owned by Paisley Park Enterprises, Inc.
He's worked under many pseudonyms including Jamie Starr and The Starr, Alexander Nevermind, and Christopher (used for his songwriting credit on "Manic Monday" for The Bangles).
The unpronounceable symbol (who is just 5' 2" without his high heeled-boots) is, in my opinion, a musical genius who can outplay most rock guitarists, write a blinding pop tune, and still look sexy at 53! Happy birthday, Your Highness.