Prince Rogers Nelson (June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016) was an American singer, songwriter, musician, record producer, dancer, actor, and filmmaker. With a career spanning four decades, Prince was known for his eclectic work and flamboyant stage appearances. He was also a multi-instrumentalist and regarded as a guitar virtuoso. Prince was also known for his very wide and extensive vocal range, in particular his far reaching falsetto and high pitched screams. His innovative music integrated a wide variety of styles, including funk, rock, R&B, new wave, soul, psychedelia, and pop.
Born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Prince developed an interest in music as a young child and wrote his first song, "Funk Machine", at the age of seven. He signed a recording contract with Warner Bros. Records at the age of 17 and released his debut album For You in 1978. His 1979 album Prince went platinum, and his next three albums—Dirty Mind (1980), Controversy (1981), and 1999 (1982)—continued his success, prominently showcasing his explicit lyrics as well as blending of funk, dance, and rock music. In 1984, he began referring to his backup band as The Revolution and released Purple Rain, the soundtrack album to his successful film debut of the same name. It quickly became his most critically and commercially successful release, spending 24 consecutive weeks atop the Billboard 200 and selling 25 million copies worldwide. The film itself grossed more than $68 million at the box office in the United States and over $80 million worldwide, thus making a large profit on its $7.2 million budget. The film also won an Oscar for Best Original Song Score, the last to receive the award. After releasing the albums Around the World in a Day (1985) and Parade (1986), The Revolution disbanded, and Prince released the 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.
In 1993, in the midst of a contractual dispute with Warner Bros., he changed his stage name to an unpronounceable symbol (), also known as the "Love Symbol," and began churning out new albums at a faster rate in order to sooner meet a contractually required quota and so release himself from further obligations to the record label. He released five records between 1994 and 1996 before he signed with Arista Records in 1998. In 2000, he began referring to himself as "Prince" again. He released 16 albums after that, including the platinum-selling Musicology (2004). His final album, Hit n Run Phase Two, was first released on the Tidal streaming service in 2015. Four months later, at the age of 57, Prince died of an accidental fentanyl overdose at his Paisley Park home and recording studio in Chanhassen, Minnesota.
Prince Rogers Nelson was born on June 7, 1958, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the son of jazz singer Mattie Della (née Shaw) and pianist and songwriter John Lewis Nelson. All four of his grandparents hailed from Louisiana. Prince was given his father's stage name, Prince Rogers, which his father used while performing with his mother in a jazz group called the Prince Rogers Trio. In 1991, Prince's father told A Current Affair that he named his son Prince because he wanted Prince "to do everything I wanted to do". Prince was not fond of his name and wanted people to instead call him Skipper, a name which stuck throughout his childhood. Prince has said he was "born epileptic" and had seizures when he was young. He stated, "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 younger sister, Tyka, was born on May 18, 1960. Both siblings developed a keen interest in music, which was encouraged by their father. Prince wrote his first song, "Funk Machine", on his father's piano when he was seven. Prince's parents divorced when he was 10. His mother remarried to Hayward Baker, with whom she had a son named Omarr; Prince had a fraught relationship with his half brother Baker to the extent that it caused him to repeatedly switch homes, sometimes living with his father and sometimes with his mother and stepfather. Baker took Prince to see James Brown in concert, and Prince credited Baker with improving the family's finances. After a brief period of living with his father, who bought him his first guitar, Prince moved into the basement of the Anderson family, his neighbors, after his father kicked him out. He befriended the Andersons' son, Andre, who later collaborated with Prince and became known as André Cymone.
Prince attended Minneapolis' Bryant Junior High and then Central High School, where he played football, basketball, and baseball. He was a student at the Minnesota Dance Theatre through the Urban Arts Program of Minneapolis Public Schools. He played on Central's junior varsity basketball team, and continued to play basketball recreationally as an adult. Prince met songwriter and producer Jimmy Jam in 1973 and impressed Jimmy with his musical talent, early mastery of a wide range of instruments and work ethic.