Prince Rogers Nelson (June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016) was an American singer, songwriter, musician, record producer, actor and filmmaker. A prominent music figure of the 1980s, Prince was known for his eclectic work, flamboyant stage presence, extravagant fashion sense and use of makeup, and wide vocal range. A multi-instrumentalist, he was considered a guitar virtuoso and was also skilled at playing the drums, percussion, bass, keyboards, and synthesizer. Prince pionereed the Minneapolis sound, which is a subgenre of funk rock with elements of synth-pop and new wave, in the late 1970s.
Prince was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and developed an interest in music as a young child; he 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, showcasing his prominently explicit lyrics and 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 film debut. It quickly became his most critically and commercially successful release, spending 24 consecutive weeks atop the Billboard 200 and selling over 20 million copies worldwide. 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, while in a contractual dispute with Warner Bros., he changed his stage name to an unpronounceable symbol (), also known as the "Love Symbol," and began releasing new albums at a faster rate to remove himself from contractual obligations. 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 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 on December 2015. Five months later, at the age of 57, Prince died of an accidental fentanyl overdose at his Paisley Park recording studio and home in Chanhassen, Minnesota.
The Minneapolis house where Prince stayed with André Cymone's family, pictured in August 2017
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. His ancestry is centered in Louisiana, with all four of his grandparents hailing from that state. 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, and his mother remarried to Hayward Baker, with whom she had a son named Omarr; Prince had a troubled relationship with Baker, causing 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 Jimmy Jam in 1973 in junior high, and impressed Jimmy with his musical talent, early mastery of a wide range of instruments, and work ethic.