Passings: Prince (1958 - 2016)

The musical world has been shocked and is in deep mourning after the announcement that Prince has died at the age of 57.

Authorities were called to the singer's home, Paisley Park, in Chanhassen, MN this morning about 9:30 AM with a report that a male was not breathing at the residence. Ambulance and fire crews arrived and began CPR but to no avail.

Prince had been ill recently with "flu like" symptoms, cancelling two shows and, last weekend, having his airplane do an emergency landing so he could be taken to the hospital. He later told his fans "Wait a few days before you waste any prayers."

Born Prince Rogers Nelson in Minneapolis on June 7, 1958, his father was a pianist and songwriter and his mother a jazz singer. Both he and his sister, Tika, were interested in music from an early age with Prince writing his first song, Funk Machine, at the age of 7.

Prince, his cousin Charles Smith and his friend Andre Cymone formed the group Grand Central while still in High School. After Smith left and Morris Day joined, they changed their name to Champagne and became popular in local clubs.

In 1976, Prince recorded a demo tape that was shopped around by Minneapolis businessman Owen Husney, resulting in his signing with Warner Brothers at the age of 17. His first album, For You, on which he reportedly played all 27 instruments, was released in 1978 and, although it only made it 163, the album established him in the scene.

His second album, Prince, did much better, peaking at 22 on the strength of the hit I Wanna Be Your Lover (1979 / #11 Pop / #1 R&B / #2 Dance). He followed with Dirty Mind (1980) and Controversy (1981).

It was also at that time that he formed the group The Time, using a clause in his record company contract that allowed him to write and produce for others. Bringing in Morris Day, Jerome Bennett and Jesse Johnson along with the remnants of the group Flyte Time which included Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam. Prince played most of the instruments on their debut album and kept his hands in the group throughout their career which produced such classics as Jungle Love, The Bird and Jerk Out.

Prince hit the mainstream big with the 1982 release of his album 1999, which became his first top ten album and produced three huge hits, the title track (1982 / #12 Pop / #4 R&B), Little Red Corvette (1983 / #6 Pop / #15 R&B) and Delirious (1983 / #8 Pop / #18 R&B).

With his music being played on Top Forty radio and in constant rotation on MTV, he decided to strike out in a new direction by starring in the 1984 motion picture Purple Rain. Critics hailed him in the semi-autobiographical role and fans paid $80 million dollars for tickets. It went on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song Score, including the hits When Doves Cry (1984 / #1 Pop / #1 R&B), Let's Go Crazy (1984 / #1 Pop / #1 R&B), Purple Rain (1984 / #2 Pop / #4 R&B) and I Would Die 4 U (1984 / #8 Pop / #11 R&B).

While always a bit quirky, Prince surprised fans in 1985 when he said he would stop touring and doing music videos after his next album, Around the World in a Day (of course, he didn't keep either plan). The album became the second of his three chart toppers and included the hits Raspberry Beret (1985 / #2 Pop / #3 R&B) and Pop Life (1985 / #7 Pop / #8 R&B). He followed with Parade (1986) with the hit Kiss (1986 / #1 Pop / #1 R&B) and Sign O' the Times (1987) with the title track (1987 / #3 Pop / #1 R&B), U Got the Look with Sheena Easton (1987 / #2 Pop / #11 R&B) and I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man (1987 / #10 Pop / #14 R&B).

In early 1988, Prince had completed and Warner Brothers had pressed 500,000 copies of The Black Album but the singer suddenly decided to withdraw the set from release and, instead, went back in the studio to record Lovesexy.  While popular, it was his first album to not make the top ten in seven years. The associated tour also lost money due to it's costly production values.

In 1989, he recorded nine songs for Tim Burton's film Batman, including the number one single Batdance, one of his biggest selling tracks but, today, mostly forgotten.

The 1990's were nowhere near as successful for Prince as the previous decade. He formed his new band The New Power Generation and recorded such albums as Graffiti Bridge (1990), Diamonds and Pearls (1991) and the album with a strange hieroglyph on the cover that Prince took as his name in 1993. Now known as "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince", he recorded three more albums for Warner Brothers, along with seeing the long delayed release of The Black Album, before his much publicized break from the label.

His first independent release, Emancipation (1996) continued to show the changes that he was going through as an artist. For the first time, there were covers on the album and, on the quirky side, each of the three-CD was exactly sixty minutes long.

Next was 1998's Crystal Ball, this one a 5-CD set and, although he was being extremely prolific, his sales had significantly decreased with Crystal Ball/The Truth only going to 62.

He returned to a major label in 1999, signing with Arista, and went on a publicity binge to promote his new set Rave Un2 the Joy Formidable. It went to 18 but was his last major album for five years. In 2000, he changed his name back to Prince and experimented with jazz infused soul on The Rainbow Children (2001 / #109) and the instrumental album N.E.W.S. (2003).

Finally, in 2004, he returned to the heights of the charts with a one-off album for Columbia, Musicology. The album reached number 3 on the Billboard 200 with much of the "sales" being attributed to one of the first cases of an album being given away when tickets were purchased for one of his shows.

Two more independently release non-charting albums followed until 2006 with the release of his fourth and final number 1 album, 3121. It was the start to a resurgence in the singer's career that would last until his death.

Over the last few years, Prince has constantly surprised fans with new modes of performing. While he always was one to go late into the night in some of his late night parties, he began doing series of shows in one city, announcing concert at the last minute to try and avoid scalping and, in his final tour, taking the stage with only himself and a piano.

Along with his regular fights with labels and publishers, Prince was also very protective of his intellectual property. He sued YouTube and eBay in 2007 for not filtering out copyrighted material and, later, went after his own fan sites for what he deemed illegal use of his image.

Prince was married twice, to Mayte Garcia from 1996 to 1999 and to Manuela Testolini from 2001 to 2006. He and Garcia had a son in 1996 that died within a week of birth.

He was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility (2004).







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