June 7, 1958 — April 21, 2016
Prince reigned unchallenged in contemporary music as the world’s most iconic artist. Forging a unique state-of-the-art pop sound culled primarily from a blend of rock, funk, gospel, and soul, combined with a strong vocal range and flamboyant stage presence, he emerged in 1979 as a premier performer and sustained an almost 40-year career of super-stardom.
As well, the singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist (guitar, drums, percussion, bass, keyboards, synthesizer), music producer and film star, won seven Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe, and an Academy Award, selling upwards of 100 million releases internationally.
At 19, he issued his debut album For You in 1978. The following year’s Prince went platinum with the success of singles “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?” and particularly, the runaway chart-topper “I Wanna Be Your Lover.”
Over the course of his next three records, Dirty Mind, Controversy and 1999, Prince established his staying power as a figure in the industry. In 1984 came his landmark album, Purple Rain. Serving as soundtrack to the hit film, it spawned several huge singles.
The movie also facilitated the emergence of Morris Day and The Time and gave the location, Minneapolis’s First Avenue, a national profile. After Around the World in a Day (1985) and Parade (1986), his backup band The Revolution disbanded and Prince released the classic double album Sign o’ the Times (1987), then three more before his band The New Power Generation formed in1991.
In the 1990s, Prince embarked on a battle with his record company Warner Bros., in protest of the label’s insistence that the artist release less music. He also fought for the rights to his masters, a battle he eventually won in 2014 when he and the label reconciled.
Prince released five albums between 1994 and 1996 and between 2000 and last year, issued 15 releases, including his last, HITnRUN Phase Two in 2015 on his label NPG Records.
In addition to Morris Day, Prince was key in launching the careers of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Sheila E, Vanity, Apollonia, The Family, and Carmen Electra. He also worked on comeback projects for Larry Graham, Chaka Khan, and Mavis Staples, and penned hits for pop acts like The Bangles (“Manic Monday”) and Sinead O’Connor (who re-recorded The Family’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” to great success), to name a few.
Prince Rogers Nelson died at age 57 at his Paisley Park recording studio and home in Chanhassen near his native Minneapolis, on April 21. It was reported that he had been suffering from flu-like symptoms for roughly two weeks.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.