Part 1 - May U Live 2 See The Dawn
Prince Rogers Nelson was born at the Mount Sinai Hospital, Minneapolis, on 7th of June, 1958. His father, John L. Nelson, a pianist, would name Prince after his own band, a New Orleans jazz trio - the Prince Rogers Band - whom his Italian wife, Mattie Shaw, had been their singer. The scourge of Racism across the Southern States in the 1950s found Mattie and John relocate north to 915 Logan Avenue, Minneapolis - one of the most racially tolerant cities of North America. His sister Tika 'Tyka' Evene was born in 1960, however, John and Mattie separated in 1968.
At aged 12, Prince ran away from home and became introverted. He became a keen and proficient basketball player but, with his 5ft 2in frame, was too short to be picked for a major team and so turned his attention to another passion, and teaching himself numerous musical instruments, namely the piano - first learning the TV theme to Batman. It was at the John Hay Elementary School where he met André Simon 'Cymone' Anderson, whom together in 1974 formed a band named Grand Central, comprising Prince's cousin Charles Smith (on drums), André (bass), Linda Anderson - André's sister (keyboards), with Terry Jackson and William Daugherty on percussion. They were later joined by Daugherty's cousin, Morris Day who replaced Charles on drums. The band was renamed Champagne in 1976, shortly before Prince's graduation from Central High School in June that year. In 1977 Prince and André found employment as session musicians, recording with Pepé Willie's funk band, 94 East. Pepe was the husband of Prince's cousin and had formed his band in 1975, named after Interstate 94. The encounter propelled Prince on his musical career and he leveraged the time in the studio to record his own demos, which included Do Me, Baby and I Feel For You.
After touting the demos at record labels such as RSO, ABC, A&M, and Columbia, Prince decided upon the label that granted him full artistic control of his music - Warner Brothers, an established label whose flagship band was Fleetwood Mac, but one not known for signing black artists (this was in the day when black music had its own chart). When asking Prince how he wanted to name his band, he replied that he wanted it to be named after him, simply, Prince. The contract was signed on 25 June 1977 and at the tender age of 18 Prince had become the youngest record producer in music - and is presented with a cheque for $80,000 for a three album deal. Prince decamped to Los Angeles that August to Record Plant Studios to record the first album, at where he meets his key musical influence Sly, of The Family Stone. His first album For You was released on 7 April the following year, with every track on it not only produced, but performed, arranged, and composed by himself. His first single, Soft And Wet, became a moderate success, hitting number 12 on the soul charts.
Prince assembled a band to perform on stage with him; André (on bass) and Bobby Z. (drums), Dez Dickerson (guitar), with Gayle Chapman and Matt Fink (on keyboards). Their first concerts took place at the Capri Theatre on 5 and 7 January 1979, playing to 300 people. Feeling that he needed a manager, Warner's put Prince in touch with the Hollywood management partnership who had earlier brought to fame Earth Wind And Fire; Bob Cavallo, Joe Ruffalo and Steve Fargnoli. Prince quickly set about working on his second album; self-titled Prince it gained his first hit I Wanna Be Your Lover. Released in August 1979 the song was Prince's declaration of affection for LA jazz keyboardist, Patrice Rushen. It was during this time Prince embarked on his first tour; as the headline act on the club circuit. This mini tour evolved and finished with Prince joining Rick James for nine weeks as the support act for his tour 'Fire It Up', from February 1979 playing 42 dates and led to Prince's first televised performance, on the popular show American Bandstand, aired on CBS on 26 January 1980. Californian-born Lisa Coleman would replace Gayle as the keyboardist in his band during September 1980. Gayle quit it over disagreements about her singing the highly erotic lyrics of Head during the tour. By December, Prince was back on the road again, this time as the headlining act - the Dirty Mind Tour, supporting his third album, Dirty Mind. During the tour he would perform in Europe for the first time and received excellent reviews, playing to 1,000 capacity theatres, and on 9 and 11 October 1981 became the lowest billed support act for The Rolling Stones on their LA shows at the Memorial Coliseum. After performing just two songs of the second show Prince and his band were ungraciously booed off the stage.
Following the tour Prince began recording a debut album for Morris Day who had recently formed a group of of one, The Time. Prince's involvement on the record was under the pseudonym Jamie Starr, in case the album failed. But it was during this time André and Prince's friendship dissolved, Mark Brown 'Brown Mark' taking over as bass player. Despite the positive reviews, Prince was still searching for his big break. Prince began work on his fourth album, Controversy, and took with him The Time for the supporting tour. During the tour, which ran for 55 shows, Prince worked on a second album for The Time and a yet another side project, Vanity 6. Prince's career breakthrough came with the release of his fifth release, and double album, 1999. Selling 4 million copies in the US alone, its second single Little Red Corvette, became his first major hit, making number 6 on the Billboard charts. Because of this, the subsequent supporting tour, in which Prince supported by The Time and girl group, Vanity 6 - billed as the Triple Threat - grossed $10m, and filled 20,000 capacity venues. The album would see Prince on the cover of the coveted Rolling Stone magazine, and compared in the media alongside Michael Jackson as the first crossover artists to transcend black music into the appeal of white audiences. Prince would later resent comparisons with Jackson and a rivalry between them ensued. Dez Dickerson, however, departed the band when the tour finished in April 1983. So Prince set about forming a new band, to replace Dez with Wendy Melvoin and naming the group 'The Revolution'. Prince then began writing his sixth album, Purple Rain on which recording began in August 1983. He also in this time wrote a second album for Vanity 6, but when the then lead singer and girlfriend of Prince, Denise "Vanity" Matthews, quit the group assumed the name of her replacement, Apollonia 6, after Mexican actress and singer Apollonia Kotero (whom would play Prince's female lead and muse in the movie Purple Rain). It is at this time Prince also pens Sugar Walls for Sheena Easton, under the name of Alexander Nevermind; Manic Monday for Appollonia but is later given to The Bangles, and Nothing Compares 2 U which is in 1990 given to Sinead O'Connor.
Part 2 - New Power Generation
Amid the 1999 Tour, manager Bob Cavallo begins to tout Prince to Hollywood who after some persuasion convinces Warner Films to finance the $7 million movie documenting Prince's troubled early life, growing up in Minneapolis and his increasing insecurity performing alongside The Time for the same bill during the tour. Titled Purple Rain it was filmed during November 1983 to March 1984, between Minneapolis and Los Angeles, and directed by Albert Magnoli of whom had only one previous movie under his belt. Scriptwriter William Blinn wanted to base the story on Prince's life, and was to be shot on location at First Avenue, the club Prince often performed since 1980 when known as Sam's. The soundtrack for the film was recorded live at a local warehouse. And for a segment of the film Magnoli asked an additional track to be created and based on Prince's troubled life, the track written became When Doves Cry.
During the whirlwind of Purple Rain's success Prince also managed to give some attention to work with long term friend Shelia Escovedo for her debut album, The Glamorous Life. The first single from Purple Rain, When Doves Cry, was released in May 1984 and became not only his first number one single, but the biggest selling of his career - remaining in the charts for 16 weeks. Its second single, Let's Go Crazy, released just two months later, would also top the Billboard charts. It was a good portent for the success of the album and his resulting meteoric rise to stardom. The album itself was released on the 25th of June, selling 14 million copies. Its accompanying film was premiered at Grumman's Chinese Theatre, Hollywood the following day. The film grossed $70m and was one of the year's major blockbusters, and the soundtrack too won acclaim with an Academy Award for Best Original Score on 25 March 1985. The Purple Rain Tour was an instant success - selling 1.7 million tickets and breaking venue records across its 90 shows; the tour grossed $30m, and attracted crowds such as 55,000 in attendance of the final show, Miami's Orange Bowl on 7 April 1985. The album held the number one position on the charts for a staggering 24 weeks, and won Prince three American Music Awards in January 1985 and no less than three Grammy Awards on 26 February 1985 (two for Purple Rain: Best Original Album and Performance, and one for Chaka Khan's version of I Feel For You, Best R&B Single - of which also went to number one in the charts. Prince used part of his earnings from this success to construct his own recording complex in Chanhassen, Minneapolis, which he names Paisley Park and is set up as a subsidiary of Warner Brothers. One of the first artists signed to his new Paisley Park Records was Jill Jones whom Prince had known since 1980; appearing also in the film Purple Rain, he was keen to showcase her vocal talent and thus wrote every song on her debut self-titled album, under the pseudonym Joey Coco.
Because of scheduling commitments for the Purple Rain Tour, Prince had to decline the offer to sing on the LiveAid single, We Are The World, but instead records 4 The Tears In Your Eyes on set at the New Orleans Superdome for the accompanying album; the video of his performance of the song was aired during the LiveAid concert in Philadelphia. His next album was expected to match the euphoria of Purple Rain, and although mostly written during the tour, its style was vastly different to that his fans and the media was expecting for its follow up. Still, the psychedelically infused Around The World In A Day shipped 4.2 million copies worldwide, and produced his fourth number one single with Raspberry Beret, the video of which garnering him an MTV award. With The Time having disbanded after their third album, Ice Cream Castle, Prince begins yet another side-project called The Family. He also ventured back into movie-making for his second film, Under The Cherry Moon; shot in Nice, France from September to November 1985, and having requested a purple Rolls Royce despite the film being shot entirely in black and white, the filmed bombed, but its soundtrack, Parade, faired considerably better. Kiss became his fifth single to reach number one in the US charts, it also won him a fourth Grammy award, for Best Vocal Performance. Prince toured the album extensively in Europe, which immediately sold out its 150,000 tickets, and was joined by Shelia E. as the support act. Towards the end of 1986 he began another project for Shelia E., plus one for an instrumental jazz/funk quartet Madhouse (Prince on keyboards, Shelia drums, Eric Leads sax, and Levi Seacer bass).
Prince announced the disbanding of The Revolution on 17 October 1986 because he wanted the creative process to be just him again. His ninth studio project Sign O' The Times, and second double album, was much reworked to purge the Revolution's input, and was released to critical acclaim on 30 March 1987. Although it produced three top ten singles, including U Got The Look - a duet with friend Sheena Easton, and the album failing to strike a chord with the American audience, the accompanying tour focused on Europe to shore up Prince's fan base overseas. His two shows planned for Wembley Stadium were cancelled due to poor weather and problems in finding large indoor venues at short notice forced the entire UK leg of the show being pulled. However, 350,000 fans managed to catch the tour on its 34 other dates. Footage from the live shows in Holland were spliced together with extra scenes filmed at the newly finished Paisley Park studios for its concert 'movie' which took great strides to rebuilding his following in the US. Paisley Park, Prince's private studio complex was officially opened on 11 September 1987, and built to the final cost of $10m housed two huge studios for filming as well as a 12,400 square foot sound stage for rehearsals which are available to rent until 1996. As a record label the studios will be credited to all Prince's albums until 1993 as well as a host of other artists and acquaintances.
Under the name Camille, Prince set about working on a new, and as it would prove to be, much controversial album. In December 1987, days before its planned release, Prince pulled the release of the unnamed work which was known simply as The Black Album since no cover art had as yet been commissioned. Having felt that the lyrical content of the album was too violent and erotic (having been written during an experimentation with ecstasy) he hurriedly began working on replacement album, and one in far more a positive tone, which he finished in February 1988. Taking a mere three months to complete, Lovesexy became one of the quickest albums turned around from writing to release. But again, selling poorly in the US yet extremely well in Europe, the Lovesexy Tour stayed on friendly ground and concentrated again in Europe, selling 500,000 tickets to stadium-sized venues across its 77 dates. The show (performed 'in the round') proved so lavish that it barely broke even despite selling out. Frustrated with his moderate impact in the US, Prince fires his management team, Cavallo, Ruffalo and Fargnoli in January 1989 - appointing Purple Rain director, Magnoli, his new manager.
To rebuild US interest in their star act, Warner Brothers encouraged Prince to contribute to the soundtrack for their new movie, Batman. Since its director Tim Burton hoped to include 1999 and Baby I'm A Star in the soundtrack, Prince decided to write an album of entirely new material instead and wrote and recorded it alone. It was a considerable success, selling 6 million copies Prince's Batman soundtrack became one of the fastest selling albums in history (1 million copies sold within the first week) and the track Batdance spawned Prince's sixth number one single. Latching on to this renewed success Warner's approached Prince to write the script for a third film and its soundtrack Graffiti Bridge. The album, recorded mainly on synthesisers and with Prince working largely alone, was in fact reworked material of older songs, and included performances from The Time, in what was their first collusion with Prince since the shooting of Purple Rain.
Graffiti Bridge the film was shot entirely at Paisley Park, all in just 36 days, and completed in March 1990. The film was in essence an updating and remake of Purple Rain (one-upmanship between two bands) but was unable to come close to matching the cinematic success of its forerunner. The album, however, performed considerably better and was released towards the end of the Nude Tour, which saw Prince yet again stay clear of the US it was attended by 1 million people throughout its 112 shows throughout Europe and Japan. Performing only few songs from either Batman and Graffiti Bridge it was during this tour that Prince's love for playing with a live band would be rekindled, and out went his drum machines and computerised samplers. But Prince himself was still very much wonting for a big commercial hit record to restore the enthusiasm of his US following back home and refresh the approach for his next album from top to bottom.