Born June 7, 1958, rock star Prince came into this world as Prince Roger Nelson; he was named for the Prince Roger Trio, a musical aggregation for which his father played. In light of his carefully cultivated public image -- the arrogant aloofness, the covey of bodyguards, the overemphasized androgyny -- it is sometimes easy to forget that Prince was uncommonly talented; in addition to his singing and composing skills, he was proficient at two dozen musical instruments. Prince's 1978 recording debut came and went without fanfare, but his third album, Dirty Mind, topped the charts. Even more popular was his sixth album, the double-Grammy winner Purple Rain, which of course was derived from his 1984 debut film -- which won an Oscar for Original Song Score. Though he insisted that Purple Rain was purely a work of fiction, the story line involves a young black pop singer from Minneapolis whose father is a traditionalist musician, so draw your own conclusions. Prince not only starred in his next picture, Under the Cherry Moon (1985), but also directed. Lensed in black-and-white, the film is a stylish hark-back to the film noir of the late '40s, far better directed than its detractors would have you believe; however, Prince the director would have been better off firing Prince the actor. Prince's last film work was Graffiti Bridge (1990), a sequel to Purple Rain. Later, Prince would change his name to an unpronouncable sign (a combination of the male-female symbol), although he was usually referred to as "the Artist Formerly Known as Prince". In 1999, he changed his name back to Prince. He continued touring and releasing albums at an almost prodigious rate. In 2007, he won a Golden Globe for writing a song from Happy Feet and played the halftime show at Super Bowl XLI just a few weeks later. Coincidentally, he played himself in a post-Super Bowl episode of New Girl in 2014, winning rave reviews for his fun turn. Prince died at his Paisley Park estate in 2016, at age 57.
Biography by Hal Erickson
- Was born with epilepsy and had seizures as a child.
- Had a mainstream breakthrough in 1984 with the film Purple Rain, in which he starred. The soundtrack album sold 13 million copies and featured the year's top-selling single, the hypnotic "When Doves Cry."
- A racy song on Purple Rain, "Darling Nikki," so enraged Tipper Gore that she started the Parents Music Resource Center, leading to parental advisory album stickers.
- His 1987 double album, Sign 'O' the Times, went platinum and turns up often in lists ranking the greatest albums of all time.
- Wrote Sinéad O'Connor's 1990 single "Nothing Compares 2 U."
- Received the Soul Train Lifetime Achievement Award in 1992.
- In 1993, changed his stage name to an unpronounceable symbol and was often referred to as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.
- Became a Jehovah's Witness in 2001.
- Was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.
- Was named music's top earner in 2004 by Rolling Stone magazine after banking $56.5 million that year.
- Was the halftime performer at Super Bowl XLI.