Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Ryan Neal
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary. Posted by Ryan Neal
Purple Rain, Cream, 1999
Currently Known For:
Purple Rain, Cream, 1999
“I never meant to cause you any sorrow. I never meant to cause you any pain. I only wanted to one time to see you laughing. I only wanted to see you laughing in the purple rain.” Among the greatest musicians to ever live, Prince was an iconic singer, musician, and songwriter known for his live performances, flamboyance, and unusual fashion sense that he brought to the stage. In addition to his wide vocal range, Prince was a talented musician known for his abilities on the keyboard, bass, drums, and percussion as well as his commitment to exploring a variety of musical genres from psychedelic and soul to new wave, rock, funk, pop, and R&B.
After launching his career in the mid-1970s, Prince skyrocketed to fame at the age of 17 with his debut album, For You. He followed up with Prince (1979), Dirty Mind (1980), Controversy (1981), and 1999 (1982), all of which sealed his place in the music industry. By the 1990s, his controversial dispute with Warner Bros led to a name change before he signed on with Arista Records and reclaimed his name and place in the spotlight as Prince. He released 16 more albums with his last album, Hit n Run Phase Two, hitting shelves in December 2015. Along the way, his albums generated over 100 million sales worldwide while earning him numerous accolades including eight Grammy Awards, six American Music Awards, an Academy Award, and a Golden Globe Award. Also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Prince was in the middle of his stellar second act when an accidental overdose on fentanyl took his life on April 21, 2016, at 57 years old. With his last album now three years old, let’s take a closer look at Prince’s rise to fame and his legacy in the music industry!
Prince Rogers Nelson came into this world on June 7, 1958, in Minneapolis, Minnesota where his father was a pianist known as Prince Rogers and his mother was a jazz singer in the Prince Rogers Trio. Growing up in a musical family, it was only a matter of time before Prince became interested in music. At seven years old, he wrote his first song, “Funk Machine,” on his father’s piano and knew he wanted a career on the stage.
When Prince was 10 years old, his parents divorced and he spent the next few years dividing his time between his father’s house and his mother’s house, whom she shared with her second husband, Hayward Baker. Because of Prince’s troubled relationship with Baker, he spent more time at his father’s where he taught himself to play guitar and befriended his neighbors—the Anderson family and their son, Andre Cymone. In fact, Prince later lived in the Anderson’s basement after his father kicked him out.
At Central High School, Prince and Andre formed their own band known as Grand Central. They later changed the name to Champagne as they took the stage in several live performances. The band, however, was short-lived as Prince set out on his own and recorded several demo tracks. These tracks ended up in the hands of Warner Bros who offered the 17-year-old a recording contract. Dropping out of high school to pursue music full time, Prince released his debut studio album, For You, in 1978 and followed up with his self-titled second album in 1979. It wasn’t long afterward that Prince realized he was famous. “It happened very fast,” he said. “I had some old clothes on because I was going to help a friend move houses and some girls came by and one went, ‘Ohmigod, Prince!’ And the other girl went, ‘That ain’t Prince.’ I didn’t come out of the house raggedy after that.”
As Prince topped the music charts and went platinum, Prince enjoyed overnight success and was a millionaire and music icon by the age of 21. Throughout the 1980s, he enjoyed ongoing success and released Dirty Mind (1980), Controversy (1981), and 1999 (1982), all of which featured a mix of rock, funk, and dance beats. During this time, Prince formed his own rock band known as The Revolution, who played backup on his 1984 album, Purple Rain. The album was actually the soundtrack for Prince’s first film, Purple Rain, a musical drama starring Prince himself. The film grossed over $80 million at box offices around the world and earned Prince an Oscar for Best Original Song Score.
By the end of the 1980s, Prince dissolved The Revolution and relaunched his solo career. He released several hits including The Black Album and Lovesexy as well as the soundtrack album to the 1989 blockbuster, Batman. He joined Madonna for her 1989 studio album, Like a Prayer, and went back on the road with the Nude Tour in 1990. The following year, he took the stage with his new band, the New Power Generation, and released his next album, Diamonds and Pearls, in 1991.
Over the next few years, Prince experienced growing tension with Warner Bros who couldn’t keep up with his steady outpouring of music. Prince’s music suffered during this time until he finally emancipated from the label after changing his name from “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince” to the “Love Symbol.” He released his 36-song set, Emancipation, in late 1996 to mark his new freedom. The album featured covers of hits like “One of Us,” “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” and “La-La (Means I Love You).”
In 1998, Prince released his five-CD collection, Crystal Ball, and fans went wild as they preordered the album a year in advance. A year later, he signed on with Arista Records and found even greater success with the release of Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic (1999). Resuming his name as Prince, he saw his career make a huge turnaround in the new millennium with the release of his first live album, One Nite Alone… Live! in 2002. Two years later, he stunned fans when he joined Beyoncé on stage to open the 46th Annual Grammy Awards and, a month later, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.New Music, New Millennium
Prince signed a one-album agreement with Columbia Records in 2004 and released the chart-topping album, Musicology, which revitalized his career. Named the greatest front man of all time, Prince was at the height of his career when he launched the Musicology Tour and was named the highest earning musician in the world with an annual income of over $56 million, largely due to the tour itself. Aside from earning Prince a hefty paycheck, the album also earned him a handful of awards including two Grammy Awards for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance and Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance.
In 2005, Prince signed on with Universal Records to release his next album, 3121, which he promoted on an episode of Saturday Night Live. He made the rounds at various awards ceremonies and was later inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame before taking the stage at the Super Bowl XLI for the Halftime Show in February 2007. The performance was ranked as the greatest Super Bowl performance in history and kicked off Prince’s 21-concert tour in London, which was extended after 140,000 tickets sold in 20 minutes.
Over the next few years, Prince continued performing and working on new music like “Purple and Gold,” which he released in January 2010. He showcased his new and old hits on the 20Ten Tour throughout Europe and ended the year on a bang when he was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in December 2010. The following year, he headlined the Hop Farm Festival and released a handful of singles before surprising everyone when he returned to Warner Bros after an 18-year split in 2014. He released a remastered edition of the 1984 Purple Rain album in 2014 to celebrate the album’s 35th anniversary and launched his Hit N Run Part One Tour. To spice things up on the tour, Prince announced the show’s venue on the day of the event via Twitter to keep his fans tuned in to his every move.
The Hit N Run Part One Tour was another huge accomplishment and left many wondering how Prince stayed timeless after so many years in the industry. During an interview with Essence magazine, Prince let everyone in on his secret—a lesson he learned after the grueling Purple Rain World Tour in 1984. “Ninety-nine shows and the seventy-fifth show almost broke me,” Prince admitted. “It wasn’t that the tour was grueling. That’s part of the game. It was that the show didn’t change. The same songs. Played the same way. Every single time. I had to perform them that way because the movie was out, the album was out, and I thought that people wanted to hear the songs in the exact way they were recorded.”
Prince eventually learned that people simply wanted to hear and see him perform, which gave him more freedom to live in the moment on stage. That’s exactly how he described his performances and his creativity. “When I’m onstage, I’m out of body. That’s what the rehearsals, the practicing, the playing is for. You work to a place where you’re all out of body. And that’s when something happens,” he said. “You reach a plane of creativity and inspiration. A plane where every song that has ever existed and every song that will exist in the future is right there in front of you. And you just go with it for as long as it takes… You can tell me I was onstage for four hours, but it doesn’t feel like that to me. We were all out of body out there. Sometimes it isn’t until we’re in the car after a jam where I feel my leg tighten up. And then I’m not out of body anymore.”
Admittedly describing himself as one of the hardest bandleaders to work for, Prince’s success continued in 2015 when he released his next album, Hit n Run Phase Two. After releasing the album through the Tidal music streaming service, Prince embarked on his next tour, the Piano & a Microphone Tour, which took everything back to the basics and featured Prince with only a custom piano on stage. The first few shows were met with critical acclaim as Prince traveled throughout Australia and then to the United States before it was cut abruptly short in April 2016 when Prince fell ill.The End of an Era: Saying Goodbye to a Legend
After the abrupt end to his tour, Prince saw a physician at his hotel room in the Twin Cities on April 7, 2016. He then postponed his next two shows in Atlanta, Georgia and released a statement that he was suffering from the flu. On April 14, he returned to the stage for another performance despite still feeling unwell. He flew back to Minneapolis the next morning and, while on the flight, became unresponsive. The private jet made an emergency stop at Quad City International Airport in Moline, Illinois where he was hospitalized and given Narcan. After he became conscious, he left the hospital against medical advice when physicians said he was dehydrated and still battling the flu.
Upon his return home to Chanhassen, Minnesota, Prince seemed in good spirits and in good health. He was spotted riding his bicycle around town, shopping at the local record shop, and even dancing at an impromptu party downtown. On April 20, Prince’s representatives called addiction medicine and pain management specialist Howard Kornfeld of California to treat Prince. Kornfeld set an appointment for April 22 and contacted a local physician to examine Prince on April 21. However, before the physician ever made it to Prince’s home in Paisley Park, the 57-year-old singer was found unconscious at home. The Carver County Sheriff’s Office responded but paramedics were unable to revive Prince, who had been dead for about six hours. The coroner later reported the cause of death was an accidental overdose of fentanyl.
Following an autopsy, Prince was cremated with his ashes placed in a custom 3D-printed urn shaped like his Paisley Park estate. In the years since, Prince’s legacy has been honored in numerous special performances as well as on his greatest hits album, 4Ever, which was released in November 2016. As of 2018, there are plans to release reissues of Prince’s early work including mega-hits like Musicology, 3121, and Planet Earth, all of which will certainly keep his legacy alive for decades to come.