Slave to the Music Industry?

Staff Writer: Hannah Johnson

Prince Rogers Nelson (June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016) was an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and record producer. He was a musical innovator who was known for his eclectic work, flamboyant stage presence, extravagant dress and makeup, and wide vocal range. His music integrates a wide variety of styles, including funk, rock, R&B, new wave, soul, psychedelia, and pop. He has sold over 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time. He won seven Grammy Awards, an American Music Award, a Golden Globe Award, and an Academy Award for the film Purple Rain. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, his first year of eligibility. “My Lord that man was amazing! He was so handsome too with his androgynous look…”- Cindy Woodall, mother or two, and long -time listener of the artist.

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Fun fact: Prince plays around 27 instruments!

 

Prince was born in Minneapolis and developed an interest in music as a young child. He signed a recording contract with Warner Bros. Records at the age of 18, and released his debut album For You in 1978. His 1979 album Prince went platinum, and his next three records—Dirty Mind (1980), Controversy (1981), and 1999 (1982)—continued his success, showcasing Prince’s prominently sexual lyrics and blending of funk, dance, and rock music. In 1984, he began referring to his backup band as The Revolution and released Purple Rain, the soundtrack album to his eponymous 1984 film debut. It quickly became his most critically and commercially successful release, spending 24 consecutive weeks atop the Billboard 200 and selling over 20 million copies worldwide. “I don’t know how I feel about his rather girly look, but his music was wonderful, may he rest in peace!”-Curtis Kramer, sophomore at Woodstock High.

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Prince outshining his friend on stage with his amazing guitar skills.

 

In 1993, while in a contractual dispute with Warner Bros., he changed his stage name to , an unpronounceable symbol also known as the “Love Symbol”, and began releasing new albums at a faster pace to remove himself from contractual obligations. He released five records between 1994 and 1996 before signing with Arista Records in 1998. In 2000, he began referring to himself as “Prince” again. He released 16 albums after that, including the platinum-selling Musicology (2004). His final album, Hit n Run Phase Two, was first released on the Tidal streaming service on December 12, 2015.

In 1975, Pepe Willie, the husband of Prince’s cousin Shauntel, formed the band 94 East with Marcy Ingvoldstad and Kristie Lazenberry, hiring André Cymone and Prince to record tracks. Willie wrote the songs, and Prince contributed guitar tracks, and Prince and Willie co-wrote the 94 East song, “Just Another Sucker”. The band recorded tracks which later became the album Minneapolis Genius – The Historic 1977 Recordings.

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Prince smiling to the crowd as he has an awesome performance on stage.

 

 

With the help of Husney, Prince signed a recording contract with Warner Bros. The record company agreed to give Prince creative control for three albums and ownership of the publishing rights. Husney and Prince then left Minneapolis and moved to Sausalito, California, where Prince’s first album, For You, was recorded at Record Plant Studios. The album was mixed in Los Angeles and released on April 7, 1978. According to the For You album notes, Prince wrote, produced, arranged, composed, and played all 27 instruments on the recording,

In 1980, Prince released the album Dirty Mind, which contained sexually explicit material, including the title song, “Head”, and the song “Sister”, and was described by Stephen Thomas Erlewine as a “stunning, audacious amalgam of funk, new wave, R&B, and pop, fueled by grinningly salacious sex and the desire to shock.” Recorded in Prince’s own studio, this album was certified gold, and the single “Uptown” reached No. 5 on the Billboard Dance chart and No. 5 on the Hot Soul Singles charts. Prince was also the opening act for Rick James’ 1980 Fire It Up tour.

In 1981, Prince formed a side project band called the Time. The band released four albums between 1981 and 1990, with Prince writing and performing most of the instrumentation and backing vocals (sometimes credited under the pseudonyms “Jamie Starr” or “The Starr Company”), with lead vocals by Morris Day. In late 1982, Prince released a double album, 1999, which sold over three million copies

In 1994, Prince began to release albums in quick succession as a means of releasing himself from his contractual obligations to Warner Bros. The label, he believed, was intent on limiting his artistic freedom by insisting that he release albums more sporadically. He also blamed Warner Bros. for the poor commercial performance of the Love Symbol Album, claiming they had marketed it insufficiently

In 1993, during negotiations regarding the release of The Gold Experience, a legal battle ensued between Warner Bros. and Prince over the artistic and financial control of his musical output. During the lawsuit, Prince appeared in public with the word “slave” written on his cheek. He explained that he had changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol to emancipate himself from his contract with Warner Bros., and that he had done it out of frustration because he felt his own name now belonged to the company

Prince sometimes used pseudonyms to separate himself from the music he had written, produced, or recorded, and at one point stated that his ownership and achievement were strengthened by the act of giving away ideas. Pseudonyms he adopted, at various times, include: Jamie Starr and The Starr Company (for the songs he wrote for The Time and many other artists from 1981 to 1984), Joey Coco (for many unreleased Prince songs in the late 1980s, as well as songs written for Sheena Easton and Kenny Rogers), Alexander Nevermind (for writing the song “Sugar Walls” (1984) by Sheena Easton, and Christopher (used for his song writing credit of “Manic Monday” (1986) for the Bangles)

Over the years Prince was romantically linked with many celebrities, including Kim Basinger, Madonna, Vanity, Sheila E., Carmen Electra, Susanna Hoffs, Anna Fantastic, Sherilyn Fenn, and Susan Moonsie of Vanity 6 and Apollonia 6. Prince was engaged to Susannah Melvoin in 1985. When he was 37, he married his 22-year-old backup singer and dancer Mayte Garcia, on Valentine’s Day 1996. They had a son named Amiir Gregory Nelson on October 16, 1996; he was born with Pfeiffer syndrome and died a week later. Prince and Mayte divorced in 2000. In 2001, Prince married Manuela Testolini in a private ceremony; she filed for divorce in May 2006.

Prince was an animal rights activist who followed a vegan diet for part of his life, but later described himself as vegetarian. The liner notes for his album Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic (1999) featured a message about the cruelty involved in wool production. Prince joined the Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2001, following a two-year debate with friend and fellow Jehovah’s Witness musician Larry Graham. Prince said that he did not consider it a conversion, but a “realization”. “It’s like Morpheus and Neo in The Matrix“, he explained. Prince attended meetings at a local Kingdom Hall and occasionally knocked on people’s doors to discuss his faith. “It’s kind of funny how he converted religions. I can’t imagine Prince knocking on people’s doors.”- Joshua Smith, junior at Etowah Highschool.

Prince saw Dr. Michael T. Schulenberg, a Twin Cities specialist in family medicine in Excelsior, on April 7, 2016, and again on April 20. On April 7, Prince postponed two performances at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta from his Piano & A Microphone Tour; the venue released a statement saying he had influenza. Prince rescheduled and performed the show on April 14, even though he still was not feeling well. While flying back to Minneapolis early the next morning, he became unresponsive, and his private jet made an emergency landing at Quad City International Airport in Moline, Illinois, where he was hospitalized and received Narcan. Once he became conscious he left against medical advice.  Representatives said he suffered from dehydration and had influenza for several weeks

On April 20, Prince’s representatives called Dr. Howard Kornfeld, a California specialist in addiction medicine and pain management, seeking medical help for Prince. Kornfeld scheduled to meet with Prince on April 22, and he contacted a local physician who cleared his schedule for a physical examination on April 21. On April 21, at 9:43 a.m., the Carver County Sheriff’s Office received a 9-1-1 call requesting that an ambulance be sent to Prince’s home at Paisley Park. The caller initially told the dispatcher that an unidentified person at the home was unconscious, then moments later said he was dead, and finally identified the person as Prince

**All photos are credited to Carleigh Ellison and creative commons**

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