Typical of its prodigiously gifted composer, a multi-instrumentalist
with a ferocious work ethic, the 1984 album Purple Rain, and
accompanying semi-autobiographical hit movie of the same name, launched Prince,
who has died aged 57, on to the global stage. It put him on track to
become one of the greatest superstars of that decade and beyond.
His ability to synthesise an intoxicating mix of musical styles, from
funk, soul, gospel and rock to jazz, hip-hop and psychedelia, made him
unique in rock music history, helped by his mastery of studio and audio
technology. In addition, he presented his music and his persona with
dazzling visual flair, and was always an enthralling live performer even
when his record sales were not at their peak. After playing hours-long
headlining concerts, he would often perform late-night shows with his
band at local clubs; these became almost more sought after than the
Prince Rogers Nelson was born in Minneapolis. His father, John
Nelson, was leader of the Prince Rogers jazz trio, and met his
wife-to-be, Mattie Shaw, when playing at community dances on
Minneapolis’s North Side. Mattie joined the Prince Rogers trio as
vocalist, but dropped out of the group after she married. The couple
named their son after John’s stage name, though the boy was nicknamed
“Skipper” when he was growing up. His parents’ musical leanings rubbed
off on him, and at the age of seven he wrote his first song, Funk
Machine, on his father’s piano.
...none had as much influence or creativity as he, none broke as many
rules as he, nor did so with such effortlessness and such showmanship.