As news of his passing breaks, here are some little-known facts about the cultural icon that was Prince.
Did you know Prince played guitar on Madonna’s ‘Like a Prayer’? Well he did, and according to co-writer Patrick Leonard there was loads material the Purple One recorded for the song, but Madge and co. cut most of it!
When John Lennon was murdered in New York in 1980, Prince was staying only a blocks away. The musician’s a huge Beatles fan, and was known to cover Fab Four tracks such as ‘Come Together’. Albeit with more glam. Obviously.
Prince had no shortage of nicknames and aliases: across his career, he’s been known as The Kid, The Purple Purv, The Minneapolis Midget, Alexander Nevermind, Christopher Tracy and The Artist Formerly Known As Prince. His real name was Prince Rogers Nelson and when he was a kid he was known as Skipper.
You know you’ve made it when you have your very own Wikipedia spin-off site. Princepedia was created by fans a few years ago and remains a popular resource among Prince devotees.
Prince initially asked Stevie Nicks to write lyrics for ‘Purple Rain’. “It was so overwhelming, that 10-minute track… I listened to it and I just got scared,” she said. “I called him back and said, ‘I can’t do it. I wish I could. It’s too much for me.” And so Prince went his own way and ‘Purple Rain’ was born.
Despite Prince’s small stature at just 5’2, he was a talented basketball player and once played for one of the best school teams in the Minnesota state.
On tour in the UK in 1987, Prince had found no way of getting a baby grand piano up the stairs of the London’s Chelsea Harbour Hotel for him to practice on. Therefore, the workaholic star hired a crane and brought it in through the window. As you do.
‘Purple Rain’ was originally a whopping 11 minutes long. A verse and chorus were cut, apparently because the theme of money was deemed inappropriate. The original lyrics are as follows:
“Honey I don’t want your money, no, no.
I don’t even think I want your love.
If I wanted either one I would take your money and,
I want the heavy stuff.”
Prince belonged to the Jehovah’s Witness faith and refuses to swear in his songs or regularly sing old songs that champion sexual freedom, such as ‘Darling Nikki’ and ‘Little Red Corvette’.
The week of July 27 1984, Prince topped both the film box office, single and albums charts, with his film ‘Purple Rain’ and ‘When Doves Cry’ respectively. Total dominance, that.
Prince wrote more songs than The Beatles, with a back catalogue that expands to over 600 tracks. In your face, McCartney.
If you were ever at a Prince gig, we hope you put your phone away – in January 2014, he sued 22 individual fans he believed had committed “massive infringement and bootlegging” by uploading footage of his sets to YouTube.
In fact, best not to mention any kind of social media at all around the guy. In 2010 he claimed “the internet is over,” explaining that “like MTV, at one time, MTV was hip, and suddenly it became outdated. Anyway, all these computer and digital gadgets are no good. They just fill your head with numbers, and that can’t be good for you.”
That said, he was on Twitter. We’d also totally recommend his Instagram, or as he superbly call it, “PRINCETAGRAM.”
Life wasn’t always so sweet for Prince. Back in his home town of Minneapolis when he was a struggling musician, he was so broke he’d hang around outside his local McDonalds just to smell the food.
Days before Prince was set to release ‘The Black Album’ in 1987, he scrapped the whole thing, claiming it as too “dark and immortal.” Later he claimed the change of heart was due to a “spiritual epiphany”, though press reported instead he’d been experimenting with ecstasy.
Prince’s cover of the Foo Fighters’ ‘Best of You’ during his 2007 Superbowl appearance had Foos drummer Taylor Hawkins scratching his head: “I have no idea why he did it, but I’d love to find out. I mean, the thought went through my head that maybe he was doing it as a sort of ‘fuck you’ to us, or maybe he really likes the song.”
In 1989 Prince’s half-sister, Lorna Nelson, tried to sue the Purple One claiming she’d written the lyrics to the song ‘U Got The Look’ from his ninth studio album ‘Sign o’ the Times’. After a long drawn out court battle, the judge sided with Prince.
If you’re ever in Eden Pierie, Minneapolis, drop by Flying Cloud Drive Warehouse on First Avenue – that’s where Prince recorded most of his chart-toppers.
Prince was often compared to Jimi Hendrix early in his career, a comparison he hit out against in a Rolling interview, claiming it was “only because he’s black.”
Prince’s dad, John Nelson, led his own band, the Prince Rogers Jazz Trio.
Prince knew value for money – at his recent Shepherds Bush gig, he charged fans £10 for a mammoth 34-song set. That’s 29p a song. Not bad, huh?
Prince once sent friend and collaborator Janelle Monae a “singing telegram” asking for a copy of new album ‘The Electric Lady’, who guested on the record.
Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’ film pulled in an almighty $68,392,977 and only cost $7million to make. Pretty, pretty good.
Fans have been trying to work out the meaning of “purple rain” for decades now. Some believe it’s about the end of the world, a theme Prince was interested in mid-80s: “When there’s blood in the sky – red and blue = purple.. purple rain pertains to the end of the world and being with the one you love and letting your faith/god” guide you through the purple rain.”
According to band mate Lisa Coleman, ‘Purple Rain’ symbolises “a new beginning. Purple, the sky at dawn; rain, the cleansing factor.” There you have it. That won’t stop fans guessing again though…
Prince initially wanted Stevie Nicks to sing on ‘Purple Rain’ (“I told him, ‘Prince, I’ve listened to this a hundred times but I wouldn’t know where to start. It’s a movie, it’s epic.”). However, according to the Fleetwood Mac singer, he wanted more than just a musical collaboration: “I think he would have liked a romance with me, too.”
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (well, 2013 in Chicago), Prince performed at the wedding of Star Wars director George Lucas as tied the knot to Mellody Hobson. Hopefully he was rewarded with his very own purple lightsabre.
Prince’s first band formed when he was only just 13. The group was called Grand Central, and then Champagne, playing original music in the style of Sly & The Family Stone and Earth, Wind & Fire.
Another reason to love Prince – he dissed Maroon 5 for daring to cover ‘Kiss’ in 2012. “I do pay performance royalties on others’ songs I perform live, but I’m not recording these songs and putting them up for sale. Why do we need to hear another cover of a song someone else did? Art is about building a new foundation, not just laying something on top of what’s already there.”
In 2010, Prince banned a NHS dentist from covering ‘Purple Rain’ on an album of operatic takes on modern pop songs. He must have fought tooth and nail for it.
Prince’s second film didn’t quite replicate the success of his first. ‘Graffiti Bridge’ was a both a critical and box-office flop nominated for five Razzie Awards including Worst Picture, Worst Actor, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay and Worst New Star (Ingrid Chavez).
Prince wrote some bonafide bangers for artists, notably ‘Manic Monday’ by The Bangles and ‘I Feel for You’ by Chaka Khan. Then of course there was ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’, covered by Sinead O’Connor.
Prince and Amy Winehouse almost collaborated. After Prince declared himself a fan, the Camden singer said she’d “drop everything to do that… I’d do it with bells on. All day long.”
In 2012, Prince was ordered to pay a perfume company $4 million, after failing to promote one of their fragrances. Revelations Perfume and Cosmetics sued the superstar back in 2008 after he reneged on a deal to promote a scent called 3121, named after his 2006 album.
The ‘Purple Rain’ soundtrack spent 24 weeks at Number 1 on the Billboard charts. That’s about the length of a guitar solo at one of Prince’s gigs.
Prince’s favourite meal? Why, Spaghetti and orange juice of course.
Prince used to write fan mail to Joni Mitchell, who says she once spotted the singer aged 15 in the front row at one of her concerts.
You’d never have found Prince at home listening to his old albums. “I make a statement, then move on to the next,” he told Rolling Stone.
Prince once paid a salon in Washington to close down, black out all the windows, and do his hair.
Prince’s younger sister Tyka Nelson is also a musician who has released two albums. Her last release, a Gospel album called Brand New Me, came out in 2008.
Tipper Gore’s Parents Music Resource Center was set up after the release of Prince’s saucy tune ‘Darling Nikki’ from the ‘Purple Rain’ soundtrack.
Because his staff at Paisley Park couldn’t pronounce the “Love Symbol” they called Prince “the dude” instead.
In 2007, Prince gave away free copies of the album ‘Planet Earth’ in the Mail On Sunday. Didn’t seem like a good marketing move at first – until it was announced that all his 21 consecutive London tour dates had sold out…
Prince once sought legal action against Adobe Photoshop CS6 to prevent fans doctoring photos of him. It didn’t pan out, unsurprisingly.
Prince wrote his first ever song aged 7. It was called ‘Funk Machine’. Naturally.
Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ was meant to be a duet with Prince, but Prince was uncomfortable with the song’s opening line: “Your butt is mine.” “Who’s singing that to whom?” Prince asked at the time, “because you sure aren’t singing that to me.”
Prince is reported to have often stayed awake for days on end when in the studio working on early albums. No surprise, given his gigs often went on into the early hours.
Prince only contributed to the soundtrack of Tim Burton’s Batman film because he had a crush on star Kim Basinger. It worked – the pair dated for almost a year afterwards.
Prince originally wrote ‘Kiss’ for a band called Mazarati, Revolution members Mark Brown and Bobby Rivkin. He later backtracked, telling Brown and Rivkin, “It’s too good for you guys.” Too bad, fellas.