Flamboyant, androgynous, and widely regarded as one of the greatest musicians of his generation, Prince is the star of our show this week. Strap yourselves in, because this was a career bursting with hits!
With a jazz singer for a mother, and a pianist and songwriter for a father, Prince really was a perfect product of his parents! Named after his father’s stage name, Prince Rogers, our young virtuoso wrote his first song at the age of 7, and this is where his incredible career truly began.
After having many enormous record labels notice his first recording, Prince was signed with industry giant Warner Bros by the age of 19. With so much talent contained inside one human being, it seems as though music was the only way he’d be able to let it out. On his first studio album, For You, Prince wrote the songs, arranged them, produced them… oh, AND played all 27 instruments. Yep, you read that right.
But despite this enormous effort, For You wasn’t as hugely successful as Prince and his management may have hoped. A couple of the songs charted, but there is nothing outrageous to be said about the album’s reception.
That is until 1979 when Prince decided to form a band who performed their first show at the Capri Theater in the January of this year. Many of the Warner Bros executives attended the gig, however came to the unanimous decision that Prince and his band needed a little bit more time to develop and refine their act. By October, Prince was released, and those same executives would eat their words - the album went platinum. Perhaps this is a lesson for us all on what it means to bounce back!
R&B/dance hits like “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad”, “I Wanna Be Your Lover” and “Sexy Dancer” were a huge success, one of which we felt was completely deserving of a spot in our Electric Guitar Grade 6 syllabus. Can you guess which one?
With an enormously funky, syncopated guitar riff, “I Wanna Be Your Lover” reached number 11 in the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and was Prince’s first hit single. So iconic and utterly groovy, we couldn’t bear to leave this song from our list.
And so began the stream of sensational hits and albums from Mr Prince. With his sights set at an all-time high (despite a career that wasn’t quite as high profile just yet!), Prince was determined to gain a part in a major feature film. You may laugh at the boldness of his decision, but it was this persistence that ultimately led to the birth of one of the greatest albums of all time (72nd best, according to Rolling Stone!).
Purple Frills, Purple Rain
Purple Rain was released in 1984 as the soundtrack to the film of the same name, starring Prince himself, of course. At one point, Prince actually held the number 1 spot for album, single AND film, all at the same time! The album spent an astonishing 24 weeks at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 200 album chart, and Prince received the Academy Award for Best Original Song Score. It goes without saying that this album will go down in pop history.
Tragically, Prince passed away at the age of 57. He had managed to release a total of 39 albums in his relatively short life – that’s an album a year from the age of 18! To say he was a busy man would be a horrendous understatement!
But perhaps the legacy that Prince left behind was not in the number of albums he managed to create, but rather the way he was able to defy all labels. Prince played with gender, experimented with androgyny, wore high-heeled shoes and purple frills, and with an amorphous sexuality comparable to the likes of David Bowie. All of this coupled with his unrelenting support for female artists and more than a few sensual song lyrics, Prince was solidified as a sex symbol and an inspiration to so many.
If you enjoyed this week’s Artists in Focus blog, then why not catch up on a few more? We’ve seen legends like Etta James, Pharrell Williams and Alanis Morissette come through the ranks in recent weeks.