Ambitious, capricious, prolific and mysterious, Prince has been bending musical styles and breaking rules since the beginning of his career, which spans over three decades. The visionary artist's flamboyant persona has, at times, overshadowed his considerable talent as a musician and producer. Although not adverse to controversy, he makes his biggest statements through his music, creating a diverse chorus from the sounds of soul and R&B, funk and jazz, rock and pop.
Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Prince Rogers Nelson was named after his father, musician John L. Nelson (a.k.a "Prince Rogers"). He had a turbulent upbringing, living with his mother after his parents divorced and then with his father before moving in with a neighbourhood family. At 16, the budding musician quit school to concentrate all his time on Grand Central (later renamed Champagne), the group he had recently formed.
Prince soon branched out on his own, hiring a manager and heading to Los Angeles to cut a demo. He turned down the services of Earth, Wind & Fire producer Maurice White, opting instead to produce the recording himself. In 1977, when he had yet to turn 20, Prince signed a contract with Warner Bros. for one million dollars.
At the end of 1978, the artist released his debut, For You, on which he played 27 instruments. Returning from an intense tour schedule, he produced and mixed a self-titled album in 1979, which included the hit single I Wanna Be Your Lover.
Already a national success, the visionary musician had a breakthrough moment in 1980 with his third album, Dirty Mind. His explicit lyrics and wild, unapologetic musical fusions made his previous work seem bland in comparison.
Four years and two albums later, he released the international hit Purple Rain, which spent 24 weeks at number one on the charts and eventually sold over ten million copies in the U.S. alone. Prince was officially a superstar.
Rather than cash in on the success of his pop-oriented sound, the artist steered his music into fantastical territory with the psychedelic Around the World in a Day (1985) and the art rock experiment Parade (1986), featuring his band the Revolution (Lisa Coleman, Doctor Fink, Bobby Z., Brown Mark and Wendy Melvoin). In 1987, Prince released his ambitious double album Sign ‘O' the Times.
The next few years, however, were marked by contract disputes with Warner and several project delays. In 1991, Prince formed the New Power Generation, leading to the release of Diamonds and Pearls, his first R&B album - and big hit - in seven years. In 1992, the musician offered the "Love Symbol"album and legally changed his name to the character, which is a combination of male and female symbols, the following year.
"The Artist Formerly Known as Prince" (as he was then referred to) hadn't lost his talent for creating buzz, and he independently released the hit single The Most Beautiful Girl in the World to prove it.
A string of commercial disappointments followed over the next decade, however, and the artist (who reverted back to "Prince" in 2000) didn't fully rebound until 2004, when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Halle of Fame. That same year, Prince released Musicology, which was nominated for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance at the 2005 Grammy Awards, and embarked on a very profitable tour.
On his way back to the top, the resilient musician gave a memorable performance at the Festival in 2001, offering audiences a hint of his new, jazz-driven sound. In 2009, he released LotusFlow3r, a trio of musically diverse albums that showcased Prince's versatile talent, which debuted at number two on the Billboard charts.