Prince Rogers Nelson, well-known by his stage name “Prince”, was an American singer, songwriter, dancer, actor, record producer, and musician who was widely known for his extensive genre-crossing work, wide-ranging singing voice, and energetic live shows all over the world. In the early 90s, he was considered the leader of world pop music, along with Michael Jackson and Madonna.
Prince was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on June 7, 1958. His mother Mattie Della Shaw was a singer, and his father John Lewis Nelson was a pianist. Prince got his name from pseudonym of his father, who acted as Prince Rogers. From early childhood, Prince and his sister Tyka had a great interest in music. Prince wrote and played his first tune at the age of 7. It was called “Funk Machine”.
After the divorce of his parents, Prince alternatively lived in their new families, and then settled in the house of his best friend’s parents. As a teenager, he started performing in bars and clubs as part of various groups. He played guitar and keyboards, sometimes sat down at the drum kit, and also took his initial steps in vocals.
For education, he attended Bryant Junior High and then Central High School in Minneapolis. And even though he had a small stature, he was a member of his school’s basketball team.
Prince started off his career in 1976. “For You” was his debut album that he released in 1978. In his lifetime, he has made more than 40 studio albums. Some of his popular albums include Batman, Diamonds and Pearls, Dirty Mind, Crystal Ball, The Black Album, and The Truth.
Prince was a true icon, who loved to perform live. Throughout his music career, he had more than 20 tours for the promotion of his songs and albums. He also established himself as a songwriter. He used to write songs under names such as Christopher Tracy, Joey Coco, Jamie Starr, Alexander Nevermind, and Tora Tora.
Prince was known for creating music in funk, soul, rock, R&B, and Minneapolis sound.
Throughout his career, he worked with a number of popular labels, such as Universal, NPG, Warner Bros, Paisley Park, Columbia, and EMI. He also appeared in TV show and Movies, e.g. New Girl, Under the Cherry Moon, Purple Rain, Graffiti Bridge, Muppets Tonight, and Sign o’ the Times.
Prince is one of the best-selling music artists of all time. Over the years, he won many awards and honors
- 1 Golden Globe Award
- 1 Academy Award
- 4 MTV Video Music Awards
- 6 American Music Awards
- 7 Brit Awards
- 7 Grammy Awards
- Billboard Icon Award
- American Music Awards for Achievement and of Merit
- Grammy President’s Merit Award
- Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
- UK Music Hall of Fame
- Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame
In addition to accolades and tributes, which were predictable (superlative songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, visionary, provocateur, genius, etc.), Prince was also known for his philanthropy and charity.
To many that may have been in the inner circle of Prince at one time or another, Prince being a great philanthropist was not news because he spent his entire career privately supporting various causes that were close to his heart. However, only upon his death, the expansive impact and scope of his charitable acts started to emerge, mostly from people who kept them a secret over the years.
Through talk show host Tavis Smiley, CNN activist and commentator Van Jones, and others, the world learned that Prince was a financial force behind organizations such as Powerhouse, Youth 2 Leaders, Green For All, and #YesWeCode.
While his giving was spread across a multitude of causes, e.g. health and wellness, the arts, the environment, technology, economic empowerment, social justice, etc., Prince valued education and young people as much as anything else. For instance, in the 1980s, he gave an initial sum of $500,000 to an educator Marva Collins to support her Westside Preparatory in Garfield Park neighborhood in Chicago, with the belief that children from the poor backgrounds will succeed academically if afforded enough resources and tools.He continued to fund Collin’s efforts for many years, and healso featured her his “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” video in 1994.
In 2011, Prince donated a million dollars to Harlem Children’s Zone, and a quarter of a million dollars each to the American Ballet Theatre and the Uptown Dance Academy. Locally, he donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Circle of Disciple, Urban Ventures, The Bridge of Youth, Prep Network of Schools, and many other endeavors over the years, including a fund to support the I-35W bridge collapse tragedy victims. And still, Prince’s generosity knew no geographical bounds.
Regardless of everything that has been revealed about his charitable acts over the past few years, it’s possible that the public will never know how much Prince gave, and to how many people.
Inspirations and Legacy
Prince was an influential and striking artist of the late 20th century. He produced and wrote pop songs and music that had worldwide appeal, including the best-sellers, When Doves Cry and Kiss, 1999, and more. He remade genres and mixed influences from R&B, rock, and funk. His unique live performances showcased his unmatched musical talent and mastery of drums, keyboards, guitar, and vocals that mesmerized fans for more than three decades. He remained an enigmatic and popular figure until his sudden death in 2016.
Prince is probably the only artist who can and was compared with Michael Jackson. He was truly a legend in the American Music industry and he will always be remembered and celebrated for his beautiful spirit, philanthropy, music, faith, mentorship, and lyrics.
The legacy of benevolence and leadership of Prince Rogers Nelson is being carried on today by the PRN Alumni Foundation. Founded in 2017, it is a non-profit organization with a mission to continue the kindness of Prince, who supported opportunities for poor and neglected youth to grow in education, arts, technology, and music. We hope you enjoyed this Black Sheep of the Month. As always we appreciate all the love and support you show us! Till next time!-The Black Sheep