Pee Wee Whitewing

BIOGRAPHY – Prince Nelson

Prince Rogers Nelson was born June 7, 1958, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to John L. Nelson and Mattie Shaw. Prince’s father was a pianist and songwriter and his mother was a jazz singer. Prince was named after his father, whose stage name was Prince Rogers, and who performed with a jazz group called the Prince Rogers Trio. Raised in a troubled home where his father was a struggling piano player, Prince’s escape was, from an early age, his music. A genuine musical prodigy, he taught himself to play more than 20 different instruments by ear alone, and as early as junior high was fronting his own band, Grand Central. He graduated from high school at age 16 and moved out of his parents’ house to live in a friend’s basement. A year later, a studio engineer offered to swap him some recording time in exchange for some session piano work. After he stepped away from the keyboard, Prince added bass, drums, lead guitar, and backing vocal tracks to the same piece, stunning the studio tech and writing the script for the rest of his career. A trip to New York led to two contract offers, but also convinced the youngster that he’d left his heart in Minneapolis. Returning to his hometown, he cut a three-track demo that amazed Warner Bros. Records executives, and at 19, he was given a budget of $100,000 and total control over his debut album.


From his early material, rooted in R&B, soul and funk, Prince has expanded his musical palette throughout his career, absorbing many other genres including pop, rock, jazz, new wave, psychedelia and hip hop. Some of his primary influences include Sly Stone, Curtis Mayfield, Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, James Brown, Parliament-Funkadelic and Carlos Santana. The distinctive characteristics of his early-to-mid 1980s work, such as sparse and industrial-sounding drum machine arrangements and the use of synthesizer riffs to serve the role traditionally occupied by horn riffs in earlier R&B, funk and soul music, were called the “Minneapolis sound” and have proved very influential.


Prince has released several hundred songs both under his own name and under pseudonyms and/or pen names, as well as writing songs which have been recorded by other artists. Estimates of the actual number of songs written by Prince (released and unreleased) range anywhere from five hundred to well over one thousand. He has won six Grammy Awards and an Academy Award, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. Prince sold over 100 million records worldwide, including 39.5 million certified units in the United States, 4.7 million in France  and over 10 million records in the United Kingdom.


He’s been called “His Royal Badness” and “His Purple Highness,” and for several years he was simply called by an pronounceable symbol, or as the “Artist Formerly Known As Prince.” Reclusive man of mystery, self-proclaimed messianic zealot, sex symbol, flamboyant rock star, Prince–when he was Prince the first time around–was at the top of the music world, giving Michael Jackson a run for his pop dollars. Although completely unpredictable, highly controversial, and self-indulgent, Prince is also an extremely accomplished musician, producer and composer, one of the 1980s’ true musical originals.