30 Lesser-Known Facts About Prince, Funk's Favorite Star
Prince's untimely death brought an end to a stunning revolution in the worlds of funk, rock, pop and R&B. He was a killer vocalist, thoughtful songwriter, gender-bending icon, flamboyant personality and defining force in the guidelines for superstardom.
Although Prince captivated the public's attention for decades, there are plenty of details about his life that most fans didn't know. From his unique upbringing to his strange food preferences and his almost co-writer on "Purple Rain," here are 30 lesser-known facts about Prince, funk’s favorite star.
He Had Lots of Aliases
Prince Rogers Nelson is the superstar's actual name, but he had a ton of unique, quirky and even glitzy nicknames that he went by throughout his life instead. As a young child, he was known as "Skipper" to his friends and family. As he grew older, his career progressed, and his persona went through multiple phases right along with his public name.
His Symbolic Name Change Was an Act of Rebellion
When Prince changed his name to a symbol with no corresponding word in 1993, his fans were predictably puzzled. The "unpronounceable symbol," which combines the male and female gender markers, was a strange development in the thriving star's career. To the press, he said, "It is an unpronounceable symbol... It’s all about thinking in new ways, tuning in 2 a new free-quency."
He Killed “Prince” Off
Another strange part of his symbol-based name change took things all the way to bizarre when he pretended to be a completely new person. No, he didn’t just make a lot of changes and reinvent himself. He quite literally refused to acknowledge that he and Prince shared the same body. "Prince is dead," he told Time Out in 1995. "They've killed him."
He Was Once Too Poor for McDonald's
When Prince was young, he and his family lived in severe poverty, so they obviously couldn't afford to eat at restaurants. When Prince took an interviewer from Rolling Stone around his hometown of Minneapolis, he pointed out one of the most significant locations from his early childhood: a McDonald's restaurant on Plymouth Avenue.
He Wrote Songs for Other Artists
Prince wrote and recorded a stunning number of songs in his lifetime, even surpassing the number of songs released by the Beatles. The master of rock, funk and R&B was a phenomenal singer-songwriter — but he wasn’t greedy about it. He penned the lyrics, wrote the music and provided inspiration for many songs released by other best-selling artists.
He Recorded Hits in His Hometown
Have you ever heard of Flying Cloud Drive Warehouse? Maybe not, but you've probably heard some of the gems that were recorded in the abandoned warehouse-turned-makeshift studio. Between May and November of 1984, Prince returned to his hometown of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, to record songs with his band in the Flying Cloud Drive Warehouse.
He Paid a Salon to Shut Down and Style His Hair
When you're a celebrity, many things are great, but it's a struggle to do many of the common activities normal people do. Once, on a trip to Washington, D.C., Prince wanted to get his hair restyled, but he didn't want to deal with a mob of fans at a public salon. So, he came up with a solution that only a celebrity could pull off.
He Directed Many of His Own Videos
Prince was truly a self-made man. From an early point in his career, he established a pattern of accomplishing his goals without assistance. He completed his first album, For You, without any musical or production help. When it came to his music videos, he behaved much the same. He despised video directors, so he preferred to direct his own music videos.
Prince Had a Female Alter Ego
Although Prince had many public personas during his lifetime, many fans don't know about his female alter ego, Camille. Camille was brought to life during Sign ‘O’ the Times, and she rocked as the lead on the single "If I Was Your Girlfriend." Prince purportedly immersed himself in the essence of Camille and was eager to continue to record as her persona.
He Was a Jehovah's Witness...
Believe it or not, the singer of risque songs like "Kiss" and "Little Red Corvette" was a Jehovah's Witness. He was raised as a Seventh Day Adventist, but in 2001, he decided to convert and go door-to-door to spread the religion’s message. Prince (a.k.a. "Brother Nelson") abandoned his sexual persona to devote himself to the worship of Jehovah.
...And He Tried to Spearhead a Recruitment Film
Prince's 2001 album The Rainbow Children was released the same year he announced he was a Jehovah's Witness. The entire album is highly religious, focusing on God's love and laws as a means of healing the broken world. By the end of the album, audiences were supposed to feel their lives would benefit from God's presence.
Prince Never Listened to His Old Records
Prince took the concepts of "mindfulness" and "forward-thinking" to the next level. During his career, he avoided listening to any of his previous records. In fact, he resisted ruminating on the past in general. The star grew up extremely poor and came from a divorced household, and he didn't want the media or fans focusing on those things when experiencing his art.
He Thought The Black Album Was Cursed
Prince's sixteenth studio album, The Black Album, was released to the public in 1994. However, it was originally slated to be released in 1987. Why did the record sit on a shelf for so many years? Prince supposedly panicked just before the album's original release date, deciding the album was evil, corrupt and the work of Satan himself.
His Eating Habits Were Unique
When you're a pop star, you can get away with some fairly strange culinary habits. One of Prince's strangest favorite meal combos was pasta and orange juice. In a 1994 Rolling Stone interview, the co-writer of the Purple Rain film script, William Blinn, said: "I never met anyone in the world who ordered spaghetti with tomato sauce and orange juice to drink."
He Suffered from Periods of Severe Depression
During extended periods in his life, Prince struggled with overwhelming feelings of depression and loneliness. His depression was multifaceted, stemming from family issues, romantic struggles, conflicts in his career and other personal feelings. At times, it was so severe, he became physically ill and exhausted, requiring assistance from others to care for himself.
He Helped Bring a Genre to Life
Prince may have ruled rock, pop and every style in between, but his legacy also includes a specific genre of music: the Minneapolis sound. The late 1970s saw this musical style rise to popularity, spearheaded by Prince's fresh and funky tunes. The Minneapolis sound brought together various elements of what made the rock, funk and R&B genres so spectacular.
He Was Epileptic as a Child
When Prince was a boy, he suffered from seizures associated with epilepsy. In an interview with PBS, Prince shared, "I’ve never spoken about this before, but I was born epileptic... My mother and father didn’t know what to do or how to handle it, but they did the best they could with what little they had."
He Held Consecutive #1 Spots in Entertainment
On July 27, 1984, Prince's first rock-drama movie-musical Purple Rain hit theaters and was met with overwhelming success. The intense film about a rising young pop star was accompanied by a catchy and thoughtful album, which Prince released along with the movie.
He Wrote the Batman Soundtrack for a Funny Reason
Besides producing the soundtrack for his own film, Prince worked on Tim Burton's blockbuster Batman (1989). He was contracted by Burton — who frequently listened to Prince while working — to write a couple of songs for the film. Instead, Prince composed an entire album of killer songs for the film after watching a mere half-hour of footage for inspiration.
His Second Film Was a Flop
Unfortunately, despite the success of Purple Rain (1984) and his musical work on Batman (1989), his second musical film, Graffiti Bridge (1990), struggled — and failed — to live up to Prince's previous commercial success. As he did with Purple Rain, Prince wrote an accompanying album for Graffiti Bridge, and the album was far more successful than the flick.
His Half-Sister Sued Him Over Song Lyrics
Prince released approximately 600 tunes during his career — emphasis on released — with even more tunes never made available to the public. He was a masterful writer who took pride in the production of his songs, and most featured his own lyrics. Oddly enough, his half-sister, Lorna Nelson, tried to sue Prince at one point for stealing some of her lyrics.
He Was Blocks from John Lennon's Assassination
When Sir John Lennon died, he left behind millions — if not billions — of mourning fans. His bandmates and other close artists were devastated by the sudden and tragic way he died. However, few people knew that Prince, who was an admirer and friend of Lennon, was a few blocks down the road from the site of Lennon's assassination.
His Favorite Show Was New Girl
Prince was notoriously known for his strong opinions. He fervently spoke out against technology, and during the latter half of his career, he voiced a distaste for the internet and streaming services. He hated the new era of MTV and pulled most of his music from streaming sites, feeling the internet took away the power and privilege of the artist.
He Purchased New Records Before Passing
On April 16, 2016 — a handful of days before his death — Prince stopped at The Electric Fetus, a record shop in Minneapolis, to buy a few records. His purchases were to celebrate Record Store Day. The retail manager of the store, Bob Fuchs, shared the final albums Prince purchased before passing away.
“Kiss” Was Written for a Different Band
Aside from "Purple Rain," Prince's "Kiss" may be his most iconic track. What would the sexy tune be without Prince's hums, grunts and flawless falsetto? However, when Prince first wrote the song, he didn't do so with the intention of singing it himself. Instead, he wrote it for Mazarati, a funk band that The Revolution bassist Mark Brown spearheaded.
He Messed Up His First SNL Performance
Because SNL is a broadcast program, use of the f-bomb on the air is banned. In truth, the word has slipped out on occasion, including once when Prince performed. Artists are sometimes asked to alter lyrics to appease the heads of network television, but Prince proudly let an f-bomb slip during his performance of "Partyup," which includes a shining f-bomb in the lyrics.
Amy Winehouse Made Prince Cry
Both Prince and Amy Winehouse were victims of sudden and tragic deaths. In life, they were celebrated artists and dear friends. Prince admired Winehouse's vocals and wanted her to join him on his wildly popular 21 Nights in London tour. An ecstatic Amy told MTV News in 2007, "I'll drop everything to do that."
He Turned Down Michael's Jackson's Bad Invitation
Did you know that Michael Jackson's iconic tune "Bad" was originally written to be a duet with Prince? While preparing to record "Bad," Jackson reached out to Prince, asking him to sing the song with him. Prince decided to travel to Jackson's house and discuss the song and a possible first collaboration.
He's Been Writing Songs Since Age Seven
Prince's early life wasn't easy, but he always had music. His father, John Lewis Nelson, was a jazz musician. He met Prince's mother, Mattie Della Shaw, at one of his gigs in Minneapolis. After Shaw joined the group as their lead singer, Nelson and Shaw fell in love, eventually marrying and having two children, Prince and his sister, Tyka Nelson.
He Enlisted Stevie Nicks' Help on “Purple Rain”
"Purple Rain" is arguably Prince's most iconic track. Although he ultimately wrote the final lyrics alone, he enlisted the help of Stevie Nicks during the drafting process. The stars were close friends, and Prince's "Little Red Corvette" had inspired Nicks' solo song "Stand Back." However, when Nicks listened to the lengthy musical track, words failed her.