Prince was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on June 7, 1958, the son of jazz singer Mattie Della (née Shaw) and pianist and songwriter John Lewis Nelson. All four of his grandparents were from Louisiana. His grand aunt was the black nationalist Mittie Maude Lena Gordon, who established the Peace Movement of Ethiopia and advocated emigration to West Africa in response to American white supremacy. The jazz drummer Louis Hayes was his paternal cousin.
He was named after his father's best-known stage name, Prince Rogers, which his father used while performing with Prince's mother in a jazz group called the Prince Rogers Trio. In 1991, Prince's father told A Current Affair that he named his son Prince because he wanted Prince "to do everything I wanted to do". Prince was not fond of his name and wanted people to instead call him Skipper, a name which stuck throughout his childhood. Prince said he was "born epileptic" and had seizures when he was young. He stated, "My mother told me one day I walked into her and said, 'Mom, I'm not going to be sick anymore,' and she said, 'Why?' and I said, 'Because an angel told me so.'" Prince's younger sister, Tyka, was born on May 18, 1960. Both siblings developed a keen interest in music, which was encouraged by their father.
Breakthrough and Music Career
Born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Prince signed a record deal with Warner Bros. Records at age nineteen, releasing the albums For You (1978) and Prince (1979). He went on to achieve critical success with the innovative albums Dirty Mind (1980), Controversy (1981) and 1999 (1982). His sixth album, Purple Rain (1984), was recorded with his backup band the Revolution, and was the soundtrack to his film acting debut of the same name. Purple Rain continued critical success for Prince and was a major commercial success, spending six consecutive months atop the Billboard 200. Prince won the Academy Award for Best Original Song Score. After disbanding the Revolution, Prince released Sign o' the Times (1987), widely hailed by critics as his magnum opus. In the midst of a contractual dispute with Warner Bros. in 1993, he changed his stage name to the unpronounceable symbol (known to fans as the "Love Symbol") and was often referred to as the Artist Formerly Known as Prince (or TAFKAP) and simply the Artist.
Prince is widely regarded as one of the greatest musicians of his generation. Rolling Stone ranked Prince at No. 27 on its list of 100 Greatest Artists, "the most influential artists of the rock & roll era". According to Acclaimed Music, he is the 9th most celebrated artist in popular music history. In 2010, Prince was ranked number 7 on VH1's "100 Greatest Artists of All Time". His music incorporated a wide variety of styles, including funk, R&B, rock, new wave, soul, synth-pop, pop, jazz, and hip hop. He often played most or all instruments on his recordings.
As a performer, he was known for his flamboyant style and showmanship. He came to be regarded as a sex symbol for his androgynous, amorphous sexuality, play with signifiers of gender, and defiance of racial stereotypes. His "audacious, idiosyncratic" fashion sense made use of "ubiquitous purple, alluring makeup and frilled garments". His androgynous look has been compared to those of Little Richard and David Bowie. In 2016, Reynolds described it as "Prince's '80s evasion of conventional gender definitions speaks to us now in this trans-aware moment. But it also harks backwards in time to the origins of rock 'n' roll in racial mixture and sexual blurring". Prince was known for the strong female presence in his bands and his support for women in the music industry throughout his career. Slate said he worked with an "astounding range of female stars" and "promised a world where men and women looked and acted like each other". Prince also wore high-heeled shoes and boots both on- and off-stage.
Many artists have cited Prince as an influence and inspiration, including Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars, Rihanna, Alicia Keys, Usher, Janelle Monáe, The Weeknd, Lady Gaga, Lorde, Lenny Kravitz, André 3000, Mark Speer, Jamie Lidell, Frank Ocean and Beck. Bono of U2 regarded Prince as one of his "favorite composers of the twentieth century". Beyoncé expressed her admiration for Prince in the book Prince: A Private View, calling him "my mentor" and also praising his independence: "He dared to fight for what was rightfully his: his freedom, wrapped up in words and music he created."