It’s hard to believe that an entertainer could touch so many people so deeply and yet Prince has proved that to be possible. Sometimes we take it for granted that those we hold in such high esteem can be taken just as quickly as anyone else. The loss of the musical legend known as the Purple One, Prince struck not only his fans but most people who grew up listening and identifying with his musical genius.
He was a truly talented man who played numerous instruments and wrote many hit songs for others under assumed names, never publicly taking any credit. He emphatically made his mark on pop culture and the music industry. He was an artist for the art’s sake. A testament to this is the 600+ songs that his vault still holds unreleased from over the years. I wonder what magic they might contain.
Respected by his fellow artists, beloved by his fans, Prince could’ve easily retired years ago and lived comfortably, but truly great entertainers do not do this. He was too cool to go out quietly. Prince will always be remembered as one of the greatest performers of all time. However, there are many things about Prince that aren’t very well known. Despite his stage bravado and swagger, most close to him admit he was a shy and quiet man, never one to self-promote. For those that think they know it all about his Purple Badness, here are thirteen fascinating little-known facts about Prince.
13. Prince is the Official Pioneer of the “Minneapolis Sound”
When he was just 13 years old, Prince formed his first band, Grand Central, with some school friends. Later he joined another local band, 94 East. By 1980, the quite, shy young man was appearing, for the second time, on American Bandstand. Dick Clark remarked, “This is not the kind of music that comes from Minneapolis, Minnesota.” It wasn’t… yet.
Prince’s mix of funk, pop and rock emerged in the 1980s and only grew more popular as performers like Morris Day and The Time, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Sheila E, Vanity 6, and then Apollonia 6, grew in popularity (all benefitting from Prince’s innovative sound).
12. Prince Wrote Many Hits for Other Entertainers Too!
Many people know Prince wrote Sinead O’Connor’s hit song, “Nothing Compares 2 U.” Did you know the song was originally written about Susannah Melvoin, twin sister to bandmate Wendy Melvoin and Prince’s fiancé at the time? He also produced “Round & Round” for Tevin Campbell and wrote “Manic Monday” for The Bangles and “I Feel For You” for Chaka Khan.
Prince originally wrote “Kiss” for Mazarati, a band that featured Revolution bandmates Mark Brown and Bobby Rivkin, however the song turned out too good and Prince took it back for himself. Prince also played electric guitar on Madonna’s hit “Like A Prayer.” According to co-writer Patrick Leonard, Prince recorded quite a bit for the song but Madonna cut most of it.
11. Prince Suffered Personal Tragedies When Trying to Start a Family
Prince has been romantically linked to many beautiful women: Kim Basinger, Madonna, Vanity, Sheila E, Carmen Electra, Susan Moonsie of Vanity 6, and Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles. He was engaged once in 1985, to Susannah Melvoin, but finally Prince had found true love.
In 1996, on Valentine’s Day, Prince married Mayte Garcia, a dancer half his age. They soon had a son, Boy Gregory, who suffered from a rare birth defect and died within a week. The couple got pregnant again soon after but Mayte suffered a miscarriage and lost their child. Reportedly their marriage never recovered and they were divorced soon after.
10. Prince Never Actually Dated Apollonia Kotero from Purple Rain
Purple Rain cost a mere $7 million to produce and grossed a whopping $68.4 million! The semi-autobiographical story of “The Kid” featured Prince and his protégé, Apollonia, falling in love and much of the publicity around the film revolved around the romance between the two.
Though Prince was romantically involved with Vanity, she dropped out of the film at the last minute. Some say due to a souring of their relationship. The role was offered to Jennifer Beals, of Flashdance fame, but she turned it down. Then Apollonia Kotero was hired and at the time was actually dating David Lee Roth. That relationship was quietly hidden so as not damage the hype for the film. Do you know who were actually a couple during the film: the talented Wendy and Lisa were a loving couple for over 20 years!
9. Prince Accomplished What Only The Beatles Had Done Before Him
In 1984, Prince achieved greatness unparalleled; he topped the charts simultaneously with a #1 album (Purple Rain), a #1 film (Purple Rain), and a #1 single (“When Doves Cry”). It all occurred the week of July 27, 1984, and Prince dominated!
His film soundtrack spent a total of 24 weeks at #1 on the Billboard charts. Not bad considering most of the soundtrack had been recorded live at the club where the movie was filmed. Do you remembering those crowd noises in the background of some of the tracks? Recorded live on stage!
8. Prince’s Unpronounceable Symbol Actually Had A Name
That unpronounceable symbol actually did have a name. People didn’t know what to call Prince when he was using the symbol as his alias, but it was actually called “Love Symbol #2.” However, employees of Paisley Park usually just referred to him as “the dude.” I think Lebowski would abide.
Prince had no shortage of nicknames growing up. Throughout his career, he’s been called The Kid, The Purple Purv, Alexander Nevermind, and famously The Artist Formerly Known As Prince (The Artist for short). As a child, he was simply called “Skipper.” “Love Symbol #2” was copyrighted in 1997, but when Prince’s Warner Bros. contract expired at midnight on December 31, 1999, he reclaimed his birth name!
7. Prince was a Formidable Basketball Player
Prince stands only 5’2″ tall, which is roughly 1.5 meters. Despite his small stature, he was a talented basketball player and once played for one of the best school teams in Minnesota.
If you ever watched “Chappelle’s Show”, comic Charlie Murphy told a story in one episode about hanging out with Prince in the 1980s. He said Prince challenged Charlie and his brother, Eddie Murphy, to a pickup game of basketball, not even bothering to change out of his club clothes. Needless to say, according to Murphy, Prince wiped the floor with them. As Murphy put it, “This cat could ball.”
6. Prince was a Jehovah’s Witness
Prince was baptized a Jehovah’s Witness in 2001. Due to this, he refused to swear or sing any of his old songs that support sexual promiscuity (“Darling Nikki”, “Little Red Corvette”). He even went door-to-door.
Once, in October 2003, Prince and Larry Graham, former bassist for Sly and the Family Stone, knocked on the door of a Jewish family in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. As a family member told the Minneapolis–St. Paul Star-Tribune. ”I said, ‘You know what? You’ve walked into a Jewish household…’ He says, ‘Can I just finish?’ Then the other guy, Larry Graham, gets out his little Bible and starts reading scriptures about being Jewish and the land of Israel.” On his door-to-door visits, Prince commented to The New Yorker in 2008, “Sometimes people act surprised, but mostly they’re really cool about it.”
5. Prince Once Released a Recording of Kim Basinger’s Sex Sounds
In 1989, Prince released a 12-inch single called “The Scandalous Sex Suite,” which featured vocal “offerings” from actress Kim Basinger. These included sexual moaning and groaning rumored to have been recorded during an actual lovemaking session between the two celebrities.
In case you didn’t know, Prince dated Basinger for about a year. As a matter of fact, he only agreed to score the soundtrack to Tim Burton’s Batman because he had a crush on co-star Kim Basinger. She must’ve really dug his “Batdance.” Unfortunately, the couple broke up in 1990.
4. Prince was Sued by his NBA Star Landlord
In 2006, Prince rented a home to live in while in Los Angeles. The home was rented to him by Carlos Boozer, an NBA star then playing for the Utah Jazz. Prince proceeded to modify the home more to his linking: installing monogramed carpeting, putting a hair salon in the master bedroom, changing the front gate to his symbol, and changing the color of the blue water stream that led to the front door to purple.
Boozer was a little upset of the unauthorized remodeling and sued Prince. The lawsuit ended up being dismissed when Prince’s lawyers alleged Boozer never complained when he was receiving his $70,000 a month in rent. Prince went ahead and paid Boozer to have the home restored to its original condition.
3. Prince Kept his Iconic Motorcycle from Purple Rain
Who can forget that iconic purple motorcycle Prince strutted around on in the film, Purple Rain? Did you know it was a Honda and that there were actually three bikes used in the film’s production? Two were stunt bikes but the third one was the one on the album cover. That is the one that everyone wanted. It was a 1981 Honda CB400A “Hondamatic,” with a 395 cc air-cooled twin engine and semi-automatic gearbox.
Prince’s customizing was purely cosmetic, adding the purple paint job, changing the Comstar alloy wheels to spokes, custom seats with hot pink velour inserts, custom handlebars and a sissy bar on the rear. Though he kept the bike, unfortunately, it was refinished in black and gold for the 1990 film, Graffiti Bridge. Today, the bike is kept on display at Paisley Park Studios near Minneapolis.
2. Stevie Nicks was Supposed to Have Helped Write “Purple Rain”
“Purple Rain” is an iconic song. Did you know that Prince initially asked Fleetwood Mac singer Stevie Nicks to lend her vocals and help him write it? Nicks once commented, “It was so overwhelming… I listened to it and I just got scared. I called him back and said, ‘I can’t do it. I wish I could. It’s too much for me.’”
She added that Prince might have had passionate intentions as well, “I think he would have liked a romance with me, too.” Fans have been trying to understand the meaning of the epic song for years. Some say it is about the end of the world. According to former Revolution band member Lisa Coleman, the song symbolizes, “a new beginning; purple, the sky at dawn; rain, the cleansing factor.”
1. Prince was Meant to Sing on Michael Jackson’s “Bad”
Do you remember the music video for Michael Jackson’s “Bad?” Do you remember the gang leader portrayed by Wesley Snipes? That was supposed to be Prince, and he was meant to be singing a duet with Michael originally on the song. However, Prince was a little uneasy about the opening lyric, “Your butt is mine? Who’s singing that to whom?” Prince asked, “Because you sure aren’t singing that to me, and I sure ain’t singing it to you. So right there, we got a problem.”
Wow! It’s a good thing there was no internet back then, because this is the kind of thing that would have broken it; two incredibly popular entertainers, public rivals, together on one track, in one music video. But alas, it never happened, possibly for the best.