Prince Rogers Nelson was born in 1958 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Throughout his music career, he has been known as Prince, The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, and simply The Artist. His parents were John L. Nelson and Mattie Shaw, both of whom had musical backgrounds.
Prince's parents grew apart after his sister's birth in 1960 and eventually formally separated. After the separation, Prince developed a hostile relationship with his stepfather and ran away from home, first living with his father and then with another family in the neighborhood, the Andersons.
Together with the Andersons son, Andre Anderson, Prince joined a band with his cousin titled Grand Central. The group formed while they were in junior high school. Prince had a small role in the group initially, but quickly took over the group's arrangements as he became more skilled with a variety of instruments. It didn't take long for Prince to become the band's front man and the group changed their name to Champagne.
In 1976, Prince went solo, recording a demo tape with producer Chris Moon and a more high-quality tape with Owen Husney. The demo was well-received and Prince was given a contract with Warner Bros. Through the deal, Prince was allowed creative control of his music.
Before Prince released his own debut solo album, he did work with Pepe Willie, the husband of Prince's cousin. Willie had a band, 94 East in 1977 and Prince composed the music for the groups tracks while Willie wrote the lyrics. In studio, Prince played the guitar and keyboards. The group's work resulted in an album, Minneapolis Genius – The Historic 1977 Recordings, which didn't see release until a great deal later. The recordings were released in 1995 as 94 East featuring Prince.
Prince's real debut came in 1978 with the album titled For You. Prince played all 27 instruments on the album and had production from Tommy Vicari. The entire album was written by Prince (with the exception of "Soft and Wet"), The album didn't make a great impact on the charts, with only "Soft and Wet" making an impact on the R&B charts.
Prince's sophomore effort, the self-titled Prince, came out in 1979 and did far better on the charts. It had two R&B hits, "Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?" and "I Wanna Be Your Lover." Prince performed the tracks on American Bandstand. While on the show, Dick Clark reportedly said to Prince that he was surprised the group came from Minneapolis of all places, a comment which caused Prince to refuse to answer. Prince's band at the time was comprised of Andre Cymone, Gayle Chapman, Doctor Fink, Bobby Z and Dez Dickerson.
During the 1980s, Prince began adorning flamboyant clothing including high-heeled shoes and would flaunt his sexuality on stage. This brought trouble in 1981 when he opened for The Rolling Stones in bikini briefs, leg warmers and a trench coat, when he was booed off stage and had garbage thrown at him.
During this time, Prince continued recording, releasing Dirty Mind in 1980 and Controversy in 1981. The tour for Dirty Mind saw the replacement of Chapman by Lisa Coleman due to her belief that Prince's actions violated her religious beliefs. Controversy saw Prince's first international charting track, achieved by the title track. During this same time, he created the side project The Time through a clause in his Warner Bros contract.
Prince entered the mainstream in 1982 with his double-album 1999. The album sold three million copies worldwide and the title track, 1999, was a top ten hit internationally. The single "Delirious" reached the top ten on the Hot 100. Around the same time, Prince called his band The Revolution and slowly began to introduce them into his studio work. Prince also began to create a change in the industry, releasing hit records as B-side tracks. Examples of these successes include "How Come You Don't Call Me Anymore," and "Erotic City" and "17 Days."
Prince's success continued to grow as the album Purple Rain, released in 1984 alongside the movie, sold over thirteen million copies in the United States. It spent 24 week at number one and featured the two #1 Hot 100 singles, "When Doves Cry," and "Let's Go Crazy." The title track went on to chart at #2 and the album was so successful that Rolling Stone's ranks it at 72 on the Top 500 albums of all time. During the album's run, Prince held the #1 album, single and film simultaneously.
1985 saw another album by Prince as he released Around the World in a Day. Despite the name of the album, Prince announced he would no longer do live performances or music videos following the album's release. This ban however was dropped by Prince after his album sales stalled and so, he released a video for the single "Raspberry Beret." The single reached #2 on the Hot 100 and was followed up by "Pop Life" which reached #7.
1986 saw another film/album release as Prince starred in and released the movie Under the Cherry Tree, with the album Parade serving as its soundtrack. The album's single "Kiss" topped the Hot 100. Around the same time, Prince did his first full European Tour, after which he disbanded The Revolution.