Music

59 Things U Might Not Know About Prince

Prince is not a woman, not a man, and something U will never understand. And other surprising facts.

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

 

1. Prince wrote his first song at the age of 7, and it was called “Funk Machine.”

2. He danced on stage with James Brown when was 10. “My stepdad put me on stage with him and I danced a bit until the bodyguard took me off,” Prince told MTV in 1985.

3. He later danced with Brown — and Michael Jackson! — in this amazing footage from a show at the Beverly Theatre in Los Angeles in 1983. (B.B. King also happened to be on stage.)

4. His first band when he was a young teenager was called Grand Central.

5. Prince was a hardcore Joni Mitchell fan as a teen. “Prince used to write me fan mail with all of the U’s and hearts that way that he writes,” she told New York Magazine. “And the office took it as mail from the lunatic fringe and just tossed it!”

6. He was once so poor that he’d just smell food instead of eating it. “I didn’t have any money, so I’d just stand outside McDonald’s and smell stuff,” he told Rolling Stone in 1985.

7. He rejected a deal with CBS when he was 19 because they insisted that Verdine White from Earth, Wind, and Fire produce his first three albums. Prince later signed a deal with Warner Bros. that allowed him to produce his own music.

8. Another clause in Prince’s Warner Bros. contract allowed him to recruit and produce other artists for the label. He took advantage of this to produce an album by The Time.

9. Despite the fact that he put The Time through rigorous rehearsals for the album, Prince ended up recording every single instrumental part on their debut album himself. The only member of the band who is actually on the record is singer Morris Day, who was forced to closely mimic Prince’s delivery and is often overshadowed by his backing vocals.

10. Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the production duo behind many of Janet Jackson’s biggest singles in the ’80s as well as hits by Mariah Carey, Boyz II Men, Human League, and George Michael, started out as members of The Time, but were fired by Prince.

11. When he made his first appearance on Saturday Night Live in 1981, he sang, “Fightin’ war is a such a fucking bore,” but it wasn’t noticed in the moment and was aired without any censoring.

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

 

12. There was so much smoke used in the videos for “1999” and “Little Red Corvette” that many people on the set got diarrhea from all the mineral oil in the air.

13. Prince also ghostwrote and produced a record for Vanity 6, a trio fronted by Denise Matthews, a woman he was dating in the early ’80s.

14. He originally wanted the group to be called The Hookers, and for Matthews to go by the stage name Vagina — pronounced “va-geen-uh” — but she refused and chose the name Vanity instead.

15. Prince gave the group the name Vanity 6 because among the three members, there were six breasts.

16. Prince is the only artist aside from The Beatles to have the No. 1 movie, album, and single in the United States at the same time with Purple Rain and “When Doves Cry.”

17. “When Doves Cry” was revolutionary for being the first major R&B hit to not include a bass line.

18. Prince essentially directed all of his videos in the ’80s, even if a video technically had an official director. He made Larry Williams, the guy hired to direct “When Doves Cry,” sit outside with a stack of magazines while that video was made.

19. According to Purple Rain director Albert Magnoli, one of Prince’s favorite meals at the time the film was being made was spaghetti and orange juice.

20. The actual First Avenue club in Minneapolis has a small backstage area, so many of the scenes that took place backstage at the venue in Purple Rain had to be shot elsewhere.

21. Prince made his Purple Rain co-star and musical protégé Apollonia keep her marriage secret so the public could assume that she was actually in a romantic relationship with him.

22. Pat Smear from Nirvana and The Foo Fighters was an extra in the video for “Raspberry Beret.” He was originally turned down when he auditioned, but Prince insisted that he be in the video because he liked his dreadlocks.

23. Prince originally gave “Kiss” to Mazarati, a side project of The Revolution’s Brown Mark and Bobby Z., but took it back after he heard the funky backing track they added to the song.

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

 

24. Prince was deeply in love with Susannah Melvoin, the twin sister of Revolution guitarist Wendy Melvoin, through much of the mid-’80s.

25. His tortured romance with her, complicated largely by his philandering, was the basis for some of his best ballads, including “The Beautiful Ones,” “Nothing Compares 2 U,” and “Forever in My Life.”

26. When Melvoin and Prince broke up for good, he recorded a song called “Wally,” in which he confided his most intense thoughts about her to his bodyguard and dancer Wally Safford. That song has only been heard by Prince’s engineer Susan Rogers and was deleted immediately after it was recorded, but he reportedly recorded another version later on for posterity.

27. Prince spent most of 1986 recording a double album tentatively titled Dream Factory with The Revolution, but ended up breaking up the band and shelving the project. Many of the songs were included on his next album, Sign O the Times, but other tracks either turned up on on future albums like Crystal Ball or were left to circulate as bootleg recordings.

28. Prince developed a female alter ego known as Camille while working on Sign O the Times. He used the persona on the single “If I Was Your Girlfriend,” and achieved the effect by slowing down the tape as he sang in his normal register, and then speeding the tape up in playback.

29. He reportedly recorded an entire album as Camille, but eventually scrapped it along with plans to film a movie about the character in which he’d play himself as well as appear in drag as Camille.

30. His half-sister Lorna Nelson sued him in 1989 claiming that she wrote the lyrics for “U Got the Look,” but after a court battle, a judge sided with Prince.

31. Prince insisted that The Black Album, his heavy funk follow-up to Sign O the Times, be recalled and canceled a week before its release date in 1987 because he reportedly became convinced that the record was a work of the devil. It was heavily bootlegged, and eventually released commercially in 1994.

32. Prince hid a message in the video for “Alphabet Street” that appears on the screen for split second before the first chorus: “Don’t buy the Black Album. I’m sorry.”

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

 

33. Tim Burton had originally planned for the Batman soundtrack to be split between Prince and Michael Jackson, with the former providing funk tracks and the latter singing ballads.

34. Prince ended up recording an entire album’s worth of material after meeting and falling for lead actress Kim Basinger. He canceled a Japanese tour to get to work on the material in an attempt to impress her.

35. Shortly after the soundtrack was released, he produced an album called A Hollywood Affair featuring Basinger, but the record was scrapped, mainly because she wasn’t a very good singer.

36. Prince wrote “Manic Monday” for The Bangles.

37. And co-wrote “Stand Back” with Stevie Nicks. He also played synthesizer on the studio recording.

38. And “I Feel for You” for Chaka Khan.

39. And “Round and Round” for Tevin Campbell.

40. And “Sugar Walls” for Sheena Easton.

41. He wrote Cyndi Lauper’s hit “When You Were Mine” too. It was originally released on Dirty Mind in 1980.

42. He wrote “Nothing Compares 2 U” for The Family, but Sinead O’Connor made it a worldwide hit in 1990.

43. He played guitar on Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” but was not officially credited.

44. He also played on Kate Bush’s “Why Should I Love You?”

45. Michael Jackson wrote “Bad” with the intention of singing it as a duet with Prince, but Prince wasn’t comfortable with the lyrics and objected to the opening line, “Your butt is mine.”

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

 

46. The first time Prince ever saw his first wife, Mayte Garcia, was on a videotape. Garcia’s mother, a die-hard Prince fan, insisted that her daughter send videotapes of her belly dance routine to Prince when she was only 16.

47. He began a long-distance courtship with Garcia with the hope of seducing her by the time she turned 18. They wrote letters to one another regularly, and he would give her tapes of new music, and she would send him videos of her dancing to it.

48. Prince became a Jehovah’s Witness around 1997, and subsequently dropped his more sexually explicit material from his concerts, and avoided writing overtly sexy songs for many years.

49. Prince wanted Clerks and Chasing Amy director Kevin Smith to make a movie based on his 2001 album The Rainbow Children, but Smith dropped out after realizing the project — which included messages like “Jesus Christ is the son of God” flashing on screen — was intended to be a recruitment film for Jehovah’s Witnesses.

50. Prince keeps an extensive archive of unused songs, shelved albums, and assorted abandoned video projects in a storeroom he calls The Vault in his Paisley Park studio compound.

51. Prince’s revenue streams were diminishing by the mid-’90s, but he still kept the Paisley Park complex running and fully staffed 24 hours a day and spent $500,000 per year keeping a studio ready in Los Angeles on the chance that he’d be in town and want to record on a whim.

52. Paisley Park had a full-time catering team, a staff of 10 tailors on hand to create bespoke clothing for Prince and his musicians, and a film crew to shoot videos that would never be released.

53. When Prince changed his name to O{+> in the mid-’90s, he presented it to journalists as though it was a completely new persona. “Prince never used to do interviews,” he told Time Out in 1995. “You’d have to ask Prince why, but you’re not talking to Prince now, you’re talking to me.”

54. Prince chose to change his name to an unpronounceable glyph as a way of striking back against Warner Bros., who he blamed for the low sales for his early-’90s material and various Paisley Park projects. He went back to being called Prince in 2000 after all his contracts with Time Warner expired.

Fox

Fox

 

55. Prince is a huge fan of The New Girl and sent Zooey Deschanel an email telling her that he only watched two things on television — her show and the news.

56. He asked to guest star on The New Girl, and pitched the storyline in which he gives Zooey Deschanel’s character a spiritual makeover to improve her relationship with her boyfriend.

57. He also recorded a single, “FALLINLOVE2NITE,” with Deschanel.

58. Prince refuses to let journalists record his voice for interviews, but also disapproves of them taking notes while they are talking to him.

59. And seriously, Prince is his real name. Prince Rogers Nelson.

Items 12, 18, and 22 are sourced from I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution by Rob Tannenbaum and Craig Marks.

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