By Brian Ives
The world is mourning the news that Prince has passed away. One of the biggest pop stars of the ’80s, he consistently defied genres and classification throughout his entire career, and cut his own path.
Here are five great moments in an unprecedented career that demonstrate why Prince was a legend.
- As a teenager, he signed a record deal with Warner Brothers and soon released 1978’s For You, on which he did all of the vocals, played all the instruments and produced it himself, and wrote all the songs himself (except for “Soft and Wet,” which he co-wrote). The music industry was on notice: this was a talent who didn’t need anyone’s help to make records. This was a man with a vision.
- Four albums into his career, and without a huge hit yet, he began breaking the rules of spelling and grammar; 1981’s Controversy ended with a song called “Jack U Off,” the first time he began spelling things his own way.
- In 1982, he released 1999, the album that made him a star. The title track and “Little Red Corvette” were two of the biggest hits of the year.
- In 1984, he released the Purple Rain album and movie. It was a big risk: although Prince was a star on the success of 1999, he wasn’t necessarily at the level of stardom to sell a movie, and had little acting experience. But it paid off: the movie was a hit, grossing $80 million, and the album dominated 1984, spending 24 weeks in a row at the top of the Billboard pop charts, making him one of the biggest stars of the decade, along with Michael Jackson, Madonna and Bruce Springsteen.
- In 1987, Prince was set to release The Black Album, but decided to pull it at the last minute. It wasn’t the first or last time that he upset his record label, Warner Brothers (who would put the album out as a limited release years later in 1994).
- In 1992, he released a title-less album, stylized a just the symbol that he’d later take as his name. Ironically, the first single was called “My Name is Prince.”
- In 1993, he changed his name to that symbol; people began referring to him as “The Artist Formerly Known As Prince,” or just “The Artist.”
- In 1994, while still on Warner Brother Records, he released an independent single “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” which became a global hit for him; he realized he could be successful without major label backing.
- In 1996. he released Emancipation, a triple album on his own NPG Records distributed through EMI, the first of many such one-off album deals he would make.
- In 1998, he released Crystal Ball, a 5 CD set of new material, available through mail order.
- In 2000, he returned to using the name Prince.
- In 2003, he released an instrumental album, N.E.W.S.
- In 2004, he returned to the limelight at two high profile events: first, he opened the GRAMMYS with a duo performance with Beyonce. A few weeks later, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. At the ceremony, he played a show-stopping guitar solo on an all-star version of the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
- In 2005, he returned to the pop charts again with his Musicology album; it was top 5 in the U.S., partly because a copy of the CD was included in ticket sales for his tour.
- In 2007, he played one of the best, or perhaps the best, Super Bowl Halftime show.
Recently, Prince took on a new challenge; doing solo piano concerts. He final show was one week ago, on April 14 at the Fox Theater in Atlanta.