20 Things You Never Knew About Prince
Prince was an epic musician and performer who wrote and recorded hundreds of songs over the course of his career. At the age of just 17, he signed a contract with Warner Brothers and went on to release his debut album, For You, in 1978. The following year, the album Prince went platinum and a music icon was born.
Prince’s next three records all continued to sell millions of copies, with fans going wild for his distinctive blend of funk, dance and rock music. He won a total of eight Grammy awards during his career and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, the same year that he released his platinum-selling comeback album Musicology. And in spite of his tragic death in 2016, Prince’s musical legacy lives on.
Here are 20 facts you might not have known about this talented artist.
20. He only referred to himself as ‘Prince’ once between 1993 and 2000 because of a rights issue
He did this after a major disagreement with Warner Brothers, and for the next seven years, the singer was not referred to as Prince at all.
However – it’s a little known fact that the singer did actually use his first name once between 1993 and the year 2000.
In 1996, he provided the soundtrack for the film Girl 6 and publicly credited himself as ‘Prince’ on the OST.
Thankfully, four years later people everywhere were able to stop referring to the singer as ‘The Artist Formerly Known As Prince.’
He ultimately changed his name back after his Warner Brothers contract expired and to this day is still known primarily as Prince.
19. He was a devout Christian his entire life
Prince is arguably best known for his flamboyant stage antics and raw sexual energy. He wasn’t just a musician – he was a performer, too.
He was a huge hit with the ladies and dated a string of high-profile female celebrities from Kim Basinger to Madonna.
While this may seem at odds with his wild persona, Prince was actually a devout Christian and remained a staunch believer all his life.
In 2001, he became a Jehovah’s Witness and changed his lyrics and clothing to reflect his newfound beliefs.
Any tight or skimpy clothing was removed from his wardrobe and he also insisted that nobody swear around him.
Prince attended regular church services and even knocked on doors in his local area to try and persuade people to join the religion.
18. He believed that an angel cured him of epilepsy when he was a young boy
Prince was an eccentric individual, and on more than one occasion he left journalists scratching their heads during interviews.
He once claimed in a conversation with US talk show host Tavis Smiley that an angel had cured him of his epilepsy.
“I’ve never spoken about this before, but I was born epileptic and I used to have seizures when I was young,” the singer told Smiley.
“And my mother and father didn’t know what to do or how to handle it, but they did the best they could with what little they had.”
“One day I walked in to her and said, ‘Mom, I’m not going to be sick anymore,'” he recalled in the interview.
He continued: “And she said, ‘Why?’, and I said, ‘Because an angel told me so.'”
17. It only took him a couple of hours to write When Doves Cry
Prince wrote many songs over the course of his lifetime – but it seems some took less time to write than others.
One day during the filming of Purple Rain, director Albert Magnoli approached his star performer and said that the film needed a montage song which dealt heavily on emotions.
Prince came back on set the next morning and provided Magnoli with two different tracks to choose from.
One of the songs was the smash hit When Doves Cry, which became Prince’s first #1 hit in the US, topping the charts for a total of five weeks.
After Prince’s death, the song re-charted at number eight and since its release has sold over 1,385,448 copies in the United States alone.
This is made all the more impressive considering that Prince managed to write this song overnight in the space of just a few hours.
16. He created 50 music videos for songs that were never even released
Prince was a notorious workaholic. He rarely slept and instead could often be found in the recording studio in the early hours of the morning.
In fact, he made so much music during his lifetime that the vast majority of it has remained unreleased.
In the 2002 Q&A DVD An Evening with Kevin Smith, the director revealed that he once shot a documentary for Prince.
According to Smith, the singer had put together 50 music videos to accompany songs that were never released.
Apparently, the musician’s estate currently has around 500 songs that have never been heard by the general public locked away in a vault.
During his prolific career Prince produced more than 30 albums, a feat only accomplished due to his insane ability to stay awake for days on end.
15. His high school nickname was “Gazoo”
As a young man growing up in Minneapolis, Prince earned himself the rather unusual nickname ‘Gazoo.’
His high school friends chose the moniker due to his huge afro and thin, wiry frame.
The nickname was a sneaky reference to the flying space alien in popular cartoon The Flintstones.
In the show, ‘The Great Gazoo’ often appeared dressed in a cape and a huge space helmet.
Clearly his friends thought that the cartoon character looked remarkably similar to Prince and his afro.
Thankfully, Prince chose to stick to his birth name when it came to deciding his stage name – we’re not sure ‘Gazoo’ packs the same punch as ‘Prince.’
14. There’s a hidden Prince easter egg in Fargo
Film fans will be interested to know that there’s actually a secret Prince-related easter egg hidden in the classic film Fargo.
If you look carefully at the end credits, you can see that a drive-by witness to one of the murders is listed as ‘Victim In Field’.
The actor’s name is credited as – the symbol Prince used instead of his name between 1993 and 2000.
This credit was deliberately added in by the directors Joel and Ethan Coen, although Prince wasn’t actually in the film.
The real ‘Victim in Field’ was reportedly played by storyboard artist and friend of the Coens, J Todd Anderson.
But the role was credited to Prince (or ) as the Coen brothers are also from Minnesota and wanted to pay homage to one of their favourite musicians from their hometown.
13. He once painted his entire house purple
Prince has had a long association with the colour purple. He’s known for his flamboyant purple stage outfits and his famous song and film of the same name, Purple Rain.
But before Prince was famous and owned his own house, this obsession landed him in a lot of trouble with his landlord.
Prince decided one day that he was going to paint the entirety of his rented house the colour purple.
He even added a giant love symbol to his radical decorating job. However, his landlord – who just so happened to be basketball star Carlos Boozer – was outraged at the paint and took the singer to court.
Boozer sued Prince for unauthorised work carried out on the house. However, a judge later dismissed the case.
To be fair to Boozer, most landlords would probably be aghast if they found their tenants had painted their property purple.
12. He wrote his first song at the age of 7
While some singers only get into the industry later in life, Prince began making steps towards becoming a musician as a very young boy.
The Grammy-award winning artist actually wrote his first song at the tender age of 7 years old.
Prince was inspired by his father – who was a musical man himself – and created a song called Funk Machine using his father’s piano.
The funk genre proved to be a powerful inspiration for Prince, and he spent much of his teenage years attending James Brown concerts.
During one particular gig, Prince was lifted on stage by his family and even got to dance about with the singer.
While this was the young man’s first time on stage, it certainly wasn’t the last; Prince went on to have a successful decades-long performing career.
11. He was once sued by his own sister
Mixing business and family can often be a tricky business – as Prince found out for himself.
He endured a legal battle with one of his own relatives fairly early on in his career, as in 1987, his half-sister Lorna Nelson sued him for plagiarism.
Nelson claimed that she had written the lyrics to U Got the Look, a popular single off the Sign O The Times album.
She argued that the lyrics to Prince’s song were uncannily similar to lyrics she had written in an unreleased song called “What’s Cooking in this Book.”
Prince’s track, which featured vocals from pop singer Sheena Easton, peaked at #2 on the US Billboard Hot 100.
The case went on for two years before the court sided with Prince in 1989. US District Judge David S. Doty ruled that there was “no substantial similarity” between Nelson’s words and Prince’s own.
10. His house had an entire workforce behind it
Prince’s famous Paisley Park recording studio is located in Chanhassen, Minnesota. The vast complex acted as the singer’s record label base, workspace and home.
It even contained an underground vault containing many volumes of demos – music which remains unreleased to this day.
While he was alive, Prince employed an entire workforce to be there at all times.
The singer had film crews present to record various projects, as well as a team of tailors who were on hand to create bespoke clothing for the musician whenever he needed it.
The estate has since been turned into a Gracelands-style monument to the singer and fans are now able to get a little glimpse inside Prince’s world.
For $160, you can upgrade to the ‘ultimate experience,’ and enjoy in-depth tours of Prince’s studios and have access to view archive items.
9. He used to be so poor that he would stand outside McDonald’s just to smell the food
Prince was a highly successful musician for many years, raking in millions of dollars over the course of his career.
However, everyone has to start somewhere, and Prince was no different – he was a struggling artist for a couple of years before managing to hit the big time.
In fact, he was once so poor that he resorted to simply smelling food rather than actually eating it.
In a 1985 interview with Rolling Stone he revealed: “I didn’t have any money, so I’d just stand outside McDonald’s and smell stuff.”
“Poverty makes people angry, brings out their worst side. I was very bitter when I was young,” he continued.
“I was insecure and I’d attack anybody. I couldn’t keep a girlfriend for two weeks. We’d argue about anything.”
8. Prince was deeply in love with the twin sister of a Revolution guitarist for years
Prince was a notorious ladies man, but apparently in the mid-80s he only had eyes for one woman – Susannah Melvoin, who was the twin sister of Revolution guitarist Wendy.
The pair’s tortured romance even led to an engagement, but the couple never made it down the aisle.
Although their relationship was strained thanks to his affairs with other women, Prince wrote some of his most beautiful songs for Melvoin.
Some of these tracks include The Beautiful Ones, Nothing Compares 2 U, and Forever in My Life.
They did have happy times together, and Melvoin recalled in a recent podcast interview how generous he was during their early courtship.
“I was getting a focused attention from him, and I knew that was unique,” Melvoin recalled. “He would send flowers to my door for two years straight.”
7. He created a female alter-ego called ‘Camille’
Prince has always been known for his androgynous appearance and became known as a camp icon in the 80s.
At one point during his career, he decided to take his fluidity one step further by adopting a female alter-ego called ‘Camille’.
He made use of Camille’s feminine vocals on the hit single ‘If I Was Your Girlfriend’.
Apparently Prince achieved the effect by slowing down the tape as he sang in normal register, then speeding the tape back up again in playback.
However, the Camille persona never really took off and Prince abandoned the alter ego in the 80s.
To this day, a Prince album recorded in 1986 and intended to be released under the pseudonym Camille remains unreleased.
6. He met his first wife Mayte after he saw her belly-dancing in a video
Prince got in touch with his first wife Mayte Garcia after seeing a videotape of her belly-dancing as a 16 year old girl.
Weirdly, Mayte’s mother was a die-hard Prince fan and insisted that her daughter send in the footage to the star.
The plan worked though because Prince instantly got in touch with her and the pair struck up a long-distance courtship.
The singer wrote letters to Mayte regularly in the hopes that he’d be able to go out with her once she turned 18; they also exchanged music tapes and sent each other videos.
They eventually got married in February 1996 after four years of dating, and Mayte gave birth to a son, Amiir, in October that year.
However, Amiir tragically died less than a week later and after Mayte suffered a subsequent miscarriage, the couple divorced in 2000.
5. He refused to let a journalist record or take notes during an interview
The eccentric singer has had an interesting relationship with the press, and this eventually reached a head when he refused to let a journalist record anything he said.
Back in 2010, the Daily Mirror’s Peter Willis was invited to interview Prince at Paisley Park in 2010.
But the singer had very strict rules in place about what could and couldn’t be used to record the interview.
Apparently the manager rung Willis up the day before the meeting and stated: “don’t bring a camera, mobile phone or tape recorder – or it’s all off.”
Furthermore, despite the fact that Willis was there to conduct a newspaper interview, Prince wouldn’t even let him write anything down when he arrived. Nevertheless, Willis still managed to produce a fascinating article for the Daily Mirror.
Willis wrote that despite being invited into Prince’s world, ‘I don’t think I got much closer than anyone else to understanding the brilliant, crazy, little genius whose music defined an era.’
4. He spent $500,000 a year on recording studios despite losing money in the late 90s
Despite the fact that Prince was a platinum-selling artist, his career took a downturn in the late 90s and the musician’s income reduced significantly for a few years.
This didn’t stop him from spending huge sums of money on recording studios, as well as his Paisley Park complex.
During his career slump, Prince still insisted on keeping Paisley Park running and fully-staffed 24 hours a day.
He also spent $500,000 a year simply to keep his favourite recording studio in LA open.
This was quite a profligate expense, as he kept the studio open purely on the off chance that he’d be in LA and wanted to record something.
Despite his extravagant spending, Prince never got into any serious financial trouble and in 2004 his platinum-selling album Musicology successfully reignited his music career.
3. He was working on his memoirs before he passed away
Prince was actually working on a manuscript of his memoirs shortly before he tragically died at the age of 57.
The singer was co-writing the autobiography with the help of author Dan Piepenbring, but sadly passed away before he could finish the work.
However, fans of the singer will be excited to learn that the memoirs, entitled The Beautiful Ones, were posthumously released in 2019.
The Beautiful Ones was described in a press release as “an unconventional and poetic journey through [Prince’s] life and creative work.”
“From the family that shaped him and the people, places, and ideas that fired his creative imagination, to the stories behind the music that changed the world.”
The book was received well by critics, with MOJO writing: “his presence in this book is so strong that it’s hard to believe he has really left the building.”
2. Warner Bros let him recruit other artists to their label
As part of their deal with Prince, Warner Bros allowed the singer and musician to recruit other artists for the label.
Music executives had so much faith in Prince that he was able to produce albums for other artists, and one band that caught the singer’s eye in the 1980s was The Time.
Prince had been inspired to launch a pop funk band after watching the film The Idolmaker in 1980, and created The Time out of a Minneapolis group called Flyte Tyme.
Prince wrote songs for the band which had a similar sound to his own early albums, whilst also experimenting with new ideas.
The Time experienced moderate success in the 80s and released four albums. They parted ways with Prince after becoming tired of the lack of creative input they had in their own careers.
The group reformed in 1995 and are still going strong – although nowadays they’re often known as ‘Morris Day & The Time’ or ‘The Original 7ven’.
1. He made his musical protégé Apollonia keep her marriage a secret
In yet another case of Prince nurturing young talent, the musician cast singer and actress Apollonia in his 1984 film Purple Rain as the lead female character.
However, he got more than a little jealous when he realised that the stunning young Apollonia was already married.
He demanded that his co-star keep her husband a secret so that the public would assume she was actually going out with Prince instead.
Apollonia made a name for herself in Purple Rain, but eventually grew tired of working exclusively with Prince.
She left his camp in 1985 to star in the CBS soap opera Falcon Crest, and went on to appear in several other American soaps and TV shows.
Her eponymous debut album was released in 1988 by Warner Bros Records. Three singles were taken from the album, with two charting in the US Dance Top 20.