Legendary, genre-defying, gender-bending rocker Prince died this week at the age of 57. Music fans around the world are in mourning for the star who sold more than 100 million records, won seven Grammys, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.
In honour of The Purple One, we’re taking a brief look back on the lesser known facts about the life and career of an icon. Here are 5 things you may not know about Prince.
#1 His real name actually was Prince.
Prince wasn’t just a catchy mononym. Prince Rogers Nelson was born in Minneapolis on June 7, 1958 to Mattie Della and John Lewis Nelson. He was named after his father, who performed under the stage name Prince Rogers with a jazz group called the Prince Rogers Trio. In a 1991 television interview with A Current Affair, Prince’s father said, “I named my son Prince because I wanted him to do everything I wanted to do”.
#2 He was a Jehovah’s Witness.
Prince was a devout Jehovah’s Witness. He joined the faith 2001, following a long debate with friend, fellow musician, and Jehovah’s Witness Larry Graham. Though he was famously shy, the musician even went proselytising door-to-door. A woman named Rochelle recounted the experience of answering a knock to discover Prince on her doorstep to the Minneapolis-St.Paul Star Tribune.
#3 His symbol had a name.
Prince changed his name to an unpronounceable glyph in 1993. The symbol combined the signs for masculine and feminine, capturing the androgyny that was central to his performances and public persona. The world began referring to him as “The Artist” or “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince”, but the emblem actually had a formal name: Love Symbol #2.
#4 He wrote hit songs for other artists.
Prince released 39 solo studio albums and recorded under a variety of pseudonyms, but he also wrote a number of songs for other artists. Sinead O’Connor’s breakthrough hit, “Nothing Compares 2 U”, was penned by the purple pop star, as well as The Bangles’ “Manic Monday”. Other tunes, like “I Feel For You” and “When You Were Mine”, were recorded by Prince first but made famous by other performers (in this case Chaka Khan and Cyndi Lauper, respectively).
#5 He simultaneously held the number one spots for film, single, and album.
Though it was largely panned by critics, Prince’s film Purple Rain hit number one at the box office during the week of July 27, 1984 (and later earned an Oscar for Best Original Score). In the same week, the film’s soundtrack was the best-selling album and “When Doves Cry” was anchored at the top of the charts for singles, making Prince the first artist ever to have the top film, album, and single simultaneously.