Once, a King of Pop ruled. And then he died. In his place, another ascended to the throne, to the very biggest chair at pop’s high table. Naw, not that Thicke lad. We’re talking about a purple pixie just too damn funky for his own damn self. We’re talking Prince.
Prince has meant many things to many people since debuting with his first album, 1978’s ‘For You’. To some, he’s a faultless genius; to others, a greatly flawed artist whose indulgences have compromised his greatest contributions to the pop canon – songs like ‘Raspberry Beret’, ‘Purple Rain’, ‘Sign O’ The Times’, ‘Cream’. Hell, we’ll even concede that, way back when, ‘Batdance’ got us grooving in our age 10-11 slacks.
Clash selected its own top five Prince singles to mark the singer’s 55th birthday earlier this year – find that article here.
Here, we highlight 10 things that you (maybe) never knew about the man, the legend… the multifaceted pop monolith of modest stature. These words come straight from the page’s of Clash’s Pop Issue, available to buy now and featuring interviews with Lorde, Pharrell Williams, John Newman, Boy George and many more. Information here.
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Prince, ‘Breakfast Can Wait’ (2013)
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Raised a Seventh-Day Adventist, Prince has always been a spiritual man, but his conversion to the Jehovah's Witness faith surprised many, especially him knocking on doors with copies of the Watchtower. He has renounced much of his back catalogue as a result.
When he was a young, skint musician just starting out, Prince couldn’t afford to eat fast food, so he’d stand outside McDonald's on Plymouth Avenue in Minneapolis just to smell the food. Which is ironic, as he’s now a PETA-endorsed vegan who won’t “eat anything with parents”.
He has made numerous unreleased albums and videos, famously one as his feminine alter ego Camille, who made her debut on ‘If I was Your Girlfriend’ from 1987’s ‘Sign O’ The Times’ album. Camille was also credited as the author of the contentious ‘The Black Album’.
‘The Black Album’ was recalled before its original 1987 release amidst much speculation, including his conviction that it was the work of the devil. Others claim he had a bad reaction to taking ecstasy. Warner Bros released the album seven years later.
He’s infamously litigious, suing corporations in a quest to protect his copyright and control his image entirely. So far he’s had a go at YouTube, Twitter, and Vine – but there’s been huge backlash against him attempting to sue actual fans for misusing his ‘image’.
A protracted feud with Madonna appears to have finally thawed. After dating for a short time, they cattily castigated each other back and forth in the press, despite Prince having played guitar on, and contributed vocals to, Madge’s ‘Like A Prayer’ album.
He has been impersonated by several comedians, most notably by Billy Crystal on Saturday Night Live (of which Prince allegedly approved) and David Chappelle, whose hilarious Prince parody (main image) has recently appeared as the cover of his 2013 single, ‘Breakfast Can Wait’ (video above).
His first number one single, ‘When Doves Cry’ (from the ‘Purple Rain’ LP, video below), is notable not just because Prince plays all the instruments. It’s an unconventional dance track due to a lack of bass line, which he removed after it was mixed to make the track starker.
He played a surprising cover of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ at the 2008 Coachella Festival, and then demanded YouTube take down footage shot by fans (it has since re-appeared). Thom Yorke found it all rather amusing and reckoned it should stay up as it was their song and not his.
He and then wife Mayte Garcia tragically lost their baby son just one week after he was born in October 1996 due to a rare genetic condition, Pfeiffer syndrome. He hid this from the wider world and later sued Paisley Park staff that had supposedly leaked the information to the press.
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Prince, ‘When Doves Cry’ (1984)
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Words: Anna Wilson
Get more pop! Clash’s Pop Issue is out now – information here.