Pretty much everyone alive in the ‘90s knows about Prince’s infamous name change. Here’s 11 things you might not have known about the artist currently known as Prince.
1. He’s a Jehovah’s Witness.
Baptized in 2001, the Purple Rain star is a devout Jehovah’s Witness. And he even goes door-to-door! In October 2003, a woman in Eden Prairie, Minnesota opened her door to discover the famously shy artist standing in front of her home. He introduced himself as Prince Nelson and came inside along with his bassist, former Sly and the Family Stone member Larry Graham.
2. Prince is his real name.
Born to two musical parents on June 7, 1958 in Minneapolis, Prince Rogers Nelson was named after his father’s jazz combo.
3. He’s written a lot of hit songs for other artists.
In addition to penning several hundred songs for himself, Prince also composed music for other artists, including “Manic Monday” for the Bangles, “I Feel For You” for Chaka Khan, and “Nothing Compares 2 U” covered by Sinead O’Connor.
4. His symbol actually had a name.
Even though the whole world referred to him as either The Artist or The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, that weird symbol Prince used was actually known as “Love Symbol #2.” It was copyrighted in 1997, but when Prince’s contract expired at midnight on December 31, 1999, he announced that he was reclaiming his given name.
5. His sister sued him.
In 1989, Prince’s half-sister, Lorna Nelson, sued him, claiming that she’d written the lyrics to “U Got the Look,” a song from his ninth studio album that features the voice of pop artist Sheena Easton. After a long court battle, a judge finally sided with Prince.
6. He ticked off the Vice President’s wife.
After purchasing the Purple Rain soundtrack for her 11-year-old daughter, Tipper Gore—wife of Clinton vice president Al Gore—became enraged over the explicit lyrics of “Darling Nikki,” a song that references masturbation and other graphic sex acts. Gore felt that there should be some sort of warning on the label and formed the Parents Music Resource Center, which pressured the recording industry to adopt a ratings system similar to the one employed in the movies. To Prince’s credit, he didn’t oppose the label system and became one of the first artists to release a “clean” version of explicit albums.
7. He lost a child.
Prince’s son, Gregory, was born in November of 1996. Tragically, he died just one week later from a rare genetic condition called Pfieffer Syndrome, which affects to growth of the skull. Prince and his then-wife, Mayte Garcia, refused to discuss the incident publicly and divorced in August of 2000.
8. He’s a little like Willy Wonka.
In 2006, Universal hid 14 purple tickets—seven in the US and seven internationally—inside Prince’s latest album, 3121. Fans who found a purple ticket were invited to attend a private performance at Prince’s Los Angeles home.
9. He simultaneously held the number 1 spots for film, single and album.
During the week of July 27, 1984, Prince’s film Purple Rain hit number one at the box office. At the same time, “When Doves Cry,” was holding the top spot as both an album and a single. Talk about the best week ever.
10. He effed up SNL.
During Prince’s first appearance on Saturday Night Live, he performed the song “Party Up” and sang the lyric, “Fightin’ war is a such a f*ing bore.” It went unnoticed at the time, but in the closing segment, Charles Rocket clearly said, “I’d like to know who the f* did it.” This was the only episode of SNL where the F-bomb was dropped twice.
11. He had a spiritual epiphany.
In 1987, Prince was due to release “The Black Album.” However, mere days before it was scheduled to drop, Prince scrapped the whole thing, calling it “dark and immortal.” (It’s supposedly also really terrible.) The musician claims to have reached this decision following “a spiritual epiphany.” Some reports say that it was actually an early experience with drug ecstasy, but maybe The Artist just knew it would flop.