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53 things you might not know about Prince

Devoted Gimme Noise readers already know that we're big fans of Prince around these parts -- we even have an entire wing of our blog roped off for Purple One-related posts. So when we heard today is Prince's 53rd birthday, we jumped at the chance to geek out and compile a list of some lesser-known tidbits about our state's most iconic musician.

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called Prince Rogers Nelson's Day of Birth. Here are 53 factoids to help you celebrate this glorious day. Release the doves and let's go crazy.

See Also: How to purify yourself before a Prince show at Paisley Park

1. In 1985, Prince owned a white T-bird and could often be seen driving it around North Minneapolis.

2. Prince's dad, John Nelson, led the "Prince Rogers" jazz trio, which eventually became John's nickname, and then Prince's official name.

3. Prince's mom's name is Mattie Shaw, and he says she's responsible for his "wild side."

4. Prince is the official pioneer of "the Minneapolis sound" heralded by music mags throughout the '80s.

5. Prince wrote "Nothing Compares 2 U" about bandmate Wendy Melvoin's sister Susannah Melvoin, a song that became famous when Sinead O'Connor covered it.

6. Prince was called "Skipper" when he was a little boy.

7. In a 1985 article in Rolling Stone, Prince says Bobby Z is his best friend, though he's "not a spectacular drummer." He says he keeps him on because Bobby's drumming is a reaction to what Prince does on stage.

8. When Prince's alias was the unpronounceable symbol, some staffers at Paisley Park just referred to him as "the dude."

9. At 13, he formed Grand Central, his first band, with some high school friends.

10. Because First Avenue doesn't have much for a backstage area, many of the scenes that take place offstage but inside the nightclub in Prince's feature film Purple Rain had to be filmed offsite. 

11. Prince intended Purple Rain to be darker.

12. Prince said he used to get physically ill from depression during the "Dirty Mind" era.

13. There were many early comparisons of Prince to Jimi Hendrix, and Prince told Rolling Stone in a cover story that's "only because he's black."

14. Prince was spotted all over downtown Minneapolis nightclubs in 2009 but often would leave 10 minutes after he arrived. In 2010, he made several cameo appearances to catch shows at First Avenue, including almost joining Gayngs on stage during their album release show, but each time he would slip out of the club just as attendees were about to fly into a tizzy.

15. Prince is 5'2" tall.

16. Because of his status as a Jehovah's Witness, Prince refuses to swear in his songs or regularly sing those that championed sexual freedom (e.g. "Darling Nikki", "Little Red Corvette").

17. Aside from Sheila's E's first album, Prince's Paisley Park label did not produce any Billboard-charting hits outside Prince's own.

18. The vocals on gender-bending track "If I Was Your Girlfriend" from Sign O The Times are said to be that of Prince's female alter-ego, Camille.

19. Warner Brothers sought a return on their investment in Paisley Park, which led to some artists recording there against Prince's wishes.

20. Actress Kim Basinger in one of Prince's few non-brunette exes. They broke up in 1990.

21. NBA star Carlos Boozer was Prince's Los Angeles landlord in 2006 and he later sued The Purple one for painting his symbol on the house's exterior and installing monogrammed carpeting. 

22. The lawsuit was dismissed when Prince's lawyers alleged Boozer collected the $70K/month rent with no complaint.

23. Prince married Mayte Garcia in 1996 in Minneapolis. White doves were released after the ceremony. They divorced several years later and Mayte began dating Tommy Lee.

24. Prince and Mayte had a child, Boy Gregory, who, according to the Star Tribune, died a week after birth due to a rare skull defect.

 

25. Prince dissolved the Revolution in 1986 when he dismissed Wendy & Lisa from the group.  They had creative differences over the newest non-musician members Prince had invited into the band.

26. Dr. Fink, keyboardist for the Revolution, said during their early years they used to run into Bob Seger on tour, and Prince would ask why he was so popular.

27. The motorcycle Prince rides in Purple Rain is a customized Honda.

28. Spaghetti and orange juice was Prince's favorite meal during his early years with the Revolution.

29. Prince loved Billy Crystal's impersonation of him on SNL.

30. In the early '80s in Los Angeles, one of Prince's bodyguards was accused of assault when he allegedly tried to stop a photographer from getting into Prince's car.

31. That incident happened on the night of the "We Are The World" recording.

32. Prince would stay awake for days on end when he was in the studio.

33. Prince said Morris Day criticized him a lot early on. Incidentally, Morris also played Prince's antagonist in Purple Rain. Some sources say the two had a scuffle at First Avenue.

34. Tevin Campbell's "Round & Round" hit single was produced by Prince.

35. Prince's 1990 feature film, Graffiti Bridge, was a box-office and critical flop.

36. To prepare the cast for Purple Rain, Prince enrolled them in classes at Minnesota Dance Theatre.

37. Prince's second-ever television appearance was on American Bandstand in 1980 at the age of 19. After the performance, Dick Clark said, "This is not the kind of music that comes from Minneapolis, Minnesota."

38. Prince is a self-taught musician and producer. His first album, For You, was done completely alone.

39. Prince produced trio Vanity 6, whereas the 6 refers to the breast count.

40. Wendy and Lisa's only songwriting contribution to any Prince album was "Computer Blue."

41. In 1984, Prince accomplished something only the Beatles had one before him: He was topping charts simultaneously with an album, a film and a single (Purple Rain and "When Doves Cry," respectively).

42. Prince started dating singer and Minneapolis native Bria Valente in 2007 (real name Brenda Fuentes), and during their time together she became a Jehovah's Witness as well.

43. In 1975, Prince was a member of Minneapolis band 94 East.

44. Prince played electric guitar on Madonna's "Like A Prayer."

45. When Apollonia had to kiss Prince in Purple Rain, she was dating David Lee Roth.

46. Prince removed the bassline from "When Doves Cry" to make it darker and more syncopated.

47. Prince once paid a salon in Washington, D.C., to close down, black out all the windows, and do his hair.

48. Prince was just blocks away from the site of John Lennon's murder when it happened.

53 things you might not know about Prince

49. The yellow guitar Prince famously played in the "Gett Off" video is encased at the Smithsonian.

50. Prince named his "Graffiti Bridge" film after a decrepit bridge in a Twin Cities suburb. It has since been torn down.

51. Prince used to hang out at a McDonald's on Plymouth Avenue on the North Side, where he'd stand outside and smell the food when he didn't have money.

52. Prince's father was not a gun-toting maniac as portrayed in the film Purple Rain. Prince said his father never swore, never drank, and that he always thought his dad was cool.

53. Many of Prince's early chart-toppers were recorded in a warehouse in Eden Prairie, MN.   

Compiled by Jen Boyles and Andrea Swensson
 


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