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PRINCE THE DAZZLING DECADE

From his prodigious teenage years to his untimely death in 2016, Prince proved himself to be one of the most staggeringly talented and prolific artists that the music world has ever seen. The 10 albums he released from 1978 to 1988 contain his most stunning creative work. On what would have been his 60th birthday, Neil Crossley salutes a singular genius…

Had events conspired differently, the staggering musical trajectory of Prince Rogers Nelson could have spluttered to an abrupt halt on 26 January 1980 when he made his first national appearance on venerable US TV music show American Bandstand. After a slick and sensual performance of his first single I Wanna Be Your Lover, veteran presenter Dick Clark stepped up on stage, microphone in hand, to ask the 21-year-old a few questions.

What happened next was in stark contrast to the dynamic performance the audience had just witnessed. As Clark proceeded to ask the nascent star a few rudimentary questions, Prince seemed completely overawed, barely able to utter a word, shifting uncomfortably and staring intermittently at the floor.

One of the millions watching on TV was his friend and musical mentor Pepé Willie – who lost no time in confronting Prince about the interview after the broadcast. “I go like: ‘What the hell happened to you man?’. I was yelling at this guy. He said: ‘Pepé, it all hit me at one time. Millions of people were watching me’. He got stage fright. And at that time he said to me: ‘that will never, ever happen again’.”

Such an experience could have crushed a lesser artist. But Prince had Therce drive and self-belief. Within five years, he was on the verge of global stardom, going on to notch up over 100 million album sales in the course of his career. Prince spanned rock and R&B to create a sound that helped define the 80s. It was this era that would provide his lasting musical legacy.

TEEN PRODIGY

Prince was 16 years old when word began circulating about his prodigious talents. “there were these hushed conversations about this 16-year-old kid who was the next Stevie Wonder and could play all these instruments,” recalled Dez Dickerson, lead guitarist with Prince from 1978 to 1983.

Born in Minneapolis on 7 June 1958, Prince was immersed in music from the outset. His father, John Nelson, was a jazz pianist and leader of The Prince Rogers Trio. At the age of seven, Prince wrote his first song, Funk Machine, on his father’s piano. In 1972, he formed the band Grand Central with high-school friend André Cymone. A stint with the band 94 East followed, before Prince came to the attention of aspiring manager Owen Husney.

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