Prince Year by Year

Purple Current Prince year by year
April 25 - 29, Purple Current is celebrating stand-out years in Prince's career with music, stories and interviews. (MPR Graphic)
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Prince Year by Year - 1978
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  • Prince Year by Year - 1979 01:00:00
  • Prince Year by Year - 1980 01:00:00
  • Prince Year by Year - 1981 01:00:00
  • Prince Year by Year - 1982 01:00:00
  • Prince Year by Year - 1984 01:00:00
  • Prince Year by Year - 1984 Pt. 2 01:00:00
  • Prince Year by Year - 1987 01:00:00
  • Prince Year by Year - 1988 01:00:00
  • Prince Year by Year - 1989 01:00:00
  • Prince Year by Year - 1991 01:00:00
  • Prince Year by Year - 1992 01:00:00
  • Prince Year by Year - 1996 01:00:00
  • Prince Year by Year - 1999 01:00:00
  • Prince Year by Year - 2001 01:00:00
  • Prince Year by Year - 2002 01:00:00
  • Prince Year by Year - 2004 01:00:00
  • Prince Year by Year - 2007 01:00:00
  • Prince Year by Year - 2009 01:00:00
  • Prince Year by Year - 2014 01:00:00

Sunday, April 21 marks the third anniversary of Prince's passing, and Purple Current will honor the memory of the Minneapolis sound legend with a series of programs: "Prince Year by Year."

Created by the staff at Purple Current and The Current, these hourlong programs will each look at a year of Prince's life, with a focus on the music he wrote, performed, and released — as well as work he did for other artists — in that year. The programs cover Prince's hits, rarities and stories from noted collaborators like Dez Dickerson, Bobby Z, Doctor Fink, Sheila E., and Morris Hayes.

"Prince might be the most fascinating musician to emerge not only from Minnesota, but in the last 50 years anywhere on earth," said Jim McGuinn, The Current's program director. "The Current is honored to have access to many of his collaborators, who shared insight into his music, and we're excited to share this year-by-year look at Prince on The Current and Purple Current."

The entire program aired on Purple Current from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., April 26-29, coinciding with Celebration Weekend, the weekend event dedicated to Prince and hosted by Paisley Park.

Use the audio player above to listen to each hour.

1978


1978
1978 is the year Prince emerged with his debut album, For You.

Although he was a newcomer to the major label recording industry, Prince had already established himself as a young phenom in North Minneapolis, where he lived for most of his childhood. He was a member of the hot north side band Grand Central, which he played in alongside Andre Cymone, Morris Day, and other rising talents, and he created quite a buzz when news spread that this young teenager from the Twin Cities had been signed to Warner Bros. Records.

In this hour we'll hear stories from some of Prince's earliest collaborators and supporters about the long journey to making that debut album for Warner Bros., and hear some of Prince's very first studio recordings, including guitar work he contributed to local bands like 94 East and the Family.

Hosted by Andrea Swensson

1979


1979
Prince was still very much an emerging artist in the recording industry and was under close scrutiny by his label, Warner Bros. Records. He hit a few early career milestones in this year: It was the first time he performed live as a solo artist at a pair of shows at the Capri Theater in North Minneapolis, which were booked as a way to showcase his new band to label executives; it was the first time he appeared on national television on the show American Bandstand; and it was the first time one of his albums went platinum. That album, the self-titled Prince, was the second released by Warner Bros. Records, and its success was propelled by the song "I Wanna Be Your Lover," which hit no. 1 on the Billboard Hot Soul Singles chart. Prince and his band supported it with a short tour in the fall of 1979, which opened at the historic Roxy Theatre in West Hollywood.

Hosted by Andrea Swensson

1980


1980
Prince started 1980 finding spots to hang up his first two platinum plaques, one for the single "I Wanna Be Your Lover" and one for his self-titled sophomore album. Platinum success could push a lot of artists to play it safe and keep on tilling the same soil that first bloomed commercial and critical acclaim. Dirty Mind was the first indication that Prince would never play it safe. Where Prince's previous record was polished, romantic and suggestive, Dirty Mind was open-minded, raw, erotic and downright explicit.

Hosted by Sean McPherson

1981


1981
1981 was a crucial year in the evolution of Prince's career. He released his fourth album Controversy, expanding on the overt sexuality of Dirty Mind to include topical and political songs. He began the year touring behind Dirty Mind, but would end it on the road with a new bassist in Brown Mark, moving him closer to the formation of the classic lineup of The Revolution. He suffered through one of his toughest gigs, getting booed off the stage opening for the Rolling Stones. And he introduced the world to his most successful side project, The Time. Inspired by the film The Idolmaker, Prince decided to put together a pop-funk group that would serve as an outlet for the funk, while he explored other genres and styles. Prince was finding himself, his audience, and creating some of the most important music of his career.

Hosted by Jim McGuinn

1982


1982
The year was 1982, but for a certain Purple Yoda from Minnesota, 1982 was all about 1999. 1999 is Prince's fifth studio album, but his first to go Top 10, and the first to feature all the band members of The Revolution. It was seen as Prince's breakthrough album and introduced the world to a style of music that would become known as the Minneapolis Sound. Also in 1982, MTV had recently launched, but wasn't playing many black artists. Along with his frequent rival Michael Jackson, Prince would help change that with the videos for "1999" and "Little Red Corvette," which reached #6 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and helped introduce Prince to a wider audience. Prince also took to the road with the 1999 Tour, featuring The Time and Vanity 6, two artists that Prince created, writing and producing their songs. 1999 also led to Prince's first Grammy nomination, and set him up with the leverage to negotiate for a film to accompany his next album...

Hosted by Derrick Stevens

1984


1984
1984 has been called one of the most important years in pop culture history. Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, and Madonna were all at creative and commercial high points, but no star shined brighter in 1984 than Prince. With the soundtrack and blockbuster movie Purple Rain, through the tour that elevated him to stadiums, Prince owned 1984 like no other.

The best place to start is on May 16, 1984 with the release of what would become his first US #1 hit, the top selling single of the year, a worldwide smash with an iconic video and unique sound, for that was the day Prince released "When Doves Cry."

Hosted by Jim McGuinn

1984, part 2


1984
For Prince it was a year when nearly everything he touched turned to gold, and in addition to the success of Purple Rain, he was working tirelessly. He wrote over 100 songs, masterminding and performing on multiple albums that year for The Time, Apollonia Six, and Sheila E. If there was one year more than any other when Prince established himself as a global superstar and cemented his reputation, his persona, his influence and music forever, it was 1984.

Hosted by Jim McGuinn

1987


1987
The album Sign O' The Times was Prince's first solo release since 1982. Eight of the tracks on Sign O' The Times were originally slated to be on the next Prince and The Revolution album, Dream Factory, but that never happened. The Revolution disbanded in October of 1986 so Prince totally revamped the album.

Prince was also working on a project called Camille, an eponymous album from his gender-bending alias. That album also never came to fruition, but included the songs "Housequake," "If I Was Your Girlfriend" and "Strange Relationship."

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Prince decided to combine those two projects to create a triple album called Crystal Ball... but his record label was not on board with releasing a triple album. So Prince removed 7 tracks from the original project, recorded one more song to be included on this new project and voila you have Sign O' The Times!

The album reached #6 on the Billboard 200 and #4 on Billboard's R&B chart. He followed the release with a European Tour and released a concert film too.

Hosted by Derrick Stevens

1988


1988
Most of 1988 was dominated by Lovesexy. It's the 10th studio album by Prince, released on May 10, 1988. Lovesexy was a last-minute substitution after his abrupt cancellation of the Black Album. He had a little help from Sheila E. on drums, but apart from the song "Eye Know," the album is all Prince. The initial pressing of the LP and the CD had all the songs running together, to be listened to as a continuous piece of music.

While the album received mixed reviews from critics and listeners — it was Prince's least successful album in the U.S since 1981... perhaps due to some retailers relutance to display the cover, which featured Prince, naked on a bed of flowers — it was his first # 1 album in the UK and Alphabet Street, the first single, was a worldwide hit.

Hosted by Derrick Stevens

1989


1989
By 1989, Prince was much more than a superstar. Prince was hard at work as a writer, producer, label boss and by year's end, a nightclub owner. But Prince's behind-the-scenes work didn't slow the expectations for Prince to deliver as a top billing artist.

In the summer of 1989, the movie Batman was released and Prince's soundtrack to the Tim Burton film reigned supreme, redefining the notion of a soundtrack album.

Prince continued to plant seeds closer to home by opening the first Glam Slam nightclub, producing music with Mavis Staples and Patti LaBelle and the continuing development of Paisley Park as a music production facility and record label.

In 1989, Prince seemed to be everywhere at once.

Hosted by Sean McPherson

1991


1991
In 1991, Prince debuted a new band, the New Power Generation, and introduced them to the world with the chart-topping album Diamonds and Pearls. That album produced a number-1 hit, "Cream," in addition to a string of other memorable singles like "Gett Off," "Daddy Pop," and the epic title track. In the fall of 1991, Prince and the NPG performed on the MTV Video Music Awards, and Prince shocked viewers nationwide by turning around to reveal that pants for his yellow lace suit had two symmetrical punched out of them, making a fashion statement that his clothing designer referred to as "butt-out pants."

Hosted by Andrea Swensson

1992


1992
In 1991 Prince had hit his stride with his new band, The New Power Generation. Fresh off the platinum-selling album Diamonds and Pearls and continuing on with a lengthy tour, Prince was working on an album commonly called "The Love Symbol," though it is technically the introduction of the unpronounceable symbol he would use as his name from 1993 to 2000. This era marks the peak of the force of the first lineup of the New Power Generation. With songs like "Sexy MF" and "Love 2 The 9s," Prince demonstrated the incredible pocket that existed between the core members of the NPG, including Tommy Barbarella, Michael Bland and Sonny T.

Hosted by Sean McPherson

1996


1996
1996 was perhaps the most pivotal year in Prince's life. Professionally, it marked the end of the Artist's increasingly tense 18-year relationship with Warner Bros. Records and the release of his first independent album, Emancipation. In addition to that triple album, 1996 also saw the release of Prince's final album on Warner Bros., Chaos and Disorder, and the soundtrack for Spike Lee's Girl 6, which featured tracks from throughout Prince's career.

It was also a time of major personal changes for Prince, who was then only identified by his unpronounceable symbol. On Valentine's Day, 1996, he married his musical collaborator, dancer, and muse, Mayte Garcia, and spent much of the year remodeling Paisley Park and taking time away from touring to prepare for the arrival of their first child. Sadly, that baby was born in the fall of 1996 with a rare genetic disorder and only lived for 6 days before passing away. That heart-wrenching development was kept hidden from the public eye, and happened just as Prince was beginning a large promotional push for Emancipation that included an Oprah interview and a live performance simulcast onto major networks from Paisley Park.

Hosted by Andrea Swensson

1999


1999
A year heavily prophesied in his early work, 1999 centered not around the end of the world, but around two releases... on two different labels. The first album, The Vault...Old Friends 4 Sale was released in August 1999 on Warner Brothers records and served as fulfillment of Prince's 1992 contract with the label. Their relationship had soured over the years with Prince famously appearing with the word slave written on his face. A second album, with notable new collaborations with Chuck D, Sheryl Crow, Gwen Stefani, Ani DiFranco, Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic was released 3 months later on Arista Records. He didn't tour extensively, but there were a few one-off live shows and a pay per view New Year's Eve special, Rave Un2 The Year 2000 to help with promotion of his music released in 1999.

Hosted by Derrick Stevens

2001


2001
Transitions in a human's life can be internal and they can be external. 2001 was a transitional year for Prince on many fronts. First off, he was back to using the name Prince after the end of his contract with Warner Brothers. And, after a two-day long debate with Larry Graham, Prince became a Jehovah's Witness, which he described as a realization, not a conversion. Like all great artists, Prince reacted musically to the changes in his life, and his album Rainbow Children makes a powerful statement about his faith, his freedom and his funk. Rainbow Children marked the beginning of a deep dive into the fundamentals of funk music, with live horns and acoustic drums occupying an oversize part of his sonic palette.

Hosted by Sean McPherson

2002


2002
The early 2000s were a busy time for Prince, but a lot of his activity was flying under the radar of the larger recording and music industry. In 2002 Prince was connecting directly with his fans — or fams, as he called them, short for family — through his revolutionary NPG Music Club website. Over a decade before music consumers would rely on streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music to cue up new releases, Prince was charging his supporters a monthly subscription fee in exchange for digital access to all of his latest work — including the enchanting solo piano album One Nite Alone..., and the live albums One Night Alone Live!, and the The Aftershow: It Ain't Over. In 2002 Prince was touring with an all-star horn section that included Maceo Parker, Candy Dulfer and Greg Boyer, and as you'll hear throughout this hour, they were a monstrous force on stage.

Hosted by Andrea Swensson

2004


2004
In a career filled with both peaks and valleys, 2004 would be one of the peak years for Prince Rogers Nelson. After what seemed like an eternity of lawsuits, the name change, and years exploring alternative styles and methods of releasing music, 2004 was the year that Prince emerged to claim his place on the throne, with a legendary performance with Beyonce at the Grammys, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction where he blew his fellow classic rock inductees off the stage, to the release of multiple albums that year, including Musicology, for which he would tour the world, it brought him back to the top of the charts and would win two Grammys. 20 years after Purple Rain, Prince proved once again, he was able to put out music both commercially and critically vital.

Hosted by Jim McGuinn

2007


2007
The music business was changing in 2007 and, as usual, Prince was ahead of the curve. Releasing a single in partnership with a phone company, release an album in the Sunday paper in the UK, answer frustrated fans online with a one-off single. Prince did it all. Perhaps Prince's greatest discovery of the year was rekindling his relationship with his Madcat Hohner telecaster. Planet Earth, released that year, marked a refocusing on scorching leads and rock grooves.

But the crowning achievement for Prince in 2007 wasn't an album release or a video, it was the triumph of his live shows. The world watched as Prince put on the greatest Super Bowl halftime show of all time. He thrilled his hometown with three separate shows on 7/07/07 and on top of that, Prince closed out the year with his 21 Nights in London run. The residency format was built for an artist with the catalog, the vision and the stamina of Prince. With one of the tightest bands of Prince's entire career, the unit delivered night after night, show after after show.

Hosted by Sean McPherson

2009


2009
In 2009, Prince explored new technology and new relationships with commerciial partners. He released a lot of recorded music including Lotuflow3r and MPLSound. Lotuflow3r was originally released as a download to correspond with the launch of Prince's website of the same name. Five days later, CD copies were available exclusively at Target stores, sold as a 3-disc package set that included Elixer, a project from one of his proteges, Bria Valente. "Dreamer" from the Lotusflow3r was nominated for a Grammy for Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance.

Hosted by Derrick Stevens

2014


2014
This hour we're diving into 2014: a prolific year in Prince's later career that found him releasing two albums on a single day: the solo album ART OFFICIAL AGE and a record that he recorded with his power trio 3RDEYEGIRL, PLECTRUMELECTRUM. Prince kept busy throughout 2014, taking 3RDEYEGIRL on a tour of the U.K., performing on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, The Arsenio Hall Show and Saturday Night Live, and bringing back the tradition of hosting late-night parties at his recording complex, Paisley Park.

Hosted by Andrea Swensson

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