Prince facts: Iconic singer's career, real name, height, girlfriends and death explained

2 June 2023, 12:49

Prince Live On Stage in 1986
Prince Live On Stage in 1986. Picture: Getty

By Tom Owen

Prince was one of the most legendary and influential singers of all time.

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His music took on various genres and styles over the years, and his death in 2016 shocked the music world and beyond.

The American star was a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer and actor during his career, and he was known for his flamboyant and androgynous style, and for his wide vocal range.

Prince was prolific with his music output, releasing 39 albums during his lifetime, including the iconic LPs Purple Rain and Sign o' the Times.

Here are all the major facts that every Prince fan should know:

  1. Where was Prince born, what was his real name, and who were his parents?

    Prince At The Roxy in 1979
    Prince At The Roxy in 1979. Picture: Getty

    The singer's full name was Prince Rogers Nelson, and he was born in Minneapolis on June 7, 1958.

    He was the son of jazz singer Mattie Della and pianist and songwriter John Lewis Nelson. All four of his grandparents came from Louisiana.

    Prince was named after his father's stage name, Prince Rogers, which his father used while performing with Prince's mother in a jazz group called the Prince Rogers Trio.

    However, Prince didn't like his name and wanted people to call him Skipper instead, a name that stuck throughout his childhood.

    His younger sister, Tyka, was born on May 18, 1960.

    Prince's parents divorced when he was 10 years old. His mother then remarried Hayward Baker, with whom she had a son named Omarr.

    Prince had a difficult relationship with Omarr, causing him to repeatedly switch homes, sometimes living with his father and sometimes with his mother.

  2. How did Prince get into music?

    Prince gives inspiring life advice on New Girl

    Prince and his sister developed a keen interest in music from a young age, encouraged by their father.

    He wrote his first song, 'Funk Machine', on his father's piano when he was seven years old.

    His stepfather took Prince to see James Brown in concert, while his father bought him his first guitar.

    In 1975, Pepe Willie, the husband of Prince's cousin Shauntel, formed the band 94 East with Marcy Ingvoldstad and Kristie Lazenberry, hiring André Cymone and Prince to record tracks.

    In 1976, Prince recorded a demo tape with producer Chris Moon. Unable to secure a recording contract, Moon brought the tape to Owen Husney, a Minneapolis businessman, who signed Prince, aged 19, to a management contract.

    Eventually, Prince signed a contract with Warner Bros. The record company agreed to give Prince creative control for three albums, and his first album For You came out in 1978.

  3. Why did Prince change his name to a symbol?

    The Prince Love Symbol
    The Prince Love Symbol. Picture: Alamy

    In 1993, Prince found himself at odds with record label Warner Bros.

    The label refused to release Prince's massive backlog of music at a steady pace, and in rebellion, Prince adopted the 'Love Symbol' as his stage name.

    In order to use the symbol in print media, Warner Bros organized a mass mailing of floppy disks with a custom font.

    Prince was then referred to as the Artist Formerly Known as Prince or 'the Artist'.

    In 1994, Prince began to release albums quickly to release himself from his contractual obligations to Warner Bros.

    He also began appearing with the word "slave" written on his face. Warner Bros. then succumbed to Prince's wishes to release an album of new material, Come.

  4. How tall was Prince?

    Prince stood at 5ft 2 (157.5 cm) tall.

    Speaking about his stature, he said: "People say I'm wearing heels because I'm short. I wear heels because the women like 'em."

  5. Was Prince ever married and did he have children?

    Prince and first wife Mayte Garcia in 1995
    Prince and first wife Mayte Garcia in 1995. Picture: Getty

    Prince was romantically linked with various women over the years, including Kim Basinger, Madonna, Vanity, Jill Jones, Sheila E, Carmen Electra, Susannah Melvoin and Sherilyn Fenn.

    In 1990, he saw 16-year-old dancer Mayte García standing outside his tour bus, and referred to her as his "future wife" when pointing her out to bandmate Rosie Gaines.

    García began working as one of his backup singers and dancers after graduating from high school. They married on February 14, 1996, when he was 37 and she was 22.

    The couple had a son named Amiir (born October 16, 1996), who died a week after being born due to Pfeiffer syndrome.

    The couple eventually divorced in 2000.

    Prince then married Manuela Testolini, a Canadian businesswoman, in a private ceremony in 2001. They divorced in May 2006.

    Prince and second wife Manuela Testolini in 2005
    Prince and second wife Manuela Testolini in 2005. Picture: Getty
  6. How and when did Prince die?

    Prince's final show occurred on April 14, 2016, when he was not feeling well.

    While flying back to Minneapolis the next morning, he became unresponsive, and his private jet made an emergency landing at Quad City International Airport in Moline, Illinois.

    He was hospitalized and received naloxone, a medication used to block the effects of opioids, usually following an overdose.

    Messages left by fans after Prince's death
    Messages left by fans after Prince's death. Picture: Getty

    Once he became conscious, he left against medical advice. His reps said he suffered from dehydration and had influenza for several weeks.

    Prince was spotted bicycling the next day, and he shopped that evening for Record Store Day, making a brief appearance at a dance party at his Paisley Park recording studio complex.

    On April 19, he attended a performance by singer Lizz Wright at the Dakota Jazz Club.

    On April 20, 2016, Prince's reps called up a California specialist in addiction medicine and pain management, seeking medical help for him.

    On April 21, the local Sheriff's Office received a 911 call requesting an ambulance be sent to Prince's home. The caller initially told the dispatcher that an unidentified person at the home was unconscious, then moments later said he was dead, and finally identified them as Prince.

    There were no signs of suicide or foul play. A press release from the Midwest Medical Examiner's Office in Anoka County on June 2 stated that the musician had died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl, at the age of 57.

    The fentanyl that led to his overdose came in counterfeit pills made to look like a generic version of the painkiller paracetamol. How and where Prince obtained the drug that led to his death has been the subject of investigations by various law enforcement agencies.

    In 2018, the Carver County Attorney announced that the investigation related to the circumstances of the singer's death had ended with no criminal charges.