Prince Rogers Nelson: Much More Than Purple Rain!

Prince Rogers Nelson: Much more than Purple Rain

Not only is Prince a highly proficient guitar player, but also plays 27 other instruments!

Prince was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1958 into a musical family. His father was a pianist and his mother was a jazz singer. Reportedly, it did not take long for Prince to take an interest in music, and at the age of around five, he knew his career path after having his first solo with his church choir.

Prince got his first music contract when he was only 17. He released his first album two years later, titled For You, in 1978 under Warner Bros. label. With this record, he started to see himself on the Billboard charts. In 1979, Prince acquired guitarist Dez Dickerson and released a self-titled album which contained such hits as “I Wanna Be Your Lover.” Prince then began touring with Rick James, which solidified his popularity. Prince started branching out. He wrote and recorded songs for Morris Day and the Time, and later wrote songs for Chaka Khan, Sheila E., and The Bangles. He wrote and recorded “Manic Monday!”

Purple Reign, Revolution!

Fast forward to 1984’s Purple Rain. We have all heard it and most have seen the movie, in my case repeatedly. It bears mentioning that Purple Rain is perhaps one of the most influential records of the 20th century. If you do not think so, listen to Darling Nikki, and think about it in a historical context. This song is responsible for the creation of the PMRC, the reason why there are warning labels on CDs. Rumor has it that Tipper Gore caught her young daughter listening to Darling Nikki and went on a war path to destroy free speech, rounding up other Washington wives to help in her cause. It ended with warning labels and discriminatory sales, but if you listen to the radio today and hear Akon singing about the seats getting wet in his ride… sex is still important in pop music.

During the Revolution years Prince was at his popularity peak, the issue with the PMRC only contributed to it. A constant throughout those years was his signature guitars.

Prince’s Custom Hohner Telecaster

Prince has his iconic Cloud guitar as well as his love symbol guitar but is also seen playing a lot of fender strats and tele, and with them Prince’s funk, soul, pop, rock style created what is retrospectively called the Minneapolis sound.

Love Symbol Guitar

Cloud Guitar V

Aside from being deeply involved in his own music production, Prince also wrote songs for other bands, made his own movies, and helped Tim Burton with the soundtrack for Batman.  Despite Prince’s reputation for being self-absorbed, he deserves recognition for constantly being involved in something…. and doing it well. In addition he also deserves some recognition for being a hot funk guitar player in the pop realm, who else does that? Lady Gaga doesn’t! Although Lil’ Wayne tries… Check out Lil’ Wayne, Prom Queen.

This weeks homework assignment for you is to listen to the sexy and funky side of Prince, and rework those jams into something to play with your friends, practicing rhythm as well as lead.

Here are some famous chord progressions from Prince that are fun as hell to jam over.

The numerals indicate voicing.

Purple Rain

(Take your Bb Pentatonic and Lets Go Crazy!)

Bb7sus            (VI)    Gmin  (III)      Fmaj (I)           Ebmaj (VI)


(Think Gmin pentatonic)

Gmin7 (X)      Dmin7 (X)      Cmin7 (VIII)           Gmin7 (X)



Darling Nikki (theme)












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