Before he won an Oscar, before he was known as Prince, before Purple Rain, there was just a shy teenage boy… It was the summer of 1974, in a sleepy midwestern suburb called St. Louis Park, just west of Minneapolis when my Dad put on a pair of headphones and listened to a cassette tape in a Walkman. The next morning, he looked across the table at a small skinny boy just sixteen years of age, then looked at his buddy, Gary Levinson, and said, "Where's the rest them?" Levinson said, "The rest of who?" My Dad, "The rest of these voices on the tape." "They're all him." "They're all him?"
Before Levinson found him, Prince was sleeping on a mattress on the floor of his Aunt's house. Levinson put him in an apartment, got him a car, clothes and studio time. My Father was just beginning his law career in the form of a summer internship and was being recruited by Levinson, then a deal lawyer for Robins, Davis & Lyons. Levinson invited my Dad to come to breakfast to meet this new musical artist Levinson was representing. Gary pointed at the adolescent prodigy and said, "Meet Prince." My Dad extended his hand across the table to a reserved Prince seated at the Lincoln Del, a then popular Jewish delicatessen in Minnesota. When I asked Levinson about his experience working with Prince he said, "He was a genius far better than anybody talks about. He was an intellectual genius. He was an athletic genius… In the best way, I'll say he was ruthless, with himself, with everything he did, with his relationships. It was very clear he was not going to have anything in his way."
Since Prince's passing much has transpired with respect to the many accomplishments of the Artist formerly known as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince. Born June 7th, 1958 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Rogers Nelson would go on to become one of the most enigmatic celebrity figures the world has ever known.
Prince was a guy with a high success rate, he was nominated for ten awards in his life, and he won eight of them (1 Oscar, 7 Grammies). His two central contributions to Film included Purple Rain, and Happy Feet, the former of which won an Academy Award in 1985 (Best Original Song/Score) the latter won a Golden Globe for Best Original Song in 2007, a testament to the decades of relevance his music spanned. Though what is perhaps a greater testament to these decades of relevance came in the form of his performances.
Prince was also a veritable workhorse. Between 1979-2016 Prince performed over 1,300 shows Ever remaining in digital circulation, Prince had four songs with over a million plays on Last.FM. "When Doves Cry", "Purple Rain", "Kiss", & "Little Red Corvette".
Prince had two previous marriages, Mayte Garcia (1996-2000) and Manuela Testolini (2001-2006). He also had a son, who tragically died of natural causes in October of 1996. In 2007, Prince began dating Bria Valente.
It seems like everyone has a Prince story. They range from the intensely mundane to the downright incendiary (I recall one involving an adept 4AM display of roller skating with sparks shooting off his feet). I guess my Prince Story is that my Dad was at the table when it all began, he was one of the first people to discover that the young man sitting across from him had talent that the world wanted to hear. Levinson would go on to negotiate Prince's first record deal with Warner Brothers, after pitting them against CBS and A&M, where Prince would sign, and put out For You, at the age of 19. About the deal, Levinson stated, "It was at the time, the biggest contract for any new artist in the history of Rock n' Roll." I asked my Dad how he felt about Prince's passing, and he spoke with deep sentiment, "I'm real sad. The guy was larger than life. A supernova." The world tips its hat to you Mr. Levinson for launching the career of an artist whom few, if any, have or will equal. Thanks for showing up Dad, now if you could just find that Demo, I'm sure the world would want to listen…
Here's a link to a full Prince concert at the Capitol Theater in Passaic, New Jersey, on January 30th, 1982.