The parochial Midwestern city had a strange hold on Prince despite haunting reminders of a troubled upbringing.
His father, John Nelson, the son of sharecroppers and the grandson of slaves, landed in Minnesota from Louisiana after divorcing his first wife.
By day, Nelson was a plastic molder at Honeywell Electronics. By night a talented jazz musician who played in the city jazz clubs and blues bars.
At five years old, Prince watched his father’s nightclub show and became mesmerized as the house lights went down, the curtains opened and a spotlight shone on Nelson as he sat down at the piano and began playing.Prince was kicked out of his father’s home at 12 years old and moved into a friend’s basement, where he was able to practice music and engage in ‘carnal acts with a variety of girlfriends’. Pictured above, Prince (center) arrives at the American Music Awards in Los Angeles in 1985 with his father, John Nelson (right)Nelson was a talented jazz musician in Minneapolis. His performances mesmerized Prince, who would go to his father’s shows at a young age. Pictured above is Nelson with Prince’s mother, Mattie Shaw (second left), sister Tyka Nelson (right) and half-brother, John Lewis Nelson (right)
The curtains opened a second time and out came the beautiful chorus girls, scantily clad and seductively dancing around Prince’s father.
Prince was enraptured and fantasized about basking in the adoration of the audience and sexy girls. he became obsessed with the power of music.
He played the piano every day when his father was at work and he played other instruments in department stores.
That led to ‘a pattern of withdrawal from the world and retreat into music’, author Alex Hahn writes in Possessed, The Rise and Fall of Prince, published by Billboard Books.
The volatile breakup of his parents relationship, the physical abuse by his father, teasing by his classmates because of his size, all accelerated Prince’s escape into his solitary world in the Midwestern heartland, ‘The Land of 10,000 Lakes’ that suggests Protestantism, vanilla flavors and white bread.
‘One would not expect that it would serve as the home and lifelong base of a tormented, messianic, meteoric African-American pop musician – a driven, protean talent who would rocket to fame that at its peak rivaled that of Michael Jackson and Madonna’, writes the author, Alex Hahn.
Prince’s take was: ‘I will always live in Minneapolis. It’s so cold, it keeps the bad people out’.
But the drug dealers found their way in to his hermetic, private universe.
Prince’s mother, Mattie Shaw, was a jazz singer, and a transplant from Louisiana whose voice resembled the great Billie Holiday.
She joined Nelson’s group, the Prince Rogers Trio, and the couple fell in love and married in 1957. Nelson was sixteen years her senior.
They named the baby Prince after his father’s stage name and his father’s own aspirations. ‘I wanted him to do everything I wanted to do’, Nelson said in 1991.Prince, pictured above as a baby with Nelson, was named after his father’s own aspirations and his stage name, Prince Rogers.
Mattie called her husband Prince so she nicknamed her son, ‘Skipper’ and it stuck.
The young boy bristled if anyone called him Prince and insisted that he be called ‘Skipper’.
The couple were devoted Seventh Day Adventists and Prince attended Bible study classes.
Prince later stated that he got more out of listening to the choir than developing any affinity for organized religion.
But he clearly was influenced by Christianity and the teachings of an omnipotent God who rewarded goodness and punished evil.
In school, he was good at sports and very competitive in Ping-Pong and basketball despite his diminutive size of 5’2” when fully grown.
He was bullied by classmates but by age ten, he stepped out of being a shy introvert into a boisterous child – around friends.
Following in the footsteps of his father, also short at 5’4” and immaculately groomed, Prince was ‘dressed sharply but conservatively’ and wanted to ‘surprise, titillate and shock’ – a characteristic he picked up from his half-brother, Alfred Nelson, Mattie’s son from her first marriage.
Alfred was musically talented, sang along to James Brown records and wore his hair in a ‘crazed Little Richard style’.Despite his diminutive size of 5’2″, Prince played basketball (pictured right in 1972) and ping pong while in school.
According to Prince’s second cousin, Charles Smith, Alfred ended up in a mental institution in Minneapolis.
The relationship between Shaw and Prince’s father deteriorated into screaming brawls until Nelson moved out and left his piano behind.
Witnessing the fighting impacted the boy negatively. He missed his father.
Mattie remarried and his new stepfather was an emotionally distant man.
At age twelve, Prince moved in with his father but that came to an abrupt end when Nelson caught his son in bed with a girl. He begged his father to take him back but the answer was an emphatic ‘no’.
‘I sat crying at the phone booth for two hours’, he told Rolling Stone in a 1985 interview. ‘That’s the last time I cried’.
Prince and Nelson’s relationship oscillated between affection and estrangement until Nelson died in 2001.
He confessed to Oprah in 1996 that his father had been abusive. He whispers, ‘Don’t abuse children, or else they’ll turn out like me’, in his song Papa.
And then he bounced around between relatives and friends’ homes until he found a safe harbor at the home of his close friend, Andre.
Bernadette Anderson took the boy in despite having six of her own children and raised him lovingly through adolescence.
It was here that Prince decided he needed private space and moved into the basement with the piano where he could exercise total control of his own universe and not have to share a bedroom with Andre who was messy.Prince (right) revealed in 1996 that he had been abused by his father (left). The father and son relationship oscillated between affection and estrangement until Nelson died in 2001
The basement was dark with very little natural light but it comforted him and set the ‘prototype for the cloistered recording studios where he would spend the majority of his waking hours over the next thirty years’.
It served as a bedroom and rehearsal space as well as ‘a hedonistic wonderland where he and Anderson engaged in carnal acts with a variety of girlfriends’.
Prince had grown up in the 1960s, the era of ‘make love, not war’, so now with some freedom, he was in hot pursuit of any sexuality and pleasure he could find.
When Ms Anderson caught him with a girl in the basement after skipping school, ‘she whooped him right there in front of me’, his friend Pepe Willie said.
In that basement, he listened to the Minneapolis radio station, KUXL that played R&B until sundown while the rest of that white bread city was barren of black music.
What had once been a vibrant local jazz and blues scene in Minneapolis in the fifties and sixties had long departed.
Chicago was the place to hear black music twenty-four hours a day.
From the mix of sounds on the radio, Prince was most excited by Sly Stone whose voice he imitated, James Brown, Stevie Wonder and even Joni Mitchell, Fleetwood Mac and Santana.
So Prince, Andre Anderson and Charles Smith formed a band they called Grand Central and brought in a neighbor Terry Jackson as a percussionist because he had a basement that was less dank that Anderson’s.
They would move over to that location when Bernadette Anderson had enough of listening to their music.
Prince’s adherence to writing songs and playing music to the exclusion of drinking and taking breaks of his bandmates, led to the habit of recording all of the musical parts himself.
Years later, when he signed a three-album contract with Warner Bros. on June 25, 1977, executives Mo Ostin and Lenny Waronker knew they had a ‘once in-a-generation talent’.
But there was also a darker side to the passion and ambition’ that came out of Prince’s difficulty dealing with the demands of music executives and a recording label.
Culled From: MailOnline