This Day in Music History: 1982: Prince Releases “1999”

Prince Roger Nelson (born June 7, 1958), known by his mononym Prince, is an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and actor, a major figure in popular music for over three decades. Prince is renowned as an innovator and is widely known for his eclectic work, flamboyant stage presence, and wide vocal range. He is widely regarded as the pioneer of Minneapolis sound. His music combines rock, R&B, soul, funk , hip hop, disco, psychedelia, jazz, and pop.

In addition to his singing abilities (which encompass a wide range from falsetto to baritone and rapid, flamboyant shifts of register, as well as diverse characterization) Prince is one of pop music’s most prominent multi-instrumentalists. The precise number of instruments he is capable of playing remains obscure, partly due to the active mythologizing of his abilities and working practices (such as the claim that he had played “all 27 instruments” on his debut album, which appears to have included various different kinds of guitar, keyboard and synthesizer in the total).

As a live performer he tends to focus on guitar, piano, lead vocals and occasional bass, drums and harmonica. On recordings he has also played assorted keyboards and synthesizers, bass guitar, drums, various percussion instruments and saxophone, as well as mastering both drum and synthesizer programming. Prince has mentioned learning and performing simple parts on particular instruments that he does not otherwise play (such as concert harp) in order to serve song arrangements on albums.

1999 is the fifth studio album by American recording artist Prince. The album was his first top ten album on the Billboard 200 chart in the United States and became the fifth best-selling album of 1983 and was certified Multi-Platinum by RIAA. 1999 was Prince’s breakthrough album, but his next album, Purple Rain, would become his most successful. The title track was a protest against nuclear proliferation and became his first top ten hit in countries outside the United States.

According to the Rolling Stone Album Guide, “1999 may be Prince’s most influential album: Its synth-and-drum machine-heavy arrangements codified the Minneapolis sound that loomed over mid-’80s R&B and pop, not to mention the next two decades’ worth of electro, house, and techno.” In 2003, the TV network VH1 placed 1999 49th in its list of the greatest albums of all time. The album was also part of Slant Magazine’s list “The 50 Most Essential Pop Albums” and the magazine listed the album at #8 on its list of “Best Albums of the 1980s”. The album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008. In 2003, the album was ranked number 163 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

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