Prince’s Hot Rock: The Secret Life Of America’s Sexiest One-Man Band
Most influential one-man band
By Debby MillerApril 28, 1983
What does a twenty-two-year-old musical wizard in bikini briefs have that other rock stars don’t? Whatever it is, it makes him the world’s sexiest and most influential one-man band.
“Prince controls the whole scene in Minneapolis,” says a local musician who has worked with him. Others who’ve lived with him or worked alongside him say he loves to surround himself with an air of mystery, to create false identities to tangle the clues that lead to him. Cutting off all but a few close friends, Prince tends to hole up at his huge home, with its modern basement-studio, on a lake twenty miles west of Minneapolis. One member of his band says he’s had just one personal conversation with Prince in all the years he’s known him. “He’s a real ‘to himself’ kind of person,” says Morris Day, the Time’s frontman and a longtime friend.
“He doesn’t like to talk,” says Vanity, the awesomely beautiful leader of Vanity 6, who accompanied Prince to the Grammys in February.
“Sir Highness,” says another friend, “has a way of secluding himself.”
Prince, the Pauper
Piece together Prince’s story from his own partial accounts, and you come up with sort of a musical Wild Child, an untamed loner who raised himself and taught himself how to survive among the wolves. Patch together the history told by the people close to him, and you get a version like this:
The first notes of the Minneapolis sound were heard in a big brick house in North Minneapolis, an aging, primarily black section of town that draws outsiders only to the Terrace Theater, a movie house designed to look like a suburban backyard patio, and the Riverview Supper Club, the nightspot a black act turns to after it has polished its performance on the local chitlin circuit. North Minneapolis is a poor area by local standards, but a family with not too much money can still afford the rent on a whole house. It was there that Bernadette Anderson, who was already raising six kids of her own by herself, decided to take in a doe-eyed kid named Prince, a pal of her youngest son, André.
The thirteen-year-old Prince had landed on the Anderson doorstep after having been passed from his stepfather and mother’s home to his dad’s apartment to his aunt’s house. “I was constantly running from family to family,” Prince has said. “It was nice on one hand, because I always had a new family, but I didn’t like being shuffled around. I was bitter for a while, but I adjusted.”
His father, John Nelson, was a musician himself – a piano player in a jazz band by night, a worker at Honeywell, the electronics company, by day. Nelson is black and Italian; his ex-wife, says Prince of his mother, “is a mixture of a bunch of things.” Onstage, the father was called Prince Rogers, and that is what he named his son, Prince Rogers Nelson.