Prince Rogers Nelson: ‘Every song was either a prayer or foreplay’

Updated 2:48 AM EDT, Fri April 22, 2016
PHOTO: Kevin Mazur / Contributor
Now playing
01:07
Superstar Prince dies at 57
PHOTO: Prince/YouTube
Now playing
00:48
Watch never-before-seen footage of Prince
prince presser
prince presser
PHOTO: cnn
Now playing
01:17
Attorney: No criminal charges in Prince death
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES:  Inductee Prince performs a song of George Harrison along with Tom Petty after the late Beatle was inducted during the 19th Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony 15 March 2004 in New York City. AFP PHOTO   Timothy A. CLARY  (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES: Inductee Prince performs a song of George Harrison along with Tom Petty after the late Beatle was inducted during the 19th Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony 15 March 2004 in New York City. AFP PHOTO Timothy A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
00:48
Is this Prince's greatest guitar solo?
UNSPECIFIED - JANUARY 01:  Photo of PRINCE; Prince performing on stage, silhouette  (Photo by Rico D
UNSPECIFIED - JANUARY 01: Photo of PRINCE; Prince performing on stage, silhouette (Photo by Rico D'Rozario/Redferns)
PHOTO: Rico D'Rozario/Redferns/getty images
Now playing
03:36
Timeline of Prince's last days
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 07:  (Exclusive Coverage) Prince performs during his "Welcome 2 America" tour at Madison Square Garden on February 7, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage) *** Local Caption *** Prince
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 07: (Exclusive Coverage) Prince performs during his "Welcome 2 America" tour at Madison Square Garden on February 7, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage) *** Local Caption *** Prince
PHOTO: Kevin Mazur/WireImage/getty images
Now playing
01:39
Drug expert sent to Prince on 'life-saving mission'
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 22:  Recording artist Prince performs with singer Mary J. Blige onstage during the 2012 iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on September 22, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images for Clear Channel)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 22: Recording artist Prince performs with singer Mary J. Blige onstage during the 2012 iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on September 22, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Isaac Brekken/Getty Images for Clear Channel)
PHOTO: Isaac Brekken/Getty Images North America/Getty Images for Clear Channel
Now playing
00:47
Prince investigators look for source of opioids
PASADENA, CA - JUNE 01:  Singer Prince performs onstage during the 2007 NCLR ALMA Awards held at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on June 1, 2007 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for NCLR)
PASADENA, CA - JUNE 01: Singer Prince performs onstage during the 2007 NCLR ALMA Awards held at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on June 1, 2007 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for NCLR)
PHOTO: Kevin Winter/Getty Images North America
Now playing
02:42
Prince's bodyguard: He wasn't taking drugs
prince plane emergency landing faa audio legal view_00001520.jpg
prince plane emergency landing faa audio legal view_00001520.jpg
PHOTO: Getty Images
Now playing
02:50
New clue in the death of Prince
PHOTO: Getty Images/Kenneth Fowler/CNN
Now playing
02:27
The Prince the public never knew
Prince performs in Hong Kong on October 17, 2003. Prince
Prince performs in Hong Kong on October 17, 2003. Prince's concert was the the opening act in a four-week government-sponsored music festival titled "Hong Kong Harbor Fest," aimed at boosting the image of SARS-battered Hong Kong.
PHOTO: ANAT GIVON/AP
Now playing
01:59
A tribute fit for a Prince
cartoonian prince parental advisory pkg sotu_00001208.jpg
cartoonian prince parental advisory pkg sotu_00001208.jpg
Now playing
01:55
Prince's lasting political legacy
NEW YORK - MARCH 15:  Inductee Prince performs following George Harrison
NEW YORK - MARCH 15: Inductee Prince performs following George Harrison's induction at the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame 19th Annual Induction Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel March 15, 2004 in New York City. (Photo by Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Frank Micelotta/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Now playing
00:46
Publicist: Prince's remains have been cremated
prince plane emergency landing faa audio legal view_00001520.jpg
prince plane emergency landing faa audio legal view_00001520.jpg
PHOTO: Getty Images
Now playing
02:07
FAA audio released in Prince's emergency landing
PHOTO: FROM WARNER BROS.
Now playing
01:38
Prince's most memorable songs
pince nelson rogers lkl 1999 name change sot_00000402.jpg
pince nelson rogers lkl 1999 name change sot_00000402.jpg
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
01:13
Prince explains his name change (1999 interview)
prince rogers nelson lkl 1999 name change sot_00000810.jpg
prince rogers nelson lkl 1999 name change sot_00000810.jpg
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
00:59
How Prince describes his music (1999 interview)
prince love interests wives kaye pkg ac360_00035119.jpg
prince love interests wives kaye pkg ac360_00035119.jpg
PHOTO: Getty Images
Now playing
03:52
Prince's epic love life
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 07:  (Exclusive Coverage) Prince performs during his "Welcome 2 America" tour at Madison Square Garden on February 7, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage) *** Local Caption *** Prince
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 07: (Exclusive Coverage) Prince performs during his "Welcome 2 America" tour at Madison Square Garden on February 7, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage) *** Local Caption *** Prince
PHOTO: Kevin Mazur/WireImage/getty images
Now playing
00:54
Prince's most iconic looks
PHOTO: Kevin Mazur / Contributor
Now playing
01:07
Superstar Prince dies at 57
PASADENA, CA - JUNE 01:  Singer Prince performs onstage during the 2007 NCLR ALMA Awards held at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on June 1, 2007 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for NCLR)
PASADENA, CA - JUNE 01: Singer Prince performs onstage during the 2007 NCLR ALMA Awards held at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on June 1, 2007 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for NCLR)
PHOTO: Kevin Winter/Getty Images North America
Now playing
01:01
Songs you didn't know Prince wrote
PHOTO: Frank Micelotta/Getty Images/Kevork Djansezian/AP
Now playing
02:25
Pop legend Prince dead at 57

Story highlights

NEW: "It is a heartbreak to lose a member of that army of love," Stevie Wonder said

Prince Rogers Nelson, 57, died at his Minnesota home

He won seven Grammy Awards and earned 30 nominations

(CNN) —  

Prince Rogers Nelson’s music transcended genres and generations. There were songs you could sing every word to, ditties that drove you to dance and ballads so poignant in their descriptions of love and life that anyone could relate.

Simply put, not that anything with the mercurial musician was simple, Prince had more hits than most musicians have songs in their catalogs.

Writing and producing music in five decades, he touched and inspired artists all along the musical spectrum, from Madonna to Beyonce, from Stevie Nicks to Foo Fighters, from Public Enemy to The Roots and from George Clinton to The Time.

Whether his fingers danced across the keys of a baby grand or belted out a mind-melting solo on one of his elaborate axes, he was the consummate showman. And that is to say nothing of his hypnotic vocals and songwriting skills, the means by which his music truly entered the hearts of fans both ardent and casual.

“The most prolific thing to me about Prince was not only was he the most vibrant example of black genius that I have ever seen, but he was able to negotiate God and sex in his subject matter in a way that we had never seen before,” said the music icon’s former stylist, Michaela Angela Davis.

“Every song was either a prayer or foreplay.”

The shocking death of the man who penned hits such as “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Nothing Compares 2 U” and “When Doves Cry” hit fans and fellow artists hard.

Found unresponsive at Paisley Park

The 57-year-old singer was found unresponsive Thursday morning in an elevator at Paisley Park Studios in Chanhassen, Minnesota, Carver County Sheriff Jim Olson said. Paramedics tried to revive him, but he was pronounced dead about 10 a.m.

The cause of death has not been determined.

Born June 7, 1958, in Minneapolis, he received his love of music from his father, John Nelson, who played piano in a jazz band. His mother, Mattie Shaw, was a social worker and singer.

As a teen, he was signed with Warner Bros. Records and released his debut album, “For You,” in 1978.

“Dirty Mind” and “Controversy” followed in 1980 and 1981, respectively, and stirred controversy with sexual lyrics that also touched on religious themes.

The singer/songwriter/musician found fame with his 1982 album, “1999,” and his androgynous look and mastery of the guitar drew comparisons to both Little Richard and Jimi Hendrix.

Soon, Hollywood came calling, and in 1984 he starred in the semi-autobiographical film “Purple Rain.”

The story of a struggling Minneapolis musician and the film’s soundtrack made Prince an international superstar. The theme song from the movie won an Academy Award for best original score.

Another tune off that “Purple Rain” album, “Darling Nikki,” which details a one-night stand, prompted the formation of the Parents Music Resource Center. Led by Tipper Gore, the group encouraged record companies to place advisory labels on albums with explicit lyrics.

’The Artist formerly known as Prince’

Prince’s fusion of pop, rock, funk and soul made for a distinctive sound and launched other artists who played with him, including super producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, The Time and percussionist Sheila E. His protege, Vanity 6, who was born Denise Matthews, died about two months ago in California. She also was 57.

A self-taught guitarist, he created what became known as the Minneapolis sound, which was a funky blend of pop, synth and new wave.

He stood out in other ways.

In 1993, Prince changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol, which was also the title of his latest album. He became known as “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince,” which he shortened to “The Artist,” and his career underwent a setback after Warner Bros. dropped its distribution deal with Paisley Park Records.

The singer appeared in public with “Slave” written on his face in 1995 and seemed determined to gain control of both his career and his master recordings.

“He was this mixture of down-to-earth and sort of eccentric at the same time,” said Eric Deggans, NPR media critic, who visited Paisley Park with a few other journalists last year.

“He could talk very knowledgeably about the music business. And was very witty. Also a little shy. Had two twin assistants dressed exactly the same who trailed after him. And we met in a conference room that had doves in it, so it was quite an interesting experience.”

“Prince changed the game,” Greg Harris, CEO and president of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, said in a statement. “He controlled the stage, he controlled the music and he controlled the media.”

Career spanned decades

Prince won seven Grammy Awards and earned 30 nominations. Five of his singles topped the charts and 14 other songs hit the Top 10. He told The New York Times in 1996 that he couldn’t stop writing music and had a backlog of thousands of songs.