Prince Albums and Singles Celebrating Big Anniversaries in 2021
Below, we're recognizing the many milestone anniversaries that Prince will have in the year 2021
The list includes singles, albums and tours by Prince in the years 1981, 1986, 1991, 1996, 2001 and 2006, as well as work by proteges on which he appeared. Together, they comprise some of his greatest successes, both commercially and artistically, and also some experiments that didn't capture the public's imagination as well.
1981: 40 Years Ago
March 9, 1981: 'Dirty Mind' Tour Begins Second Leg
Prince made two treks across the U.S. in support of 1980's Dirty Mind. The first leg ended in December 1980, but he resumed on March 9, 1981 at Sam's in Minneapolis. He stayed on the road through April 6, when it concluded at the Saenger Theatre in New Orleans.
June 26, 1981: The Time Debut With "Get It Up"
As the opening cut on the Time's first album, "Get It Up" lasted a little more than nine minutes. But the song, which was performed entirely by Prince except for Morris Day's vocals and Dr. Fink's keyboard solos, was edited down to only three minutes so that it could be released as a single. "Get It Up" peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard R&B chart and No. 16 at Disco. TLC covered it in 1993, taking it to No. 42 on the Hot 100.
Read More: With "Get It Up," Prince Introduces the World to the Time
July 29, 1981: The Time Release Their Self-Titled Debut
Prince took a shine to a track Day was recording in his home studio and made him an offer: Either Prince would buy it from him or he would help the Time get a record deal. Day took the latter -- Prince released the song as "Partyup" -- and, in what would be a pattern for artists Prince worked with, The Time was a group effort in name only. Despite being exceptional musicians in their own right, Day, as lead singer and drummer, was the only member of the band to appear on the record, with Prince playing everything else except for some keyboard parts. The Time peaked at No. 7 on the R&B Albums chart.
Read More: When Prince Basically Made the Time's Debut by Himself
Sept. 2, 1981: Prince Releases "Controversy" Single
The mystique Prince created around himself from the beginning left some questions in peoples' minds about his race and sexual orientation. The budding star addressed them in "Controversy," but refused to answer them, arguing instead that none of that mattered ("I said, life is just a game / We're all just the same / Do you wanna play?"). The single edit, which removed a segment where Prince recited the Lord's Prayer, only reached No. 70 on the Billboard Hot 100, but peaked at No. 3 at Hot Black Singles.
Read More: How "Controversy" Predicted Prince's Entire Career
Oct. 14, 1981: Prince Releases 'Controversy' Album
Prince's fourth album under his own name was where his worldview took shape. In addition to the sacred-meets-profane title track, he ramped up the social commentary ("Ronnie, Talk to Russia," "Annie Christian"). And there was still plenty of profane ("Do Me Baby," "Private Joy"), even if it didn't rival some of the more outlandish fantasies found on Dirty Mind. Controversy became Prince's highest-charting release to date, topping out at No. 21 in the U.S.
Read More: How Prince Began to Put Everything in Place With 'Controversy'
October 1981: Prince Releases "Sexuality" Overseas
"Sexuality" was Controversy's rallying cry, where he presented his utopian ideal, a world in which "You don't need no money, you don't need no clothes / The second coming, anything goes / Sexuality is all you'll ever need / Sexuality, let your body be free." With "Controversy" as the b-side, Prince put out "Sexuality" in West Germany and Japan. The Australian version featured "I Wanna Be Your Lover" on the flip side.
Read More: Prince Calls for a Revolution Based on "Sexuality"
Nov. 20, 1981: 'Controversy' Tour Begins
For the last five weeks of 1981, with only a few days off for Christmas, Prince promoted Controversy on the road, beginning at Pittsburgh's Stanley Theatre. The dates marked the arrival of bassist BrownMark, with the Time and Zapp featuring Roger serving as opening acts. Although the first few dates were at smaller venues, Prince soon made the jump to arenas. The tour ran until March 14, 1982 at the Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati.
November 1981: The Time Release “Cool”
On "Cool," Day established his larger-than-life character of a guy with money to burn ("I wear diamonds on my fingers / I got a couple on my toes") and women dripping off him. Prince co-wrote the song with then-guitarist Dez Dickerson, and Lisa Coleman sang backup. It barely dented the Hot 100, stalling out at No. 90, but became their second Top 10 on the R&B chart.
1986: 35 Years Ago
Feb. 5, 1986: Prince Releases "Kiss"
BrownMark was working in the studio with Mazarati, a group he'd discovered, when Prince gave the Revolution bassist a demo of "Kiss" with just an acoustic guitar and basic vocals for the project. They reworked it in their own fashion, but then Prince changed his mind and kept it for himself. It became Prince's third single, after "When Doves Cry" and "Let's Go Crazy," to top the Billboard Hot 100.
Read More: Lamenting a Somewhat Stolen "Kiss"
March 3, 1986: Prince Begins the Hit & Run Tour
To promote Parade, Prince didn't mount a traditional tour of the U.S. Instead, he played 11 shows in nine cities over the course of four months in what became informally known as the Hit & Run tour, a name he would return to a couple more times in his career. The dates, which started with a March 3, 1986 show at the First Avenue in Minneapolis, saw the Revolution bolstered by guitarist Miko Weaver, horn players Eric Leeds and Atlanta Bliss and backing vocalist Susannah Melvoin. They finished up on Aug. 3 with the second of two dates at New York's Madison Square Garden.
March 31, 1986: Prince Releases 'Parade'
As with Purple Rain, Parade was tied in with a movie, Under the Cherry Moon, in which Prince both starred and directed. While the film lacked the critical commercial success of its predecessor, Parade is one of Prince's most beloved albums. He branched out musically on songs like "Venus de Milo" and "Do U Lie," and Clare Fischer's orchestral arrangements added greater depth to "Christoper Tracy's Parade" and "Sometimes It Snows in April."
Read More: How 'Parade' Proved Prince Was Better at Making Music Than Movies
May 7, 1986: Prince Releases "Mountains"
"Mountains" saw the growing influence of Wendy & Lisa in Prince's material. The Revolution guitarist and keyboardist received songwriting credit for their work on the track, a No. 23 single, but the inclusion of Weaver and horn players on the song and video suggested that Prince was already looking towards the future.
Read More: How "Mountains" Became a Last Hurrah for the Revolution
July 2, 1986: Prince Releases "Anotherloverholenyohead"
Arriving in record stores the same day that Under the Cherry Moon hit theaters, "Anotherloverholenyohead" became Prince's lowest-charting single since 1982's "Do Me, Baby." it was one of the few songs on Parade to use Fischer, who had previously worked on jazz records with Wendy and Susannah Melvoin's father Mike. Fischer would work with Prince a few more times over the next 20 years, but they never met in person.
Read More: Prince Looks Outside for Strings on "Anotherloverholenyohead"
July 2, 1986: 'Under the Cherry Moon' Premieres
The plot of Under the Cherry Moon is slight, with Christopher Tracy (Prince) and Tricky (the Time's Jerome Benton) seducing and conning wealthy women on the French Riviera until they meet heiress Mary Sharon (Kristin Scott Thomas), with whom Prince falls in love. The film opened in Sheridan, Wyo. as part of an MTV contest where a lucky fan accompanied Prince to the premiere, which was followed by a concert. But it turned out the winner, a 20-year-old named Lisa Barber, was more into Motley Crue than Prince, and the logistics of putting on a full-scale Prince and the Revolution show in a Holiday Inn ballroom proved difficult.
Read More: Prince's Near-Disastrous 'Under the Cherry Moon' Premiere Date
Aug. 4, 1986: Prince Releases "Girls & Boys"
After Under the Cherry Moon's "wrecka stow" scene, comes a performance of "Girls & Boys," where Christopher charms Mary. The song is notable for Leeds' contributions on saxophone as well as a French spoken word section delivered by Marie France. "Girls & Boys" was originally the b-side to "Anotherloverholenyohead," but given the a-side in several European countries, with its highest chart placement in the U.K., where it reached No. 11.
Read More: Prince Woos Kristin Scott Thomas on "Girls & Boys"
Aug. 12, 1986: 'Parade' Tour Begins
Prince and the expanded Revolution didn't mount a large-scale tour for Parade the way he did for Purple Rain. A little more than a week after the last Hit & Run show, they set off for Europe, starting on Aug. 12 with three nights at London's Wembley Arena and concluding Aug. 31 in Hamburg, West Germany. From there, it was four shows in Japan -- two in Osaka (Sept. 5-6) and another two in Yokohama (Sept. 8-9). But the dates showed the growing tension between Prince and the core members of the Revolution, and the last night concluded with Prince smashing his guitar onstage. Shortly after returning to the U.S., Prince fired Wendy & Lisa, and the rest of the group followed suit.
Read More: The Moment the Revolution Knew Prince Was Done With Them
1991: 30 Years Ago
June 7, 1991: Prince Debuts the New Power Generation With "Gett Off"
After the disbanding of the Revolution, Prince mostly returned to the one-man-band approach for a few albums. Then came Diamonds and Pearls, where he shared credit with his new band, the New Power Generation. Its first single, the raunchy "Gett Off," preceded the record by a few months, with Prince once again edging close to what was acceptable on the radio. The track also incorporated James Brown's "Mother Popcorn" into the bridge. "Gett Off" topped the Dance Club Songs chart but only reached No. 21 on the Hot 100.
Next: Prince Channels James Brown, Gets Funky and Raw on "Gett Off"
Sept. 5, 1991: Prince Gets Cheeky at the Video Music Awards
Prince's tour in support of Diamonds and Pearls didn't begin until 1992, but he made one of his most infamous televised spots ever promoting "Gett Off" at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards. In addition to reprising the orgy-like choreography from the video, he wore a skin-tight yellow suit that was cut out to show off his butt. However, fabric dyer Marliss Jensen, who worked with Prince at the time, said that the public actually saw panels sewn into the outfit and dyed the exact color of his flesh.
Read More: That Wasn't Prince's Bare Ass You Saw at the 1991 MTV VMAs
Sept. 9, 1991: Prince Tops the Chart One Last Time on "Cream"
Despite some innuendo in its title as well as some lyrics, Prince isn't trying to seduce a woman in "Cream." Instead, he wrote it as a pep talk after his previous few records had left him a relative commercial lull. For example, the line "get on top" in the chorus referred to the pop chart. It worked, with "Cream" becoming his first No. 1 since 1989's "Batdance," but it would also be his last.
Read More: Repeat After Me: "'Cream' Is Not a Sex Song"
Oct. 1, 1991: Prince Releases 'Diamonds and Pearls'
Prince not only unveiled a new band on Diamonds and Pearls, he modernized his sound to include New Jack Swing beats and hip-hop, courtesy of rapper Tony Mosley. While the approach showed that he was keeping current with the times, it also meant that he was chasing trends instead of setting them and, as such, some of it hasn't aged very well. But it still peaked at No. 3 on the Albums chart, and became his highest selling album not connected to a movie since Around the World in a Day.
Read More: How Prince Returned to the Mainstream on 'Diamonds and Pearls'
Nov. 4, 1991: Prince Releases "Insatiable"
Of the two slow jams on Diamonds and Pearls, "Insatiable" was the more suggestive, with Prince pulling out all the stops to seduce a woman, and even offering to videotape the proceedings. The track was only serviced to Black radio, which led to its No. 3 placement on the R&B chart, but it managed to cross over to the pop chart, where it reached No. 77.
Read More: Prince Gets Naughty on Video With "Insatiable"
Nov. 25, 1991: Prince Releases "Diamonds and Pearls" Single
Although "Insatiable" wasn't intended for Top 40 radio, the other ballad, the album's title track, most definitely was. The shimmering "Diamonds and Pearls" reached No. 3 on the Hot 100, and topped the R&B chart, thanks in part to Rosie Gaines' powerful vocals in the bridge and a portable keyboard of Prince's design that he called the Purpleaxxe.
Read More: The Devil's in the Details in Prince's "Diamonds and Pearls"
1996: 25 Years Ago
Jan. 8, 1996: Japan '96 Tour Begins
With four albums worth of new material arriving in 1996, Prince spent very little time on the road. His only proper tour for the year consisted of seven dates in Japan, which ran between Jan. 8 and Jan. 20. A month later, he played a few shows in Honolulu. After that, the only concert that year outside of his occasional Paisley Park sets was a Nov. 21 performance at Chicago's Park West.
March 19, 1996: The 'Girl 6' Soundtrack Arrives
Three days before the theatrical release of Spike Lee's Girl 6 came its soundtrack. It was comprised entirely of songs written by Prince -- including recordings by Vanity 6, the Family and the New Power Generation -- with three previously unreleased compositions: "She Spoke 2 Me," "Don't Talk 2 Strangers" and the title track, which was credited to the New Power Generation. It peaked at No 75 on the Billboard 200.
Read More: When Spike Lee Snagged Prince's Back Catalog for 'Girl 6'
March 26, 1996: New Power Generation Enters the Spotlight With "Girl 6"
Two New Power Generation tracks graced the Girl 6 soundtrack. The first, "Count the Days," previously appeared on 1995's Exodus. The second, "Girl 6," was built by NPG keyboardist Tommy Barbarella and featured samples of "Raspberry Beret," "Housequake" and dialogue from the film. But in 2007, Prince, the NPG and Lee were sued by James Brandon, who alleged the track used "significant portions" of a song he wrote in 1993 called "Phone Sex," which had been recorded by GOMAB, a group that Brandon managed. Brandon claimed Lee had heard it through the director's uncle, whom Brandon met and sent the song. A Florida court ruled against Brandon in 2017, and a U.S. Court of Appeals refused to hear the case in December 2020.
June 12, 1996: Prince Has "Dinner With Delores"
Prince previewed Chaos and Disorder with "Dinner With Delores," which was only released overseas. Its lyrics detail a woman whose love of food is matched by her appetite for sex. Over the years it has been speculated that its titular subject was C. Delores Tucker, who was making headlines at the time for complaints about profanity in hip-hop lyrics, while others believe Delores was a metaphor for Warner Bros. Another theory points to the lines "Her bell's just a-broken since 1984 / Dancin' like a white girl on disco dirty floors" and suggests that it was about Madonna, who once described her gluttonous behavior in Prince's presence.
Read More: Prince's "Dinner With Delores" Targets His Label (Or Madonna?)
July 9, 1996: Prince Leaves Warner Bros. With 'Chaos and Disorder'
Prince ended his initial tenure on Warner Bros. not with a whimper, but with blasts of guitar. Although much of Chaos and Disorder consisted of tracks recorded for Come and The Gold Experience, the rest was recorded quickly, in part because he was going for "spontaneity, seeing how fast and hard we could thrash it out," but also because he knew it would be his last effort for the label.
Read More: Why Prince's 'Chaos and Disorder' Isn't the Throwaway He Made It Out to Be
Nov. 13, 1996: Prince Has Another First With "Betcha by Golly, Wow"
To launch the post-Warner Bros. phase of his career, Prince chose to record a faithful version of the Stylistics' 1971 Philly soul classic, "Betcha by Golly, Wow" that was sent to radio to promote Emancipation, with a CD single arriving in stores in the U.K. and Australia a few weeks later. It marked the first time in his history that Prince put out a cover as a single. Because there was no physical product sent to U.S. retail, it was ineligible for Billboard's main pop and R&B charts, however, it performed well on the charts that solely measure radio airplay.
Read More: Prince Plays Human Jukebox on "Betcha by Golly, Wow"
Nov. 19, 1996: Prince Declares His 'Emancipation'
Freed from Warner Bros., Prince took his NPG Records label to EMI, who gave him complete control over his ability to release his music. It began with Emancipation, a three-CD set where each disc contained 12 songs spread out over exactly 60 minutes. Much of the material dealt with his relationship with Mayte Garcia, whom he had married earlier in the year. Emancipation was priced as a double album, and it peaked at No. 11.
Read More: How Prince Finally Broke Free With the Sprawling 'Emancipation'
2001: 20 Years Ago
Feb. 18, 2001: Prince Launches the NPG Music Club
After putting out one album each through EMI (Emancipation) and Arista (Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic), Prince looked to the internet. He created the NPG Music Club, a subscription service where, for $7.77 a month, fans would receive three new songs a month plus videos and a monthly radio-type show. Those who paid $99 for a yearly membership fee got more songs as well as preferred seating and passes to his famous aftershows. The NPG Music Club shut down in July 2006.
April 6, 2001: Prince Goes to Napster for "The Work, Pt. 1"
One of the NPG Music Club's selections for April, "The Work Pt. 1," also received a general release through Napster in the last few months before the peer-to-peer service was shut down. From his shouts to the horn stabs to its message about inequality, "The Work Pt. 1" is one of Prince's finest homages to James Brown.
Read More: Prince's 'The Work Pt. 1' Is His Valentine to James Brown
April 14, 2001: Second Leg of the Hit N Run Tour Begins
Fourteen years after it was unofficially used as the name for a series of dates promoting Parade, the Hit N Run tour began in November 2000 with a month of shows. It started back up again on April 14, 2001 with the first of two nights at the Atlanta Civic Center, and wrapped up on May 6 at the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium.
April 29, 2001: Prince Releases the 'Rave In2 the Joy Fantastic' Remix Album
Put out through the NPG Music Club, Rave In2 the Joy Fantastic contained remixes of the material found on 1999's Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic, but without "Everyday Is a Winding Road" and "Strange but True" and with "Beautiful Strange," which had only previously been available though a home video of the same name. Rave In2 the Joy Fantastic was given a release to the general public in 2019 as part of the Ultimate Rave box set.
June 15, 2001: Prince's A Celebration Tour Begins
Prince had planned to spend the summer of 2001 on the road, starting on June 15 with two nights at St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center and concluding Aug. 5 at the Sullivan Sports Arena in Anchorage, Alaska. However, the tour was canceled only six dates in -- after the June 28 show in Milwaukee -- because his father's health had taken a turn for the worse. John L. Nelson died on Aug. 25, 2001.
Nov. 20, 2001: Prince Releases 'The Rainbow Children'
After spending nearly a decade using the Love Symbol as his name, Prince became Prince again and delivered The Rainbow Children. It's a concept album, combining themes of sex, spirituality and racism, and while those ideas were not unfamiliar to Prince, they were now filtered through his burgeoning interest in the Jehovah's Witnesses faith. The album only got as high as No. 109 on the Billboard 200.
2006: 10 Years Ago
Jan. 20, 2006: Tamar Tour Begins
Prince spent the first part of 2006 with his latest protege, Ashley Tamar Davis, who went solely by Tamar. Before the release of her debut single, "Beautiful, Loved & Blessed," Prince moved into the rare role of sideman, playing guitar and singing on a tour that began Jan. 20, 2006 at the Viper Room in Los Angeles. On March 18, after 13 shows, they wrapped up at Miami's Mansion. During this time, she also performed with him on the Feb. 4 episode of Saturday Night Live and other televised promotional events.
Feb. 21, 2006: Tamar Releases "Beautiful, Loved & Blessed"
Prince helped introduce Tamar to the public with her first single, "Beautiful, Loved & Blessed," which they co-wrote and sang as a duet. But the track stalled at No. 25 on the Adult R&B Airplay chart, and her album, which was originally titled after the song but changed to Milk & Honey, was twice delayed before being permanently shelved. Some promotional copies made their way to Japan, and Davis leaked it on her website.
Read More: "Uncle" Prince Helps Tamar Davis Feel "Beautiful, Loved & Blessed"
Feb. 21, 2006: Prince Works Up a "Black Sweat"
The same day "Beautiful, Loved & Blessed" hit record store shelves, Prince put out "Black Sweat," with his own version of Tamar's track as the b-side. Sung from the perspective of a stripper, complete with falsetto, its electro-funk recalled both "Kiss" and "When Doves Cry." But it didn't fare nearly as well commercially as those two, peaking only at No. 60 on the Hot 100 and No. 82 at R&B/Hip-Hop.
Read More: Prince Finds Throwback Success With "Black Sweat"
March 21, 2006: Prince Releases '3121'
Prince banged out basic tracks for much of 3121 during an overnight session in November 2004 with drummer Michael Bland and bassist Sonny Thompson. Named after the address of the Los Angeles house he rented -- and renovated without permission -- 3121 put a greater focus on the songwriting and was his most consistent effort since the mid-'90s. It became Prince's first album to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
Read More: How Prince Jammed His Way Back to Brilliance on '3121'
June 27, 2006: Prince Reunites With Old Friends on "Fury"
The U.K. single "Fury" came with a bonus on the b-side: a live version of it merged with another 3121 track, "Te Amo Corazon" that was recorded at the BRIT Awards earlier that year, where he was joined by Wendy & Lisa and Sheila E. Unfortunately, it didn't help the song get beyond No. 60 on the British chart.
Read More: "Fury" Helps Prince Land His Final No. 1 Album
Nov. 10, 2006: Prince Hits Vegas for Per4ming Live 3121
Rather than tour behind 3121, Prince played a residency at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. The Club 3121 was built for him, complete with an adjacent 3121 Jazz Cuisine, where he often played after shows. Per4ming Live 3121, as the residency was called, began on Nov. 10, 2006, and he played 76 dates across four legs before stopping on April 28, 2007.