What does it mean to have control? This is the fundamental question of Prince's career. The singer, musician and songwriter has been one of the most prolific, successful, influential, and controversial figures in pop music since his debut in the late '70s. However, much of his reputation has been staked in his struggles to assert control over his identity, be it through his music, products, or likenesses. 

Minneapolis native Prince Rogers Nelson displayed musical prowess at an early age, and began performing publicly with childhood friends as a teenager. He was barely 20 years old when he secured his first recording contract with Warner Brothers, and released his debut For You in 1978. The album credits listed Prince as producing, arranging, writing, and performing all 27 instruments--a trend that would reappear on a number of successive records. His self-titled sophomore release in 1979 gave him his first chart-topping singles, and began a long string of success.

Prince established a record of artistic acclaim and commercial success during the first half of the '80s. His albums Dirty Mind and Controversy were aptly-titled as he presented himself as an affront to popular taboos. 1982's double-album 1999 sold 3 million copies and the music video for "Little Red Corvette" was aired frequently on MTV. 1984's Purple Rain soundtrack/album was an even bigger hit: it sold 13 million-plus copies in the U.S., held the #1 position on the Billboard 200 chart for 24 consecutive weeks, and the film earned an Academy Award and grossed over $80 million in the U.S. 1985's Around The World In A Day and 1986's Parade charted on the albums and singles charts respectively. Prince also scored a hit writing "Manic Monday" for the rock group The Bangles. 

The latter half of the '80s remained a busy period, but commercial slips and increasingly public label disputes began to occur. Disagreements between the two scaled down 1987's Sign O' The Times from a triple- to double-album set. Prince followed with The Black Album, but shelved the album at the last minute and replaced it with another record Lovesexy. 1989 found Prince back in favor as he scored hits for other artists and projects: he played on Madonna's Like a Prayer sessions, scored the soundtrack to Tim Burton's Batman, and wrote hits for Sheena Easton. However, he closed the decade with another attempt at a film/album combo Graffiti Bridge, which failed to gain traction at the box office.

Prince spent much of the '90s revamping himself. He introduced a new band The New Power Generation and replaced his name with the symbol Prince logo.svg. He increased his output to accelerate an exit from his contract. While his records spent less time on the charts, his label tensions increased. By the late '90s Prince was out of his contract and has since alternately released records independently (his 1997 internet-only Crystal Ball made him an early proponent of internet album sales) or through other major labels. His website for most of the 2000s, NPG Music Club, became a center of social activity and information about Prince. However, he has continued to stir controversy, particularly over distribution. In 2007, he was at odds with his UK distributor when he announced his Planet Earth album would be made available for free with an "imminent" edition of the The Mail on Sunday newspaper. However, Prince has spent most of the 2000s finding acceptance in the mainstream: he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, and he played Super Bowl XLI in 2007 and Coachella in 2008. In 2009 he launched a new website indication that the story of his career is still a work in progress.

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