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Celebrating Prince's Debut Album

Stacy M. Brown | 4/17/2013, 9 p.m.

Prince may have been the second black artist to have his video played on MTV, but the pop music legend still enjoys many firsts.

Billboard magazine recognizes his 2007 Super Bowl performance as the game's best half-time show ever. His 1984 album and movie, "Purple Rain," made Prince the first – and only – pop music artist to simultaneously have the No. 1 single, No. 1 album, and No. 1 film in the country.

It was 35 years ago this month when the world was first introduced to Prince Rogers Nelson.

"When Prince came out with, 'For You,' people in the music industry didn't know what they were getting," said David Cohen, a long-time disc jockey from Southeast.

"It turned out, it was an important song and it showcased Prince's ability to play multiple instruments and to do a number of other things. He had this Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Wonder-like quality," said Cohen, 47.

His first album, "For You," sold more than 1 million records in 1978.

Prince produced, arranged, composed and played all 27 instruments featured on the album, which was released when he was just 19.

While the single didn't immediately attain the kind of success Prince wanted, the album eventually received international acclaim in the years that followed its release.

In November, 1978, the disc's second single, "Just As Long As We're Together," was released and Prince assembled a band for his first tour.

The album reached No. 21 on the Billboard Soul LP's Chart, where it competed against such artists as the Brothers Johnson, Ashford and Simpson, Barry White, Donna Summer and Rick James, whom Prince would later accompany on tour.

"What cannot be argued is the enormous impact Prince has had on pop music," said Ronald Waronker, a Lanham, Md.-based music producer.

"When Warner Brothers signed him, they were chomping at the bit because they were sure that they had the next Stevie Wonder. But, what they got was the next real big pop music icon," said Waronker, 54. "They got Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, the Rolling Stones, and some others all wrapped up into one tiny little man with huge talent."

The pint-sized star followed up his debut with the platinum selling "Prince," album in 1979. Still, his best work was to come.

In 1980, he released, "Dirty Mind," which was followed by 1981's, "Controversy," and 1982's smash, "1999."

In 1983, Prince's single, "Little Red Corvette," was played in heavy rotation on MTV.

He joined Michael Jackson as the only black artist to be played on the still fledgling music television network. "Michael and I both came along at a time when there was nothing. MTV didn't have anyone who was visual," Prince said in a rare 2011 interview with the U.K. Guardian newspaper.

"A lot of people made great records, but dressed like they were going to the supermarket," he said.

Prince's seminal album and movie, "Purple Rain," followed in 1984.

The album, "Purple Rain," contained several top hits including, "When Doves Cry," "Let's Go Crazy," and the title track. The album spent 24 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard music charts and sold more than 20 million copies worldwide.

In 2004, Prince was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In the July 4, 2008 edition of Entertainment Weekly, the magazine listed "Purple Rain" as the best album of the past 25 years.

At 54, Prince now has released more than 25 albums and CDs. He has won five American Music Awards, seven Grammy Awards, four MTV video awards, three NAACP image awards, a Golden Globe Award and an Oscar.

Later this month, Prince plans to release a new album, "Plectrum Electrum," his first in more than two years. An album release party is scheduled for April 21 in Vancouver, Canada, where the superstar is also expected to announce the launch of a new concert tour.

"Art is about building a new foundation," Prince said in an interview in January with Billboard.com. "It's not just laying something on top of what's already there."