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June 7, 2022

Before He Was Famous, Fascinating Black and White Photos of a Very Young Prince in 1977

In 1977, a local musician named Prince Rogers Nelson came to the attention of Minneapolis music agent/manager Owen Husney and his partner Gary Levinson. Upon hearing his music, Husney and Levinson immediately signed the 19 year old to a management contract and set about securing a record deal for the young musician.

To entice photographer Robert Whitman to take photographs of Prince for a press kit aimed at potential record companies, Levinson came by Whitman’s apartment and played him one song on his car stereo... an early version of “Soft and Wet.” Husney and Levinson then booked Prince into the Sound 80 Studios to work on recording a demo and Whitman came on board to make photographs of this young artist, who would one day become one of the most important musicians of the 20th century.​

These photographs were created during three separate photoshoots that Whitman made of Prince during 1977. Whitman photographed Prince in his Minneapolis studio, Owen Husney’s Linden Hills Boulevard home and on the street of downtown Minneapolis, including in front of the mural of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony painted on the side of the Schmitt’s Music store.

These pictures, Prince’s first with a professional photographer, mark an instrumental moment in his career. The creation of the style and persona that has come to define the artist known as PRINCE. 

(Photos by © Robert Whitman)


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