Happy Birthday, Prince! Reviewing the icon’s history in Birmingham

Prince at Five Points Music Hall, styling as always. Photo courtesy of The Cheesebrokers.

Prince once told Dutch TV host Ivo Niehe during a 1999 interview, “I don’t celebrate birthdays, so that stops me from counting days, which stops me from counting time.” In an effort to keep Prince’s wishes on his birthday, June 7, we won’t celebrate. But, we can honor his memory with a brief journey through his time in Birmingham.

The best party crasher you could expect

There’s something to be said for sticking around when a cover band performs late into the night. You may have heard the legendary story of when Prince, who at the time went by a “Love Symbol” for his name, made an unexpected appearance at Five Points Music Hall on January 191997.

The Cheesebrokers were jamming out a set when Prince rolled in, casually and wearing something iconic I imagine. According to Bham Wiki, it took pleading but Prince performed “Raspberry Beret” and commandeered the stage for a 45-minute set with his band—New Power Generation. I feel important to add he used the Cheesebrokers’ instruments.

If you’re curious about the “Love Symbol”

A quick background, because the story behind Prince’s unpronounceable name change fascinated me since I learned about it in a copywriting course in college. The “Love Symbol,” which was a mash-up of the gender symbols for man and woman, came forward in the midst of a rebellion against his record label, the Warner Bros.

Without going too in-depth, a crude summary of the situation is Warner Bros. copyrighted the name Prince and all music under it. Not liking the way Warner Bros. handled the releasing of Prince’s music, he went under an independent label and a new name.

Prince’s history in Birmingham

  • 1997: The night Prince crashed the Cheesebrokers set, he’d been performing at the Boutwell Auditorium. And according to Bham Wiki later ate at Bottega—as if we needed another reason to dine at the amazing Italian spot.
  • Take a look at the setlist for Prince’s first show in Birmingham.
  • 1980: Alongside a tour with Ricky James, the two performed at BJCC Coliseum on April 17.
  • 1982: Prince performed at the BJCC on his “1999” tour and a headliner for “Controversy Album” on December 19.
  • 1985: He returned a few years later for the “Purple Rain” tour, with Apollonia and Sheila E. at BJCC colosseum on January 19 AND February 3

Our family has a little history with Prince, too. Before he rose to immense amounts of fame, he played on a Broomball team in Minneapolis with my mom. She always described him as, “humble and sweet,” but never mentions his Broomball skills…

Needing a Prince fix now? Check out Birmingham’s local record stores

*NOTE: Hours, walk-in capability, and other factors may be affected by the new citywide curfew as well as COVID-19 regulations. Make sure to call ahead to confirm they are open.

Did you see Prince play in Birmingham? Tell us about your experience on bhamnow.com!