Prince changed his name to an 'unpronounceable symbol' to mess with his record label
Iconic singer, songwriter, musician, record producer, actor, and filmmaker, Prince, had a remarkable career that lasted for decades before his untimely death due to a fentanyl overdose on April 21, 2016.
The late star, whose real name is Prince Rogers Nelson, was known for his eclectic fashion sense and his impressive vocal range. What many other people, who aren't his die-hard fans, don't know is that Prince was a multi-instrumentalist who was a maestro, and who was also skilled at playing the drums, percussion, bass, keyboards, and synthesizer.
The iconic Minneapolis sound, a subgenre of funk rock, was pioneered by the star in the late 1970s. Prince was able to sign a recording contract with Warner Bros. for his debut album 'For You' in 1978 when he was only 17 years old. Years later, on October 13, 1992, Paisley Park Records and Warner Bros. Records released his fourteenth studio album, 'Love Symbol'.
Then in 1993, a major legal battle took place between Warner Bros. and Prince related to how much music he was putting out. While the lawsuit was going on, Prince was spotted in public with the word "slave" written on his cheek. He then spoke out to the public that he had changed his name to an "unpronounceable symbol" so that he could put some distance between himself and the contract he had with the record label.
Prince also said that the reason he did this was that he felt that his real name belonged to the company due to the constraints he was put under. According to an article in Rolling Stone magazine, the label had been hell-bent on getting Prince to slow his pace down in terms of his musical output because he had released an album every year since his debut album in 1978. The label was wary of flooding the market with too much of his music if he kept his prolific pace.
The star, however, decided to increase his musical output, and made it very clear that his new stage name was going to be the symbol.
Rolling Stone said that Prince had done this to "largely mess with [Warner Bros.]," because it was so difficult to reproduce in the pre-digital era. The label was finally forced to send out a large number of floppy disks (yes this happened THAT long ago) so that various publications could use it when writing about Prince.
Many of these said publications didn't even bother with the symbol and instead started referring to him as "The Artist Formerly Known As Prince," and the name just ended up sticking. Since Prince was able to copyright the symbol as "Love Symbol #2", the album he had released with the unpronounceable symbol on the cover came to be known as the "Love Symbol Album".
If you look at the symbol closely, you will be able to see that it is a combination of the symbols for male and female. According to one report by The Independent, it is supposed to have "entered his consciousness during meditation". The fact that Prince named it the "Love Symbol" just goes to show that it meant something more to him than just something to piss off the executives at Warner Bros.
The symbol, in fact, meant so much to him that he kept using it until long after he changed his name back to Prince, which happened in 2000 when his contract with Warner Bros. ended.
"Love Symbol #2" as a symbol has now become so iconic that it is synonymous with Prince. Even one of the guitars that he used in the Halftime Show of Super Bowl XLI in 2007 was custom built to look like the symbol.