Today, June 7th, 2008, is Prince Rogers Nelson’s 50th birthday. And despite the contrarian, slightly grumpy figure he’s cut over the last couple of years, no one can deny that these 62 inches of dynamite are responsible for some of the best music made over the past thirty years.

In an age where most artists or bands are lucky to cut two or three classic albums, Prince has made at least four absolutely perfect (Dirty Mind, 1999, Purple Rain and Sign ‘o The Times) albums, with another 5 or 6 that come close (Controversy, Parade and The Gold Experience chief among those). He’s the total package-one of the all-time greats on two instruments (guitar and keyboards), a strong songwriter, an amazing entertainer and a top-shelf vocalist.

Turn on pop radio today and every song that doesn’t sound like Michael Jackson sounds like Prince. The hollow drum-machine suound that he perfected in the early Eighties is still in just about every Neptunes, Timbaland or production. Justin Timberlake can talk shit all he wants, but all “FutureSex/LoveSounds” is, is a Prince album with Michael Jackson vocals.

Shit, how many artists are so bad ass that you can put together a greatest hits album of songs that he’s written and/or produced but didn’t sing and it would still be as bangin’ as a greatest hits album comprised solely of music he wrote/produced/performed?

Since Mr. Nelson is notoriously prickly about people posting footage of him on the web, I won’t dig through Youtube to find video footage of him. However, we can’t celebrate the man properly without at least some music, so enjoy some excellent music that while not fronted by the man, contained his involvement.

Stevie Nicks’ “Stand Back” was not only heavily influenced by Prince’s “1999”, but the man himself played keyboards on this record and got a co-write credit for his handiwork.

“A Love Bizarre” is essentially a Prince song. He sings every line along with Sheila E. and adlibs enough that the song really should be considered a duet.

Maybe someday, someone will be nice enough to release The Family’s album on CD. For those unaware, The Family was Prince’s attempt to a) keep a band in his stable after the dissolution of The Time and b) “get some of that Duran Duran money”. Their 1985 album is a highly soughty-after classic, not only because it’s a great album but also because it contains the original version of “Nothing Compares 2 U”, which went on to become a huge #1 for Sinead O’ Connor.

Happy birthday, Mr. Nelson. How many guys out there can rock the shit out of Radiohead’s “Creep” in high heels while only being 15 years away from social security?