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John Nelson; Jazz Pianist Was Father of Pop Icon Prince

John Nelson, 85, jazz pianist formerly in the Prince Rogers Trio, which inspired the name of his son, the pop icon Prince, died Saturday at his home in suburban Minneapolis.

In the 1950s, Nelson married the trio’s young singer, Mattie Shaw, who nicknamed her new husband “Prince Rogers” after the group. When they had a son, they named him Prince Rogers Nelson.

After the Nelsons divorced, the rock singer and his father were estranged at different times but eventually became close friends and collaborators. Nelson, named in his own right to the Minnesota Black Musicians Awards Hall of Fame in 1989, co-wrote several of his son’s hit songs. Among them were “Computer Blue” on the Oscar and Grammy-winning soundtrack and album “Purple Rain,” and “Scandalous” on the “Batman” soundtrack.

Although Nelson was the putative model for the father in the film “Purple Rain,” which made Prince an international star, Prince has often said that, unlike the fictional character, his father never drank or swore or had anything to do with guns.

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