Celebrity Invention: Prince's Custom Keytar

celebrityinvention.jpgSome celebrities aren't just pretty faces. A few of them are also touched with that Yankee prowess for tinkering and invention. In this weekly series, we introduce you to the Patents of the Rich and Famous. And maybe you learn a little bit about how patent literature works along the way.

Inventor: Prince Rogers Nelson aka Prince aka The Artist Formerly Known as Prince aka that symbol over there on the right.

130px-Prince_logo.svg.pngKnown For: Very much a celebrity, not only has Prince produced lots of award-winning (Grammy, Golden Globe, Oscar) music, including 10 platinum albums and 30 top 40 singles, he has also led a high-profile love life, and been involved in high-profile celebrity feuds, including a recently-resolved spat with ex-lover Madonna. After the two musicians dated and then collaborated on Madonna's Like a Prayer, Madonna called Prince a "little troll," to which he dissed back, well, you've got a lot of kids. After almost 20 years of fighting, Rolling Stone reports that the two have resolved their issues this week.

But, even after legitimizing his career as a musician and icon, most remember the musician for his non-name name.

Invented Apparatus: "Portable, electronic keyboard musical instrument"


It's a custom-designed keytar -- that's keyboard-guitar -- which Prince dubbed the Purpleaxxe. Prince's then-keyboardist Tommy Barbarella -- who now plays with Justin Beiber's band! -- donned the portable purple keyboard, to both enhance Prince's '90s jams and his glittery '90s fashions.

Rationale Behind Invention: Bopping across the stage with a keyboard that almost looks like a guitar, especially a purple one, is just a lot more rock-n-roll than crouching over a slab of keys.

Off-Label Uses:  A relic of last century, any contemporary use of this instrument is not only off-label, but gutsy.

Future Directions: You know those ironic retro-looking iPod speakers? Like this archaic boombox, which looks both outdated and useless, but is really a docking station in disguise? Outfit the Purpleaxxe with some mini Bose speakers, install an iPod dock, and voila: you've got a hip looking set of iPod speakers. Not only can you listen to music from your modern device, but you can also play rock star as you prance around your room, keyboarding along with your favorite tunes.

Peruse more celebrity inventions.

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Rebecca Greenfield is a former staff writer at The Wire.

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