Prince Taught Himself to Play Piano With the ‘Batman’ Theme Song

Prince famously wrote an entire album for Tim Burton’s 1989 blockbuster, Batman. But the legendary singer and musician had a much deeper history with the superhero. He was a fan of the 1966 Batman TV series. And its theme song was the very first melody he played on the piano. 

Prince playing the piano
Prince playing the piano | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Prince started playing the piano as a child

Prince was undoubtedly one of the most talented singers and musicians of his time. He played the piano, guitar, and drums and wrote chart-topping, award-winning songs like “Purple Rain” and “1999.” 

Prince’s musical prowess came from his musician father, John Nelson, who played piano in a jazz band. Nelson moved out of their home when Prince was 7-years-old. But he left behind a piano that the young artist then practiced on every day. Eventually, Prince moved into his aunt’s house. And when he couldn’t bring the piano, he found new instruments to play. 

“My first drum set was a box full of newspapers,” Prince recalled in a 1983 Rolling Stone interview. “At thirteen, I went to live with my aunt. She didn’t have room for a piano, so my father bought me an electric guitar, and I learned how to play.”

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Prince’s first piano melody was the ‘Batman’ theme song

The 1966 Batman series was a huge hit in its time. The ABC comedy starred Adam West and Burt Ward as the dynamic duo and followed the superhero team on outlandish missions against villains like Cesar Romero’s Joker and Frank Gorshin’s Riddler. 

The show’s opening song, “Batman’s Theme,” was written by Neal Hefti and had a catchy, spy movie-like guitar hook. The music was infectious, and it mesmerized a 7-year-old Prince. 

In his chat with Rolling Stone, Prince revealed that “Batman’s Theme” was the melody he used to teach himself how to play the piano. And in a later interview with Oprah Winfrey, the artist strummed the theme when Winfrey asked him if he remembered his first song on the piano.

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He made a ‘Batman’ album in 1989

In the late ’80s, Prince was stopping charts with albums like “Sign O’ the Times” and “Purple Rain”. So when the big-budget Michael Keaton Batman movie was in the works, producers pushed for Prince to make its music. 

Because the movie’s director, Tim Burton, was a huge Prince fan, he wanted to keep the celebrated artist out of the commerciality of the project. But when producers insisted, Burton gave in. 

“Now, here is this guy, Prince, who was one of my favorites,” Burton told Rolling Stone. “I had just gone to see two of his concerts in London, and I felt they were like the best concerts I’d ever seen. OK. So. They’re saying to me, these record guys, ‘it needs this and that,’ and they give you this whole thing about it’s an expensive movie, so you need it.”

“And what happens is, you get engaged in this world, and then there’s no way out,” he continued. “There’s too much money. There’s this guy you respect and is good and has got this thing going. It got to a point where there was no turning back.”

It seems like Prince may have realized what was going on. Because in a 1990 chat with Rolling Stone, the artist revealed that he tried his best to work with Burton’s ideas for the movie. “There was so much pressure on [director] Tim [Burton],” Prince said, “that for the whole picture, I just said, ‘Yes, Mr. Burton, what would you like?’”