Photo by Nancy Bundt
Although the late, immeasurably great Prince has generally been referred to in the singular, at the height of his powers he was one of pop music’s great collaborators. Indeed, he gathered amazing musicians around him, cultivated and mentored young talent (remember Ingrid Chavez? Shelia E?)…and the likes of Cyndi Lauper, Sheena Easton and Tom Jones all had their own hits with his songs.
He also had an incredible band, fittingly called The Revolution. There were members that came and went – but the core will always be remembered as Bobby Z., Matt Fink, Brownmark, Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman. They played together on some of the greatest records ever recorded: Purple Rain, Around the World in a Day, Parade.
Following Prince’s shocking death in April of 2016, they reformed for a series of emotional performances at Minneapolis’ legendary First Avenue club – and found they actually had a reason to go on. They launched a tour yesterday at Celebration 2017 @ Paisley Park in their hometown (see footage here); they then go on to 22 other cities before ending up in Seattle on July 15. Paying tribute to their fallen comrade is a significant inspiration for carrying on.
We caught up with Wendy and Bobby to talk regret, joy, pain and, of course, the music.
What was your reaction upon hearing the news of Prince’s death?
Wendy Melvoin Panic! Total cognitive dissonance. It still hasn’t landed.
Bobby Z. Shock and disbelief. The words “Prince Dead” on all the screens across the globe seemed impossible. Otherworldly, unreal. It’s a profound loss for the ages.
Was there any sense that you wished you might have been able to do something to help him?
WM Are you fucking kidding me????? Y.E.S. I try and reconcile that feeling every day. When people or family die unexpectedly it’s the survivors that shoulder the weight of everything unrequited. I’m all too familiar with this kind of loss.
BZ Of course you would like to think you may have been able to do something. But to say he was an extremely private person is an understatement. I doubt even the closest people in his inner circle knew of his real daily life. I knew him well from the earliest days of his career, and he was very mysterious even then.
What were those first Revolution shows like, right after Prince’s death?
WM Like a seance. By the third night it felt like we made contact. You could feel a weight lift the room. The five of us left the stage and broke down in each other’s arms.
BZ Soul searching musical and spiritual journeys. Each different and more challenging and healing in different ways at the same time.
Did you decide to carry on because the chemistry was there? Or was it more a decision to honor Prince’s memory?
BZ Both really. It’s a calling. A need. But to be with each other, the five of us, playing the music that took us and our audience on a special journey, feels like something only we can do. It’s just too important to honor his memory, to remind people that he was so full of life and music. Witnessing his music live is the ultimate tribute to him.
WM Playing together right now is our version of a sitting Shiva. We get to share him with his fans, and with each other. It’s part of our healing process.
Would you consider writing and recording new material?
WM If we do? It will be a love letter to Prince.
Would you also think of recording new versions of some of the older songs?
BZ It’s way too early for that, as there is so much of our music with him that is unreleased; we would like to see that come out. But we will take it moment by moment.
What songs are you planning to play live?
WM People will always ask, “Who’s going to be Prince??” No one! We will perform the catalog that belongs to our band. Everything from “I Would Die 4 U” to “Sign ‘O’ the Times.” We really want the fans to sing the songs.
BZ Our time with him included the superlative albums Purple Rain, Around The World In A Day and Parade, so songs off those albums for sure. Plus, we also all played the classics with him live, so we have so many to choose from.
Have you found that you’re able to get joy out of playing these songs together again? Even though it was a terrible tragedy that brought you back together?
WM Like I said…it’s been cognitive dissonance. True joy and pain all wrapped in a Prince hug.
BZ It feels like a seance in a way. We and the audience need to make a little sense of this senseless tragedy by connecting. Playing his music seems to make us all feel just a tiny bit better, gives us all maybe just a little closure. Now that he is unbelievably gone forever…