The Universe Is Messing With Our Heads: Prince (1958-2016)

What is going on here? It seems like the plot of a bad Austin Powers movie (isn’t that redundant?) where some sinister force is killing off all rock stars of a certain generation, leaving the world to the current, younger, more insipid celebrities. Given that thought, maybe we should be looking into possible involvement of the Kardashians.

Joking aside, this one really sucks!

While I have little doubt that Prince’s artistry will be parsed to the nth degree of infinity (?), I want to focus on the the relationship between Prince and Miles Davis.

First off, it was a mutual admiration society. Davis described Prince as a synthesis of James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Jimi Hendrix and compared him people like Sly Stone, Little Richard and Duke Ellington. They both recognized in each other similar traits: the need to go against the grain and to peruse their artistic vision without compromise.

Miles Davis’s 1986 album Tutu was originally intended to feature a Miles/Prince collaboration but Prince withdrew the song, apparently unhappy with the results (for a detailed account of what happened as well as other details about their relationship to each other, click the link for a great interview with Alan Leeds who worked with Prince from 1983 to 1992 as tour manager and later, head of Paisley Park Studios).

Listening to Miles’s late 80’s/early 90’s output, it’s apparent that Miles was listening to what Prince was doing. And when Davis played live, notably between 1987 to until he died in 1991, Prince’s Movie Star and Penetration were included in his setlist. The video below is of Miles playing Penetration in Paris, 1991 in what was Miles’s last European concert.

Miles Davis – Paris July 10, 1991 – Penetration

Next we have an audio clip of the only time Prince and Miles actually played together live. It’s from a 1987 New Year’s Eve benefit concert at Paisley Park in which Miles comes out during the encore. The extended encore starts with the Prince tune “It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night” and then that proceeds to touch on songs like Housequake, Chain Of Fools, Take The A Train and Cold Sweat (with Prince doing some serious channeling of James Brown) but not before Miles drops in to solo, starting at the 5:40 mark, over the band’s locomotive groove. Miles’s playing starts with him laying out some simple melodic jabs which sets up a really cool extended chromatic line at the 6:50 point. Before long, Prince and Miles are engaging in a back and forth with Prince’s scat singing mimicking Miles’s trumpet.

Prince with Miles Davis – New Year’s Eve 1987

Prince and Miles. Two geniuses (a term I do not use lightly), now gone.

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Posted in Classic Rock, Jazz, Music Appreciation and Analysis

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