Arts & Leisure

With mythic vaults, Prince could also be prolific posthumously

Posted on April 26, 2016

NEW YORK -- Prince was legendarily prolific over his four-decade career and even death may not stop him, with the pop icon storing a massive stash of unreleased work in his vaults.

POP ICON Prince is seen performing during halftime at Super Bowl XLI at Dolphin Stadium in Miami between the Chicago Bears and the Indianapolis Colts in this file photo taken Feb. 4, 2007. Prince died suddenly at his compound in Minnesota on April 21. He was 57. -- AFP
But the question of who decides on future releases will not be simple as Prince, who died suddenly last Thursday at age 57, had no known children, no current spouse, no living parents and fiercely guarded his own creative control like few other artists.

The Purple One possessed an insatiable appetite to make music, even giving pagers to his backup musicians and keeping engineers on shifts so he could record at any time of day in sessions that could last more than 24 hours straight.

Prince, in a 2014 interview with Rolling Stone that was only published after his death, not only confirmed a long-rumored vault of music at his Paisley Park compound in Minnesota, but said he had several of them.

“I’ve never said this before, but I didn’t always give the record companies the best song. There are songs in the vault that no one’s ever heard,” he said.

Prince said he kept a “ton of stuff” in the vaults, including full unreleased albums, among them two made with The Revolution, his funky and diverse band with which he made the classic “Purple Rain.”

As with so much about Prince, his rationale kept people guessing.

But he hinted that he wanted to create a historical record, with future releases bringing together the best tracks -- both smash hits and obscurities -- from periods of his career.

“He was like a funnel. It was as if somebody was pouring these songs into him and they would just continue to come out from the other end like a water spigot that wouldn’t turn off,” music executive Alan Leeds, who headed Prince’s Paisley Park Records, told the BBC in a 2015 documentary.

Brent Fischer, a composer who long worked with Prince, estimated in the documentary that 70% of the recorded music went unreleased.

Prince’s compulsion to produce constantly triggered one of the most famous label feuds in music history.

When Warner Brothers tried to rein him in, Prince changed his name to the unpronounceable “love symbol” and wrote “slave” on his cheek to protest his contractual obligations.

Prince reconciled in 2014 with Warner but he soon discovered an outlet that delighted him -- streaming.

Prince last year announced a deal with rap mogul Jay-Z’s service Tidal, calling the Internet platform “freedom” as he was able to release an album within 90 days of meeting the hip-hop entrepreneur.

In a sign that the stamina-driven artist was not expecting to die, his 39th and final studio album -- HITnRUN: Phase Two, released by Tidal in December -- comes off as an anti-climax.

In contrast to rock legend David Bowie, who released the intricate Blackstar two days before his death in January from an unannounced battle with cancer, Prince was unlikely to consider HITnRUN: Phase Two a career-closer.

A sequel to HITnRUN: Phase One, named after Prince’s tours in which he schedules shows at the last minute, the album featured several songs already in the public realm, including the danceable and ultra-sexy “Xtraloveable,” which he had been playing since 1982 without formally releasing it.

Posthumous recordings are a major business. Prince’s contemporary and sometime rival Michael Jackson has twice entered the top five on the US charts since his 2009 death with albums of previously unreleased material.

And Elvis Presley, who died in 1977, returned to number one on the British chart last year with an album of archived vocals accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Bob Fuchs, manager of The Electric Fetus, a Minneapolis record store of which Prince was fond, said that customers were hoping to hear more music soon.

“Everyone is absolutely dying for some of that stuff to come out,” he said.

But Sheila E., Prince’s musical collaborator and former romantic partner, said the music should stay in the vaults as the artist always made his own decisions.

“He worked with whomever he wanted, and if he had wanted those released, he would have released them,” she told Fox News Latino.

As for Prince himself, he was cryptic when asked in the 2014 interview whether he wanted the vaults opened when he was “gone.”

“No, I don’t think about gone. I just think about in the future when I don’t want to speak in real time.” -- AFP

Prince fused ‘black soul’ with ‘white rock’ -- music experts

LONDON -- Prince created a new sound by fusing black American musical styles with white rock, and deeply influenced the current generation of artists, music experts said.

The US music icon was found dead, aged 57, at his studio complex outside his home city of Minneapolis on Thursday.

Philip Priestley, who made a 2008 documentary comparing the careers of Prince and Michael Jackson, said that growing up in Minneapolis forced Prince to create a new sound, as the Minnesota city was simply “not on the map” for black music.

“There was not a great Afro-American community so he grew up listening a lot of radio which was broadcasting other stuff than black soul music, and rhythm and blues,” he said.

“He was listening to rock -- white rock -- which explains in a great extent why he was so unique musically.

“He fused a black American tradition -- rhythm and blues, soul, funk, jazz -- with white rock.”

Priestley said that while Jackson came through the Motown record label scene, Prince was his own creation.

“He was unique in that sense. He opened a lot of doors for a lot of music that came afterwards because he’s hard to define,” Priestley said.

“He created the pop music that we are listening to today, which is a mixture of a lot of things.”

Usher, D’Angelo, Beyonce Knowles and Lady Gaga are among those who trace their inheritance back to Prince.

“Like David Bowie he meant something to everyone. He was one of those unique stars,” said Dan Stubbs, commissioning editor for Britain’s NME music magazine.

“With Prince... he not only influenced people, he took people as proteges. He mentored people.

“He was always looking for someone interesting, to make contact with them, invite them to work for him, invite them to Minneapolis.”

He cited the 26-year-old London soul singer Lianne La Havas as an example.

“Until Prince picked up on her, she was hugely under the radar,” said Stubbs.

He also singled out US recording artist Janelle Monae, 30.

“Like him, she’s a polymath,” Stubbs said.

“He picked up on people with a bit of his DNA in them: People who were doing something different.”

Priestley said the emotional reaction to Prince’s death was because he symbolized an era.

“He epitomizes a period apart from anything else,” Priestley said.

“You think of the early Sixties, you think of Bob Dylan. The early Eighties, you are either a Prince fan or a Michael Jackson fan.

“He has that stature of being like John Lennon, like Elvis Presley, like Jimi Hendrix.” -- AFP