Here in the world’s music capital, many of us, whether we knew it or not, lived just one or two degrees separated from The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.
I myself have always made a point to shake any hand that has shaken Prince’s. Prince meant so much to me in fact that I’ve performed his music in one form or another since 2002, most recently singing and playing guitar in Fleur de Tease’s burlesque tribute to the man I considered the world’s greatest rock ’n’ roll musician.
All four of Prince’s grandparents were born in Louisiana, and one of his grandfathers sired 11 children. I once taught a music student who claimed to be Prince’s niece. But rather than attempt to climb Prince’s family tree, I chose to gather memories from New Orleans musicians, and others who have worked with, or even just met, His Purple Majesty.
In the ’70s and ’80s, singer Michael O’Hara led legendary New Orleans band, the Sheiks. After moving away for many years, O’Hara recently returned to live in New Orleans. A two-time Grammy and American Music Award nominee, O’Hara wrote for Patti LaBelle, Jody Watley and Bobby Brown, among many others:
“Prince’s manager Jaime was a friend of mine from St Louis. When Prince toured here in New Orleans she wanted me to come see him. But then the night before he actually snuck into Jimmy’s club to see us. Afterwards he told Jaime, ‘Tell him to come to my show and I want to speak with him afterward.’
So I went to the concert and sat with Jaime and afterward she said, ‘Prince wants you to ride in the limo back to the hotel with him.’
Jamie had left with him an 8-track recorder and a tape of his show, and he found the spot he wanted to listen to that said, ‘Down with politicians that want to send us off to war.’ And he kept rewinding it, over and over, to hear that one certain thing: ‘Down with politicians that want to send us off to war.’ To this day I don’t know if he was getting some kind of inspiration… Whatever was in that statement he made at his concert, it meant a lot to him, and he just kept rolling it back and back and back…
And finally I said, ‘Turn that off. Talk to me.’
And he just kind of smiled.
He said, ‘I loved your performance last night.’ And he went on to ask me how I wore my sheik scarves and my makeup and stuff like that.
I said, ‘Do you really wanna know?’ And I said, ‘Wash your face.’ Cause he had on makeup.
Or watch this awesome 20-minute interview with Prince, featuring some great concert footage. RIP to the GOAT: