• Whatever you called him, he was a giant, and gone too soon
• At CNN, a two-part update on the artist formerly known as Prince
• You’d think I would remember, right?
I forgot I interviewed Prince.
I’m not sure how, but I’ll try to explain.
The other day I got a message from Scott Leon, former executive producer of CNN’s Showbiz Today. He said he came across, on YouTube, an episode of the show from July, 29th, 1997. It includes the first of a two-part report on Prince by yours truly. It was four years after Prince Rogers Nelson changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol. Sitting down with him at what I believe was the Trump International Hotel on Central Park West, among the things I wanted to know was: how did one get his attention?
As I watched the whole 2:13 package, which will be down at the bottom of this post, it dawned on me: I had made a list of all the things I wanted to write about on this blog and all the people I’ve interviewed, and – unbelievably — he was not on it. I had not thought of the late R&B genius from Minneapolis. In fact, if someone had asked me if I’d ever crossed paths with him, I might have said, “No…..I think he might be one who got away.”
On top of that, there’s Showbiz Today co-host Jim Moret calling it a “rare” interview. It was! How on earth could this have slipped into the dim recesses of my memory?
Here’s the best I can do:
I loved Motown music. I loved James Brown, Stax-Volt, Al Green, Philly Soul. I got into radio, though, when it was beginning to segregate music. The eclecticism of Top 40 radio was giving way to Album Rock stations, Easy Listening stations, R&B (or Urban) stations, and so forth. And, from my vantage point, doing news on Album Rock stations, I “sided” with Steve Dahl, the Chicago DJ who, the ‘70s, held a “Disco Demolition” night, urging rock lovers to bring disco records to Comiskey Park, where he blew them up between games of a White Sox doubleheader.
When Prince came along, I was at network radio and I covered his appearances at Grammy Awards shows and MTV Video Music Awards shows (where, if I recall correctly, he didn’t do a lot of backstage interviews, if any). But honestly, he hadn’t become one of my favorite artists. I didn’t feel he was “talking” to me, for one thing; I felt like I wasn’t really his musical audience. Now, however, his music is firmly planted in my listening landscape and I thoroughly understand how frivolously I had undervalued it and him.
So, maybe I suppressed the memory of our interview out of some buried guilt over not embracing him wholeheartedly from the get-go. That’s about as deep into amateur self-analysis I’m going to go. I’m embarrassed enough as it is.
You recall, right, that there was more than a little derision cast his way when he wrote “slave” on his cheek and in effect substituted a logo for his name as he fought to get out of a record company contract? I was likely harboring a little skepticism going into the interview. Maybe leaning toward making light of it all. As I look at the full package (I don’t have Part 2), it reminds me that in person he was impressively thoughtful, soft-spoken and quietly commanding of respect. A prince of a guy, you might say.