This story was originally published in the Miami Herald on Aug. 15, 1997. Prince died at age 57 on April 21, 2016.
Ever since his first album, 1978's For You, Prince has fought for control. He produces, arranges and writes the music on his records; he won freedom from his record contract with Warner Bros. because he wanted to release more music than the label thought prudent. Four years ago, he ditched his name Prince for an unpronounceable symbol — The Artist seems to be the agreed-upon handle these days — and he now plans to sell all future albums via the Internet or his toll-free phone number, 1 (800) NEW-FUNK (639-3865), bypassing conventional means altogether.
Tonight's Jam of the Year Tour concert at the Miami Arena will focus on material from his recent three-CD set, Emancipation, as well as some hits from the Prince canon. Raspberry Beret, Purple Rain, 1999 and Little Red Corvette have been featured in previous shows around the country.
Now, loosening his notorious shy stance with the press, The Artist is consenting to some interviews — but only if you do it his way, via fax. He wouldn't be Prince, er The Artist, any other way:
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
When you first changed your name you refused to perform songs recorded as Prince. Now you're again performing some. Why the reversal?
“First of all, I've never gone by TAFKAP, The Artist or any of these monikers. These were names invented by men who refused to acknowledge the choice I've made. A computer font of my name is available for those who wish to respect my choice. As far as the music is concerned, I am no longer employed by Time Warner so I don't have to be on “strike” so to speak. They are still my songs.”
Are you stung by the criticism that some feel you are, basically, not of this earth?
“The sooner the human race awakens to its true identity the better. Nothing stings. I am thick-skinned.”
Where do you see contemporary music heading? Who inspires you to continue creating?
“I hope the business is heading towards emancipation for its contracted performers. Then the music will change toward the truth. Singers will stop fronting. God is my main inspiration.”
Has marriage changed you and how will this be reflected in your music?
“My personality hasn't changed much at all. My idea of love has grown immensely. I can only hope that affects my work as well.”
You covered the Stylistics' Betcha By Golly, Wow. Who should cover one of your songs and why?
“Every contracted musician who doesn't own the rights to their work should cover the song Slave.
In retrospect, are you happy with the way you've conducted your career following the heady success of Purple Rain ? Could you be too prolific?
“I am a musician, not a manager. The music is what I am in control of. Go to your stereo and put on the song Let It Go. It's one of the coolest songs I've written, but the album was not a ‘chart topper.’ Had I not been in Pop Exile I would not be where I am today — completely healthy, wealthy and wise. Could I give back unto the gift that I have been given too much, you ask? Not hardly.”
How has your songwriting process evolved?
“Radio, video and media dictate what is a ‘hit.’ I still, and always have, written the same. Only now there may possibly be a bit more truth to my work. As the soul grows, so does the message.”
Will you retire the song 1999 when we hit the millennium? What would a sequel song say?
“1999 has a very personal and spiritual meaning for me. I will not retire. I don't write sequels.”
The road not taken?
Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.