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Yet Another Prince Thread: protegé artists

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Yet Another Prince Thread: protegé artists

Old 02-03-07, 04:38 AM
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Yet Another Prince Thread: protegé artists

Rogue588's thread about Prince got me thinking about another aspect of The Purple One's career that I'd like to elaborate on: his famous protegé artists/groups.

Have you noticed he doesn't work with other artists like he used to back in the 80's? Frankly, I'm a little dismayed at this fact. A great deal of why I was drawn to Prince, along with anticipating what he was going to do next himself, was experiencing all these great groups or artists he would help with their own careers.

Now, here's the next thing. Have you noticed that not very many of these artists/groups went on to bigger things, and several only put out one or two albums themselves? I always wondered why that was. The music was great, it had Prince written all over it, so what happened? Even former band members who put out their own albums didn't really break out too well. You would think that an association with Prince would give them enough clout for people to give them a chance, but instead they only seemed to sell their albums to the people who knew them by reputation and bought the albums only because of the association to the Prince name, regardless of whether they heard any of the music first. I admit I fall under that category. I bought all those albums, and most of them I did genuinely like. Some of them, I was like "whatever", but held on to them just to have them as part of the Prince collection. And, I have watched over the years as nearly all of these people fell into obscurity...merely a footnote in their former mentor's history.

Let's take a look at these artists and see how they fared, whether assisted by Prince or otherwise (in no particular order)...

The Time

Definitely one of the ones who fared pretty well, with several albums to their credit, and a reputation of being a genuinely kick-ass band of great musicians. Nowadays they've lost most of the original members, and now make an occasional appearance as "Morris Day and The Time". No album since 1990.

Morris Day

Never really make it as a successful solo artist, and wound up back with The Time, as shown above.

Jesse Johnson

Also tried to make it as a solo artist, but fared better as a producer for other acts. None of his albums ever broke the Top 40, and the last one, in 1996, apparently didn't even chart at all.

Sheila E.

Has done very well on her own, mainly on her reputation as a well-respected drummer/percussionist. Her solo albums never really had the great commercial success Prince had, but again, there's the drumming thing. No album since 2001.

Wendy & Lisa

Another who didn't have huge commercial success with their albums, but were always well-received critically. Lots of work doing soundtracks for movies and TV, and collaborating with other artists. No album since 1998.

Jill Jones

Probably the one artist whose first solo album was the most heavily worked on by Prince, from songwriting to playing to background vocals. Even Prince's entire band at the time, The Revolution, is credited with performing on one track. Considered the best of the "protegé" albums, and is still a big hit with collectors to this day. Only released one other solo album, and nothing since that album in 2001.

The Family

Made up of members of The Time, Eric Leeds from Prince's band, and Wendy's twin sister, Susannah. Very laid back, funky, orchestral-oriented music...and definitely one of those albums that was only really truly appreciated by true Prince fans. Only one album, in 1985. Another big hit with collectors, as the compact disc version of the album was never released in the US. Still can be seen going for at least $100 on eBay.

Vanity 6 - Apollonia 6

I don't think anyone ever expected these novelty groups to do much, and they only had one album each, in 1982 and 1984, respectively.

Bobby Z

Drummer for The Revolution, and released one solo album in 1989. I never actually thought of him as much of a drummer, and more of just a timekeeper. Prince's drum machine did more drumming than this guy. Anyway, the album went precisely nowhere.

Matt "Doctor" Fink

The one member of The Revolution who actually stayed with Prince the longest, then just sort of faded into obscurity, which truly is surprising considering this guy's talent. One solo album in 2001. Pretty basic techno stuff.

"St. Paul" Peterson (The Time/The Family)

Prince didn't have anything to do with Paul's first solo album, but I included him in the list because he's the one former Prince employee whose first solo album was actually pretty damn good, regardless of the lack of Prince! Paul is another artist whose solo albums haven't received outstanding commercial success, but has done lots of work for other artists, as well as with his well-respected Peterson family. Newest album of solo work in 2004.

Brown Mark

Bassist for The Revolution. Another of Prince's musicians that I never gave much merit to their talent. Watching videos of their live performances, I never saw Mark's hands move very much when the camera actually was on him. It was almost like they knew to not show him very much, since he never really played. I always suspected there was someone off-stage playing the bass lines, or maybe a pre-recorded track or something. I don't know, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Mark was just so good that Prince kept his bass-playing buried in the background, fairly low-key, so as not to show Prince up. Anyway, one solo album in the late 80's, went nowhere, blah blah blah.

Mazarati

Sang back-up vocals on Prince's "Kiss" single. One album produced by Brown Mark, with one song written by Prince. The songs had potential, but the production was pretty screwed up, and ended up sounding like they were just trying too damn hard to be more than what they were. Again, nowhere.

Ingrid Chavez

Associated with Prince as early as 1988, and had her own solo album in 1991. Actually, yet another really good album that didn't get appreciated more than maybe it should have. Easy, laid-back funk music with Ingrid doing mostly recitation of the lyrics...pretty much a collection of poetry readings set to music. Again, not bad, but mostly appreciated by Prince fans.

Carmen Electra

Who today doesn't know Carmen is associated with Prince, and that Prince is the one who named her Carmen Electra? Who doesn't know that that association began as a music career? That's right...Carmen Electra started out as...a rapper!!! She's obviously enjoyed a great career since then, mainly boosted by her outrageously fantastic looks, but her music career never really took off. You could definitely say that as a singer, Carmen is a great actress. And as an actress, you could say that she is definitely is very good looking. One album in 1992.

Madhouse

Prince's foray into jazz, with Fink, Eric Leeds, Sheila E. and Levi Seacer working their respective instruments into some interesting tracks. Two albums, both released in 1987. At one time, another big hit with collectors on eBay.

Eric Leeds

Another outlet for Prince's jazz jones. Prince was pretty heavily involved in Eric's first solo album in 1991, writing and performing on most of the tracks. In fact, one could say that Eric's first solo album was a bit of a Madhouse reunion, since all the Madhouse musicians except for Fink played on several tracks. Decent jazz, and unfortunately overlooked except for Prince fans, and even then only the ones who are into jazz. No new album since 2000.

--------------------------------

Well, there you have it...a fairly comprehensive list of artists that were directly associated with Prince, that went on to solo careers of varying degrees, or whose solo careers were launched by Prince. So...why did these people never really share his success? Is it because they were associated with him, and everyone's expectations caused them to fall short? Did everyone just fail to appreciate all these albums for what they were? What do you think the story is? And again, why do you think Prince doesn't work with new artists like he used to, as evinced by this list? About the closest thing to a protegé lately is this Tamar chick, and I don't really know how well she fares as anything more than just a singer.

BTW...if there's anyone I left out, or any facts I may have gotten slightly incorrect, please feel free to mention.

Last edited by The_Infidel; 02-03-07 at 12:47 PM.
Old 02-03-07, 10:28 AM
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You forgot Tevin Campbell.
Old 02-03-07, 10:38 AM
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I don't consider Tevin Campbell as a protegé of Prince. His first solo single may have been from the Graffiti Bridge soundtrack, but Wikipedia lists him as a protegé of Quincy Jones. My list was intended as artists that Prince heavily worked on their solo releases ("Paisley Park artists", if you will), or that at least used to work with/for Prince in a fairly major role. Tevin doesn't fit that.

Last edited by The_Infidel; 02-03-07 at 10:40 AM.
Old 02-03-07, 11:05 AM
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It seems like a lot of artists on your list had as minimal a role with Prince as you accuse Tevin of having, but whatever.

To answer your larger question, I think the answer can be found, oddly enough, in watching ROCKY V. Rocky = Prince and Tommy Gunn = all these protegés. No matter what talents the protegés brought to bear (and most, IMO, were quite minimal), they were always being judged as a watered down version of the master. Besides, as far as the female artists are concerned, only the most obtuse Prince fan didn't recognize they were protegés simply because Prince wanted to bed them. The only real stand-outs from your (and my) list are Sheila E., who still had a decent career, but was the most "robbed" of the list vis-a-vis where her talent should have taken her; Wendy & Lisa, who both boosted (in the short term) and killed (in the long term) their career by radically changing styles from the "Minneapolis sound", Tevin Campbell, who enjoyed solid R&B success on the terms that he authentically had a golden voice; and Morris Day and The Time. Prince once referred to The Time as the only band he was afraid of; I think what he meant by that is he recognized they were the only protegé of his that stood to have massive success all on their own accord, without using him as a crutch. They may have squandered that potential, but it didn't mean they didn't have it.

As far as why Prince doesn't associate with other artists, in a band sense, or a protegé sense, is that his career has come full circle by bottoming back out--he is now enjoying a notable, but precarious, resurgence in popularity, so he cannot dilute it yet by trying to put himself in the role of master when he has yet to fully convince the music buyers of the 2000s that he is still a master. If somehow (and I think it unlikely, unfortunately) he were to hit another 1999 or, wow, PURPLE RAIN, then he can get back to molding the next useless generation of Prince knockoffs...

Last edited by Filmmaker; 02-03-07 at 11:27 AM.
Old 02-03-07, 12:38 PM
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I agree with that. Good post.

I still have to disagree about Tevin, though. He was already Quincy Jones' boy when Prince brought him onto Grafitti Bridge, and again, Prince wrote and produced one song for him. Prince wrote lots of songs for other artists (Bangles, Sheena Easton, Celine Dion, Dale Bozzio)*, but that didn't necessarily make them "protegés". And, unfortunately, a small role in one movie doesn't give Tevin the credential of having worked with Prince as much as the other artists on my list.

I guess we agree to disagree.


* Like you said, Prince sure liked working with the ladies, didn't he? (I just can't see him "bedding" Celine, though. Yikes.)
Old 02-03-07, 11:21 PM
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Rosie Gaines?
Old 02-04-07, 09:18 AM
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Yeah, and Dez Dickerson--the more I look at The Infidel's list, the more omissions I see, so maybe we posters should just focus on the larger question instead of being list critics.
Old 02-04-07, 12:33 PM
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I thought about Rosie, and I admit she comes close to my intended definition, but I didn't include her since she already had an album or two before she joined Prince, and again, he only wrote/produced a couple songs for her next album. Pretty much the same reasoning for Tevin Campbell and any other artists Prince writes songs for, except of course Rosie was in Prince's band for a few years. That's why she came close.

And Dez Dickerson? Not even close. He quit the band to do his own thing, and Prince, to my knowledge, never had a hand in anything Dez has done since then, except for his brief appearance in Purple Rain.

Thanks for the support on answering the bigger questions, Filmmaker. It's obvious everyone will have different definitions on certain things. I wanted to get peoples' opinions on Prince's work with other artists over the years, comparing all the "protegé" work in the 80's to now, and to show how many of those artists never really made it as big as their former employer, not quibble over who's a protegé and who's not.

Last edited by The_Infidel; 02-04-07 at 12:38 PM.
Old 02-04-07, 12:53 PM
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As pointed out by others in this thread, Prince's so-called association with other artists usually result in nothing more than those other musicians/singers/performers acting as puppets under his FULL control. It has been documented in numerous biographies that Prince had people like Morris Day, Paul Peterson and Jill Jones mimic his guiding vocals note for note and phrase for phrase when he produced their albums. His influence is so overwhelming - oppressively so - that any creative contributions they have to make are probably squeezed out. So even when listening to an exceptional album like JILL JONES, it is still a bit disarming to here his familiar screams and vocal phrasing coming from another's voice. It sound like mere imitation, which is exactly how he wanted it back then.

And I think that sounding too much like Prince is a bad thing when the consumer expects some degree of originalilty or freshness in a protege artist. Hearing Susannah Melvoin meekly mimic Prince's scream in "The Screams Of Passion" denigrated what is otherwise a damn good song. Frankly, I think Sheena Easton's most listenable songs came from her Prince era ("101" "Sugar Walls" "The Arms Of Orion" and "Eternity"), but Sheila E's worst came from her ROMANCE 1600 album which was pure excess and indulgence ("A Love Bizarre" being an exception). Dez Dickerson has a website, but never released a Modernnaires album, though I thought the tune was catchy when heard briefly in PURPLE RAIN. I don't think Prince has anything to do with him or his music presently.

When Prince had his Paisley Park label, some fairly good work was presented by The Three O' Clock, who covered "Neon Telephone" but their album went nowhere. Madhouse had two good albums, but the third one was never released, though I enjoyed Eric Leeds solo work. I loved "Love Thy Will Be Done" by Martika, but hated "Spirit" (both songs came from MARTIKA'S KITCHEN) which sounded like a blatant rip-off of "Vogue."

And to answer your last question regarding working with others artists presently, it appears that the man is more secluded and creatively introverted than ever before. As discussed by many critics and biographers, without more diverse and positive musical influences (either from those trained and experienced in classical, jazz, classic rock, or other genres of music), the man seems to be creating songs from and within a vacuum, and the results are less than inspiring. With very few exceptions, he barely has enough good, new material for himself, I can't imagine him having enough strong stuff to share with others.

Last edited by DieselsDen; 02-04-07 at 01:31 PM.
Old 02-06-07, 12:49 AM
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Originally, when this thread was started, I quoted the The_Infidel's post and was going to respond point for point and add some things. However, it took too long and I didn't have enough time (never seem to have that). But it doesn't matter since DieselsDen & Filmmaker made some of my points.

I have to say that I wouldn't refer to these people as "proteges". In the Prince community, they're referred to as "associate" artists. I think that's a more apt description. As has been pointed out, Prince is an egocentric control freak. Most (but not all) of the songs these "associates" sing on were already recorded by Prince and just sitting in the Vault. "All Day, All Night" was done by Prince (which explains the Revolution "credit"), "Girl O My Dreams" by TC Ellis (can't believe THIS classic was overlooked )? Another one originally done by Prince. I'm pretty sure he just plays his demo for them and tells them he wants it done that way. Hell, "Kiss" was originally supposed to be a Mazarati song.

Some asides:

Sheila most definitely mimicked Prince early in her career. However, there are some good tracks on Romance 1600 besides A Love Bizarre . And the song "Modernaire" is out there. The Time has an album that's been done for a while, but it's held up for some unknown reason and the Family are reuniting (with Jerome who's no longer in the Time?).

That's it for now. I have to get to work on the "What DVDs are you getting" thread, dammit..

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