Few artists have created a body of work as rich and varied as Prince. During the ‘80s, he emerged as one of the most singular talents in the history of popular music. Releasing a series of groundbreaking albums, he wrote songs for many other artists, and recorded thousands of songs that lie unreleased in his vaults. Prince could be as soulful as James Brown, as funky as George Clinton, or rock as hard as Jimmy Page. His creativity and abilities were so boundless that calling him a genius seemed an understatement. And Prince’s electrifying live performances were a staple of his career.
Notorious for rarely granting interviews, before playing a concert in Honolulu in 1997, he granted me a brief interview which touched on his then new openness, inspiration, his “Emancipation” album, future plans and love.
So what inspired his new openness? “Freedom,” Prince answered. “I own all the rights to ‘Emancipation.’ Any work I do for this project is so much more rewarding than the past. I’m so much happier and open now. All of which I attribute to God.”
Encompassing a cycle of 36 songs the “Emancipation” album was influenced by Prince’s studies of ancient Egypt. Ever since his wife Mayte Garcia began sharing books with him about the pyramids, he said he felt a strong affinity with this mysterious world. “The connection is intense for me,” he said. “My wife and I believe we lived there as one individual in another life.”
Sprinkled with songs that reflect spiritual inquiry, the album included a radiant rendering of Joan Osbourne’s hit “One of Us.” “The words have a very deep meaning,” he said. “People of all races shouldn’t shy from the statement ‘what if God was one of us’.”
Relishing the liberty to record and release whatever he desires Prince credited his wife with helping bring profound changes to his life. “She’s changed my mind about a lot of things,” he said. “She’s given me the reason to have hope for the human race.”
Also expressing how God had influenced his life he said spiritual growth primarily differentiates the old Prince from his new self.
Asked if he feels divinely inspired to compose he answered, “Indeed I do. Many creative people speak of their talent as a gift. I’m no different.”
And as to the greatest gift he felt his music offered he stated simply, “love.”
A vegetarian he had been inspired by John Robbins book “A Diet for New America.” “The rampart cruelty to animals astounds me,” he said. “I am a vegetarian – now and forever.”
Having produced a body of work over 20 years, which remained unmatched by almost any other pop artist, he knew some folks had a hard time keeping up with his creative changes. “If they can’t follow they weren’t meant to,” he said. “My real support comes from the daring cliff-divers in life.”
Creating such a large, diverse palette of songs I wondered if he sometimes felt like he was just warming up for some incredible projects. “Always,” he said. “It’s what I live for – to continue using my gifts makes every day incredible for me. Every night I thank God for my life, my wife and my music.”
In 2003 he landed on Maui for one of the most exciting concerts we had ever witnessed. “We’ve been looking around this island for some funky music,” Prince announced. “Willie K, he’s funky, and we decided to play some more funk,” he continued referencing Willie K, one of Maui’s most accomplished, versatile musicians.
From the opening intro of “Let’s Go Crazy” the audience rose en mass and never sat down again, as a few thousand folks grooved and danced throughout the entire show.
Prince knows how to work an audience creating a frenzy among the hordes of women in the house. After a few jumped on stage Prince declared, “I need more dancers,” and the dam broke as upwards of a hundred women swarmed around the rock legend, creating havoc for security. He then jumped up on a speaker and began playfully cracking a whip above them.
Sprinkling his hits throughout such as “Kiss, “Sign O’ the Times,” and “Nothing Compares to U,” he closed with an extended take on “Purple Rain,” beaming and pointing to the heavens right before he left the stage. Maui had never experienced anything like it.
The jam show of the year followed at a local club with Prince and his amazing band roaring on instrumental jams until 2 a.m. Near the close he invited Willie K on stage to add his fire to the mix.
Prince had a home on Maui. The limited edition book, “Prince in Hawaii: An Intimate Portrait of an Artist,” captured casual portraits and behind-the-scenes images of him relaxing here.