Prince’s backing band The Revolution is heartbroken that their bandleader’s death will be forever connected with drugs, after he spent so many years trying to stop people from using any substances.
Guitarist Wendy Melvoin recalled how he told her to stop smoking when she started working with him in the 1980s – and also how difficult the notorious perfectionist could be as a colleague.
Classic Prince And The Revolution album Purple Rain was last month given an American Music Award after increased sales following the leader’s passing in April. He was later confirmed to have suffered an accidental overdose – although it remains unclear whether he got the drugs via prescription or illegal means.
Melvoin tells Billboard: “When I joined the band I smoked cigarettes, and he was like, ‘Uh-uh, not having it. You have to stop.’ And I did.
“When we were rehearsing for the Purple Rain tour, my guitar tech was a smoker. He didn’t smoke in the arena. He went to test Prince’s mic and just said, ‘Check-one-two’ into it.
“Prince could smell the cigarette on his microphone. That guy was fired immediately.”
She’s also remembered the challenges of working with him even when he wasn’t there, and how early-morning phone calls became part of the job.
“I got such a phobia when the phone would ring past three in the morning,” she says. “I’d be like ‘Oh my God, I don’t want to answer it!’ Because it meant you’d have to be on a plane in three hours.
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“Or he’d call you and say, ‘What are you doing?’ ‘I’m sleeping.’ ‘Well I’m cutting – you’re missing.’”
Melvoin says the band remained silent about the tragedy rather than talking it out because “Prince would have wanted us to feel that loss.” She adds: “What was healing at the time was that we reached out for each other.
“We met at my house and sat together in my back yard, and cried and talked about him.”
Keyboardist Matt Fink adds: “To say he was a drug addict and all that kind of stuff, it just pisses me off. He was hurting. He was in pain. He made a couple of mistakes like any of us.
“He taught me every step of the way. He was hard, he was rough – but you know what? It was love. He wanted us to succeed.
“So when he passed, it broke me down. When I would watch other people get on television and talk about him, I’d just get angry.
“That man deserved a lot better than what he got, in my opinion. He just deserved so much better.”
The Revolution will perform at a Prince memorial festival at his Paisley Park headquarters in April next year.