This Saturday, April 21st will mark the two-year anniversary of Prince's passing. In his memory, Kevin Cole will re-air his tribute to him on The Afternoon Show on KEXP, this Thursday, April 19th, from 2:00 to 6:00 PM PT.
Minneapolis in the late 1970s and early 1980s exploded with musical creativity. Prince, The Replacements, and Hüsker Dü – all emerged from the Twin Cities to shape and redefine American music. And future KEXP Chief Content Officer Kevin Cole was right in the thick of it. He was a part of a small group that turned Uncle Sam’s disco into First Avenue, which then became a fertile breeding ground for punk, new wave, and funk acts.
Cole watched as Prince went from giving tickets away to try to fill an early show at the Orpheum Theatre to performing a legendary sold-out show at Sam’s (soon to be First Avenue). It was there on March 9, 1981, where, according to Kevin, “Prince really connected with his hometown audience for the first time. You could see it and feel it. It was one of the greatest live shows I’ve ever seen, with Prince in total control, blowing away the crowd, but at the same time, feeding off all the love and acceptance in the room. It was euphoric and joyous.”
As house DJ at First Avenue during those years, Cole kept the dance floor moving with an eclectic mix of cutting-edge records. His taste in music caught the ear of a young Prince who would regularly hang out at the club and listen.
As CNN noted, during these First Avenue years, Prince would sometimes give Kevin unreleased recordings to play and test with the audience at the club.
One night in the middle of a DJ set at First Avenue, I felt someone gently tap me on the shoulder. I turned around and it was Prince, holding an acetate, asking “Will you play my record?” When I worked it into my set later that evening, I saw Prince run down to the dance floor. He didn’t dance, but stood out in the middle of the floor and just listened. It was the first time any of us heard “Erotic City.
Prince also asked Cole to DJ for numerous private parties and events around Minneapolis from the release of 1979’s Prince through 1986’s Under the Cherry Moon. This included Prince’s 30th birthday party and the Purple Rain wrap parties. As such, Cole had a unique view of the world that Prince created in Minneapolis in the 1980s.
Prince is well known to be one of the most prolific musicians of all time. Shows and after parties frequently stretched late into the night, and recording sessions could go for days on end. Thanks to Kevin Cole’s connections to that world, and his obsessive collecting of Prince’s output, Thursday's show will contain many rarities.
When he passed, Kevin shared the following thoughts:
Prince was an artist with a capital A; one of the greatest guitar players of all time, a brilliant songwriter, amazing singer and dynamic performer who was also a champion of personal freedom and individualism. He was fearless—singing about sex, God, gender, race…sometimes all in the same song. He could move your ass and stir your soul simultaneously. He was deeply spiritual – even in a g-string and leg warmers.
Prince was principled: fully committed to his artistry. He practiced relentlessly and honed his craft. He took dance lessons from Loyce Holton to become a better performer. When he changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol and wrote the word “slave” on his face, people mocked him, but it was a protest against his record label—he felt artists should own their own master recordings. He was standing up for all musicians and did not fear the consequences.
And as serious as he was about his Art, Prince was also unbelievably funny and charming in a sly and quiet way.
Prince lived for music. He loved performing. He would play an epic arena show and follow it up with a blazing set at an after party, followed by a funk jam at the after-after party, often closing down tiny joints in the wee, wee hours. He just gave, and gave, and gave, and in the end, really just wanted to bring people together, which he did through his music and artistry.
The word “genius” gets used all the time, but I can’t think of anyone more of a musical genius than Prince. He was so much more than a pop star, he was one of the greatest Artists of all time. Nothing compares to Prince.
This is the first time the original 1984 recording has been released. Not just that, but the estate has also released archival rehearsal footage of Prince & The Revolution.
Besides being the director of the Berklee Music Perception and Cognition Laboratory, and an associate professor at Berklee, Susan Rogers is also the person who worked most closely with the late Prince during quite possibly his most important period artistically. From 1983 to 1988, it was Susan wh...
Interview by Trent Moorman