The Coronation of His Purple Highness

Matt Lauer



He’s won multiple Grammys and even an Oscar, now Prince is set to be anointed once again
when he’s inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And with a new CD and preparations
for a tour under way, Prince says he’s ready to introduce himself to a whole new audience.
“Today” host Matt Lauer talks to “The Artist.”


The moves, the sound and oh yeah, the color purple—add it all up and you have the musical
genius of Prince.

Today, he is preparing for a coast to coast tour, the first in six years, and has just completed his
new CD “Musicology.” Although he say’s he’s been around, in the past few years many fans
wondered why Prince had vanished from the spotlight.

Prince: “Well, originally, it started out as a feud between me and my record company. And then
it ended up being sort of a period of time where I could just reflect and get my get my head on
straight. The music—the music has been ongoing. I’ve never stopped writing, never stopped
recording.”

For more than a quarter of a century, Prince has been making music, and entertaining audiences
with his outrageous performances. But these days, his style toned down, his charisma almost
effortless.

Prince: “I think throughout ages that I’ve been playing there was a great deal of emphasis put on the show—the way we presented the material to props and gimmicks. And I think a lot of that detracted from the musicianship. And what we’re trying to do now is focus on that and the songwriting.

Growing up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Prince started playing music at a very early age and taught himself to play more than 20 instruments by ear alone.

But “playing” the music wasn’t enough. Prince wanted ultimate creative control and at the age of 19, he became the youngest producer in Warner Bros. history.

Prince: “There weren’t a lot of artists who were free to say what they wanted to on records. And they were put into molds. The freedom that I had came from a long, hard fight of trying to get them to understand that I wanted to be different.”

That was 1978. At the time, overtly sexual performances were almost non-existent. Prince brought the concept into the mainstream.

Prince: “Well, you know, Matt, you really just, you can’t help but be sexy. I mean, that’s (Laughter) just is what it is. You know, sex isn’t so much what you say. It’s how you say it and the way you sing you know? We just, we like sexy music and it comes out that way.”

So how does the man who stretched the boundaries feel about where they are today?

Prince: “Back then there was an envelope to push.”

Matt Lauer: “Did you like pushing it?”

Prince: “I just said what I felt, you know? A lot of times I didn’t know I was pushing the envelope until later. In today’s climate you’ve got everybody thinking that that’s a holy grail to do something explicit. And what happens is it’s not explicit anymore because everybody’s doing it.”

Lauer: “So if pushing the envelope came somewhat naturally to you, you’re pretty convinced that today pushing the envelope is the way that a young artist makes a name for themselves.”

Prince: “Well, they seem to think so. But in reality I think to not push the envelope at this point is probably pushing the envelope.”

Prince believes part of the problem is that young artists are forced to use sex and show a lot of skin because they haven’t taken the time to get a musical foundation.

Prince: “Well unfortunately a lot of kids didn’t learn how to play music. One of the reasons we’re going out on the road and we’re titling this tour as ’Musicology’ because we want to bring that back. We want to teach the kids and musicians of the future the art of songwriting, the art of real musicianship.”

Lauer: “If a young musician came to you today, what would you tell them?”

Prince: “Well, I’ll just give you an example when I was rehearsing with Beyonce for the Grammys, I sat her down at the piano and I helped her to learn just some simple scales and then tried to encourage her to learn the piano because there’s a language that musicians know that’s a little different than, say, just a singer.”

1984’s Purple Rain made Prince a household name. Nine years later, he changed that name to a symbol as a form of protest against his record company. The media dubbed him, “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.” So what did his friends call him?

Prince: “Sir.”

Lauer: “What else?”

Prince: “Master, no, just kidding.” (Laughs)

Four years ago, the symbol was out and Prince was back, recapturing the name that helped him sell more than 100 million copies of his 20 plus albums. But Prince never spent much time promoting them, and rarely granted interviews until now.

Lauer: “Is there a certain push to retain relevance in the music industry at this stage of your career?”

Prince: “I really feel a need to school a new generation of musicians. Technology is cool, but you’ve got to use it as opposed to letting it use you.”

Lauer: “But when you sit down for ‘Musicology,’ for example, and you’re coming up with the tracks for that CD is there any conscious thought, Prince, to say, ‘Well, this sounds like what they’re listening to. This’ll get me on the radio for the young audiences.’”

Prince: “Absolutely not.”

Lauer: “You don’t care?”

Prince: “No, I never really sat down and did music that way. ‘When Doves Cry’ came out it sounded like nothing that was on the radio. ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ was number one on R&B stations and there’s nothing that’s been like that on radio since.”

He’s won multiple Grammys, even an Oscar, and now at the age of 45, Prince is being inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Prince: “I never really needed approval for what it is that I do. I love that I’m appreciated and I love the respect that I get. But accolades and awards—you know it’s all still big business.”

He openly talks about his music, but when it comes to the subject of his personal life, Prince is sure to keep the two separate.

Prince: “Well, people speculate on your personal life all the time anyway. So I just think it’s important to keep my private life private and my public persona more into music, you know? I’m really a musician at heart. That’s what I do.

Lauer: “Does it add to the mystery, though? I mean, do you think it adds an air of mystery that perhaps sells records and gets and sells tickets to concerts?”

Prince: “No, I’m not that mysterious. I’m a pretty open book. Yeah, people know my music I would say know me.”