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26 March 2013

Reflection: A Contemplative Interview with Lalah Hathaway

   Lalah Hathaway recently took a moment to reflect on her musical journey of more than 20 years with “Dyes Got the Answers 2 Ur ?s.”
 The classically trained singer and pianist, is a graduate of the renowned Berklee College of Music and daughter of the late Donny Hathaway. Her father was an acclaimed singer/ musician best known for songs like “This Christmas,” and “Someday We'll All Be Free,” as well as hit collaborations with singer/musician Roberta Flack including  “Where is the Love?” and “The Closer I Get to You." Her mother, Eulaulah Hathaway, is also an accomplished musician in own right.
 Hathway has released six albums during her career: Lalah Hathaway in 1990 --which included the hits “Heaven Knows” and “Baby Don't Cry”-- A Moment; The Song Lives On, a jazz duet album with Joe Sample; Outrun The SkySelf Portrait and Where it All Begins, the latter being released in 2011.
  She scored her first #1 R&B hit in 2004 with a cover of the Luther Vandross song “Forever, For Always, For Love,” from his 1982 album of the same name. The song was featured on Forever, For Always, For Luther, a tribute album to the late singer, as well as Outrun The Sky. She has proved herself a versatile artist, recording jazz, R&B, soul and gospel music.
She also does production work for other artists and has collaborated vocally with Esperanza Spalding, Pete Escovedo, Meshell Ndegeocello and Marcus Miller, among many others.
  She recently completed an album and currently has concert dates lined up around the country. Fans can next see her at 7 p.m. March 30 at Club Nokia in Los Angeles.
   Not long ago, K Nicola Dyes conducted an informal interview with Hathaway where the singer mused about life, the music industry and her love for Prince:

  Growing up is a painful but necessary thing.

  My father's music means everything to me. It means a lot of things to a lot of people. It's my birthright, my legacy, my everything.

  Songwriting is really hard. (It is) something that I am working to get better at. It's definitely an art, a craft. I'm definitely working to be a better songwriter.

  The music business is an interesting planet all on its own. Unfortunately, it doesn't always have anything to do with music. It's evolving though... (but), it's like a weird Chia Pet.

  When I collaborate, I really like to work with the best people possible. It really ups my game and makes me a better musician. That's one of the best parts of being in this industry...

  My favorite Prince song..."favorite" is a hard (word) for me, period. I can name a few songs I really like: "Diamonds and Pearls;" "Hot Thing;" "Mountains;" “Pink Cashmere;” “The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker;” “Musicology;” “Soft and Wet” and “Dirty Mind. “There's not much Prince (music) I don't love. That's why I hate "favorites," because, you have to pick and (the list) is never complete.

  I wish I could have a TV show, that would be nice.

  My mother is the bees knees. She's awesome. Everybody knows her: she's famous. She travels around with me (and) she keeps me sane, while driving me crazy at the same time. My mother is everything to me.

  My musical influences... Alright, I'll go slow: Prince; Joni Mitchell; Stevie Wonder; Marcus Miller; Anita Baker; Luther Vandross; Chet Baker; Patti LaBelle; The Donnas; The Motels; Michael Jackson; Jermaine Jackson; Janet Jackson; Dolly Parton; Willie Nelson; Ravi Shankar; my father, of course... I grew up listening to a lot music.

 Onstage with Prince. Courtesy of Lalah Hathaway

  Lalah Hathaway on opening for Prince during the “Welcome 2 America" Tour: (Previously), he had been to a couple of my shows. One day, I was in the studio and his manager called me. She said, “Prince is going to call you in an hour.” I sat in the studio paralyzed for the next hour. Somebody else called, though, and they wanted me to open up a (concert) date for him. It really fulfilled the most far-out dream that I ever had...  I've opened up for him three times. He is one of my absolute idols-- having grown up in the 1970s and 1980s-- and he is absolutely one of my top five artists of all time.  (When you start touring), you get the dose of reality that the clubs are smaller than you imagined. But, to go on that stage opening for Prince and sing in front of 17,000 people, it really did give me boost and a surge of energy. He's also one of the most musical cats on the planet, so playing with him, you just learn so much. We sang a whole bunch of (songs), like “Sometimes it Snows in April” and “Diamonds and Pearls.” It was almost like a haze; It's almost like it didn't happen.  If he ever asked me, I would be honored to open up for him again.

  Why do people want to know about everything? Humans have this interesting need for information. I want people to know everything that they can know (about me) by listening to my music.

  "Forever, For Always, For Love" was my first #1 single. It's such a staple in my (musical) vocabulary. I am really thankful to (Vandross) for that song.

  My first album came out in 1990. It's a good album. It's funny looking back on it now, I sound like such a baby. I'm very proud of that record. I think it holds up well...

  The Billboard I on them right now? (Laughing). The Billboard Charts are interesting. The charts are a thermometer... but, in another way they are obsolete. If I'm on them ...yay! If I'm not on them this week, then, I'm cool off the Billboard Charts...

  Ten years is a decade... That's a broad (question). Ten Years. Let me say this about 10 years: I'm trying to detach myself from the concept of time. The only time is now. I'm sort of working toward that. I hope I'm happy, healthy and I have $18 million in the bank...

  I strive to be as honest as possible, even when it's dry and uninteresting. I strive to be a good musician. I really strive to be the greatest...

  I'm inspired by so many things. Inspiration can come from traffic, kids, dogs or a really great car. I'm pretty open in terms of my senses. I'm inspired a lot.

  At Berklee College of Music I had the best time ever. I learned a lot, not only from my instructors, but, also about the world from my classmates.

  I want to work with The Neptunes-- which, I always say -- Timbaland and I'd also like to work with Snoop (Lion, formerly known as Snoop Dogg). I'd love to work with Justin Timberlake and John Mayer. 
  I have had a really great time as a musician and I have worked so many great people. But, there are so many left to work with. This year I was featured on three Grammy-winning records...

  Lalah Hathaway on Pete Escovedo: I worked with him on a cover of one of my father's songs, “Flying Easy,” in 1996. I am good friends with Sheila E. and she hooked us up. I actually just saw “Pops” the other night. It's always good to see Pops...

  A Moment is my second record, aptly named, because, it was out for, like, a moment. It's kind of a collector's piece. If you find it on Amazon, buy it... It's another one of my children I sent into the world...

  Given a chance, that's a hard one. It's kind of drilling down what you would do if you were given chance. I don't know what I would do, given a chance. I know that I get so many chances to do things all the time, but, I'm always blocked by fear and resistance. Given a chance, I would not be blocked by fear and resistance.

  Prince's music can probably sustain you for a lifetime.

  My current tour... well, I'm not on tour right now, I just finished a record. But, (touring) is my most favorite thing to do.

Courtesy of Lalah Hathaway

  Where it all begins is really with my parents. It's just a reminder to me of where I started. I'm always going to be a musician first.

  I have evolved in a lot of ways that I really can't put into words (and) all of that informs my art. My instrument has gotten better. There are a lot of things I've learned. I hope I have evolved into "2013 Super Bionic Lalah.”

  Time will tell, it will absolutely tell. I am staring to feel that the concept of time is just an illusion...

Upcoming Lalah Hathaway Shows:
March 30, Club Nokia, Los Angeles 
April 6, Meymandi Concert Hall, Raleigh, NC
April 7, Berks Jazz Festival, Reading, Pa.
April 13, Arizona Jazz Festival, Litchfield Park, Ariz.
April 14, Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center for the Arts, Philadelphia
April 19, Seabreeze Jazz Festival, Panama City Beach, Fla.
May 9-12, Dimitriou's Jazz Alley, Seattle
June 8, Capital Jazz Festival, Columbia, Md.

Follow Lalah Hathaway on Facebook and Twitter.
Click here to visit Lalah Hathway's official Web site.

Stay beautiful, Kristi


Photos by Derek Blanks except where indicated.


24 March 2013

Feel Better, Feel Good, Feel Wonderful: Dr. Fink Talks 2 Beautiful Nights

  Matt Fink, better known  as Dr. Fink, recently answered a house call for an interview with “Dyes Got the Answers 2 Ur ?s.”
   Fink played keyboards in several incarnations of Prince's band from 1978 to 1990 –before The Revolution and through the beginnings of the New Power Generation. He also received co-writing credits on  Prince songs such as “Dirty Mind,” “Computer Blue,” “America” and “It's Gonna Be a Beautiful Night.” Yet, through all the lineup changes and different looks for other band members, his persona remained the same: a specialist of the rock-and-roll variety.
  After leaving Prince's band in 1990, Fink did a five-year stint with Dominion Records, a subsidiary of K-Tel Records. He has also created music for radio and TV commercials and has done voice over work. In addition, he does mastering and production work for other artists at his recording facility StarVu Studios – including work with his son Maxwell Fink's band Q the Clique. He released his first and only solo album, aptly titled “Ultrasound” in 2001.
  Recently, he joined other original band members --Bobby "Z" Rivkin, Andre Cymone and Dez Dickerson – for a reunion at Bobby Z's Benefit 2 Celebrate Life March 9 at First Avenue in Minneapolis. The same place where, nearly 29 years ago, as a member of Prince and The Revolution, he made musical history filming concert scenes for the movie “Purple Rain.”
   Fans can now find him “playing himself” in The Purple Xperience, a Prince tribute band, with upcoming dates in Minnesota and Georgia-- including a concert April 5 at Neisen's Sports Bar and Grill in Savage, Minn.
 K Nicola Dyes recently spoke with Fink by telephone, where he discussed The Rebels album, his favorite tour moment and how he became a “doctor”:

  Growing up in Minneapolis was, I'd say, a lot of fun. There were a lot of good things about Minneapolis...You had four seasons here. You had a lot of summer activities. We have a lot of lakes here in state of Minnesota... It was great growing up in the Midwest.

  I started playing music pretty early on, officially taking piano lessons at the age of 7.

  When I first met Prince it was at the audition to try and get the job to work for him. He was in early stages of his career with Warner Brother Records and his first album had just come out...He just needed one more keyboard player and he was rehearsing in the basement of someone's home at the time, a gentleman named Pepe Willie.

  I never imagined that he would have become as successful as he did when I first started working with him.

  The Capri Theater concert (laughing), a great memory, because, it was our very first show as a group. One of the shows went off very well and the other show had a lot of technical problems. It was a little awkward, because, Prince wasn't used to being put into the position of trying to kill time. I just remember that Warner Brothers told us after the shows that we needed more rehearsals before we went on tour...

  The Rebels album...I know I never gave my copy to anybody. I know that I have my cassette... (It) was recorded in 1979 at a studio with brand-new facilities that had opened up in Colorado Springs, Colo. I don't remember why Prince chose that place. All of a sudden, he said, "we're going to Colorado and I want to make another record with you guys. I'm going to create a separate group." I think (his) second album had been out for a while.
  I do know that he was trying to do (this album) without Warner Brothers permission and when he presented it to Warner Brothers they did not want to release it... He is so creative and he wanted another outlet for his work, which, of course, became Vanity 6, The Time and other artists down the road...

  Dr. Fink on the Black Album (before its official release in 1994): He handed us copies of the Black Album and said "here you go, learn this." I didn't do anything on that album. We did start working on songs for live performances. But, a few weeks into that rehearsal, he told us to stop.

  American Bandstand was a dream come true for all of us, a bunch of kids from the Midwest. That was the show that could make or break careers back in those days. All I know is that I was enthralled (to be) in Los Angeles. I had relatives out there, but, I had never visited them... [M]y first experience in Los Angeles was in Prince's group. There I was: 21 years old and getting to experience the Los Angeles scene; I was like a kid in a candy store.
  (The performance) was a little scary, because, you want to do the best you can. Fortunately, in those days, you didn't have to sing live. I do recall, Prince asked the band ahead of the show, that when Dick Clark (the show's host) came to interview us after we performed, he didn't want us to say anything.
  Prince had a bad cold that day. So, when it came time for him to talk, he had taken antihistamines, he had been dancing around and he was all dried out. Clark asked him how many instruments he played and he said something like “thousands.” Clark asked him another question and he just held up his fingers. We're (the band) all watching this going “Oh my God, what are you doing? You're going to blow it.
  Warner Brothers flew the band home that day, but, Prince stayed in LA. We're all sitting on the plane saying “what was that?”
  (Sometime later) I asked Prince “what was going on there?” he said “I was... dried out and I had taken the antihistamines...”

Back album cover for Prince's Let's Work 12" single. 

  One thing people don't know about me... is that I am highly accessible and that they can get in touch with me. Once in a while, I get people calling me on my studio line. They will say “can I speak to Matt Fink?” and I'll say that it's me and they say "it is? You actually answer your own phone?” I'm not unlisted. If you want to reach to me by e-mail or phone, I'm very accessible. After having worked with Prince for 12 years, they seem to think that I am not active in the industry anymore. But, I'm playing again.

  The Purple Experience...About two years ago, I did a special event for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Willie, of the band 94 East, and we all flew to Raleigh, N.C. (Some of the people I was playing with) said “you know, Matt, we've been thinking lately that we want to do a Prince tribute band” and they wanted to know if I'd be interested. I said “not really.” I didn't think it was appropriate for me to be in a tribute band playing myself. I also wanted to make sure I wasn't going to ruffle any feathers by doing it.
   (At first), I just wanted to play (with The Purple Experience) once a month. We got underway with rehearsals in early fall of 2010. By about March of the following year, we shot our promo video. We went through a couple different drummers, (but), regardless of those little details, the first show took place for the group in November 2011. It was at the Feather Falls Casino, just north of Sacramento, Calif.
  I recently made a conscious decision to do some shows in the Twin Cities. We're having a lot of fun doing the Prince music. Prince would be proud, I think. Or not. It depends...

  I became Dr. Fink when we were on the (Fire it Up) tour with Rick James, when we were his opening act. We had done a a couple shows with James and I was wearing a jail outfit. James did this song called "Bustin Out (On Funk)," which was about a cell block, he wore a prison jumpsuit and Prince saw this during the show. He took me aside and said “the headlining group is wearing the jail suit. Since we're the opening act, I think you're going to have to change your image. Do you have any ideas?”
  I said “maybe.” In one video I wore a tacky looking paratrooper's jumpsuit. It was actually Prince's, but, didn't fit him. I (had also worn) a black-and-gold suit with tails a la Elton John. He said “'s been done before.” I was also looking at trying to do something in black leather, but, there wasn't enough time to get that together (on the road)...
  (Another idea) was a guy in a doctor's suit. He perked up on that one. He said “why don't try you try on a doctor's suit and you can become Dr. Fink.” He sent his wardrobe person out in Chicago-- we were on the road-- who brought back a pair of scrubs, a stethoscope and a mask.

Dr. Fink and Prince in 1981. Courtesy of

  People often wonder what Prince is really like, but, if you want me to answer that question, you'll have to talk to me another day! Just kidding. Prince had a great sense of humor and he was a practical joker.
   I'll never forget: there was a music critic named Jon Bream (for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune). He wanted to come backstage and talk to Prince and the band. Prince wanted us to put on a fake fight. Bobby Z starts arguing with me and then Dickerson (Prince's former guitar player) comes over to break us up. The next thing you know the table with all the food goes over...Bream was completely horrified. We laughed really hard about it.
  Another time, I know that Prince and Andre (Cymone, former bass player in Prince's band) were working with a producer named Tommy Vicari. One time, they had this tape recorder sitting in this dryer and it had muffled sounds recorded on it. (Prince, Cymone and Vicari) were sitting in another room and Vicari goes to see where the noise is coming from. He opens the dryer and he sees a tape recorder with built-in speakers. I heard that he walked out the door and never came back. The reality is that (Prince) didn't want working with him in the first place and he wanted to be producing himself.

  My approach to music is that whatever I 'm working on at the time, I try to do the best I can. I'm a perfectionist, much like Prince. I try not to have any flaws in there if I can help it; I make sure that, from a technical aspect, that everything sounds right.

  My musical influences, there are many of those. I studied classical piano and some jazz piano later on...My parents really liked jazz, Latin pop and Broadway (show tunes). My mom was also a big Beatles fan and she encouraged the pop music of the day to be played around the house. I was about 7 years old when she took me to see a double feature of “Help” and “A Hard Day's Night.” We saw it two times.
  I remember before my 6th birthday, The Beatles debuted on the Ed Sullivan Show...  I also enjoyed all the British Invasion music. Whatever was playing on the radio we always listened to it. There weren't  too many things I would turn off. I was in my first band by the time I was 12.

  Before Purple Rain we spent four years as a group building the brand touring and supporting everything we did... We brought joy to people and entertained everybody the best we could. Fortunately for (Prince) and us, he was able to lead us to the movie side of things (with "Purple Rain")...
  The idea of doing a movie almost didn't happen, because the music company wasn't sure (about the idea)...

  My favorite tour moment --even though it was scarier than hell-- was the time we opened up for The Rolling Stones (in 1981). It was a defining, character-building moment. Mick Jagger was a big Prince fan at that time and he wanted to introduce Prince to a larger audience; he wanted to introduce him to The Rolling Stones' fans.
  The LA Coliseum shows were met with (hostile fans). I would say that the majority of them were Hell's Angel's down in front. There were some people who did enjoy the concert.
  They were throwing hard objects: I saw a fifth of whiskey bottle that missed Prince's head by eighth of an inch. We had to leave in the middle of our set. The second time around we almost managed to finish our set. Nonetheless, that was one of my favorite concerts, with the Hollywood luminaries that were there and being around rock royalty like The Rolling Stones.
  I'd say a close second would have to be the whole "Purple Rain" Tour. No matter where we played we were always sold out. There were some memorable moments (on that tour) as well.

Prince's and his band play at the LA Coliseum during The Rolling Stones North American Tour in 1981.

  Dr. Fink on band lineup changes: The only adjustment that would take place (for me) would be with the different keyboard players. I had to teach Coleman the parts that Gayle Chapman played. I taught Boni Boyer the parts that Coleman played and so on. Usually there would be just a keyboardist rehearsal together, before we would rehearse with rest of the band. I was usually in charge of that. Prince always kind of outsourced that job to me.

  The Revolution is that band I feel, chemistry wise, was one of the best groups (that played) with Prince... I also felt (it worked) looks wise; the fact that there were two women, it was like the configuration of Fleetwood Mac. Also, at that time, we were trying to break down racial barriers in music and entertainment-- people like Prince and Michael Jackson. You black radio stations and white radio stations...

  Bootlegs... I don't know if I really approve of all that; I don't think I should approve of it. It dilutes Prince's legacy in way. I don't know if hurts him in a financial way at all. Every artist on the planet is being hurt by file sharing. But, how those (Prince) songs got out there, I don't know....
  Somebody made a statement (around 2005) on the Internet and accused me of doing that (leaking bootlegs). I thought that was really unfair... I want to make sure that if anybody saw that blurb about me, that's absurd and completely wrong.
  There are some people who think that (Prince) is releasing them. If he is, that's his prerogative. I don't like the fact that all over the planet that there are people stealing intellectual property. This has been a topic of discussion as of late... I'm not a fan of bootlegs, even though people keep sending them to me...

  Given a chance, right now, I would really want Prince to perform with The Revolution again. We've had two Revolution reunions ( without Prince in 2003 and 2012). If I had my way, I would've done a Revolution album twenty years ago... All members of the band at one time or another have approached Prince (about it), but, that's something he doesn't want to do...

  Songwriting comes to you when the inspiration hits, I guess. You can't force hit songs...You have to try to write from the heart more than anything. Sometimes I've tried to work what I think it a good hook into a song and it doesn't really work. You have to work from the heart, which, is why I think Adele has broken through in such a big way. She wrote about relationships... and it came from her heart... It is also possible to come up with hit songs that are contrived, so, I shouldn't say you should always have to write from the heart. That's also perfectly okay in my book.

  After Purple Rain Prince came to the band and said one day, after a concert, "I'm going on a two-year break; We're going on a two-year hiatus. The rest of you can do whatever you like for a two-year period... You'll be on a retainer..." I thought we should have given the fans more in (other parts) of the world. The rest of us were a bit miffed with that decision.
  After the tour ended, about two months later, he called for all of us to come to Minneapolis. He said "well, here's the next album" and it was Around the World in A Day. He had been recording it-- he had brought in Wendy Melvoin, Coleman and her brother (David Coleman), he had also been brought in to do some strings on the album. I'm not sure they knew what the songs were for. At that time he was really utilizing Wendy and Lisa in the studio, the rest of us, not at all. He said "here's a cassette for all of you. Please start learning the songs." We said "does this mean that we're going on tour?" He said yes.
  The two-year break that he said was going to happen never did. Maybe he was planning to do something without us. He was in the studio recording the whole time.

  Dr. Fink on the unreleased Madhouse movie: (It was called) “Hard Life.” It showed a couple of criminal-element characters going through their day-to-day lives. It was just a short film about a couple of street thugs (played by Greg Brooks and Wally Safford).  My mother appears (as a character) at the beginning of the movie. She's a woman who is a patron at a club and she walks (outside) and acts like a mean, prejudiced white woman. She mistakes them for valets and she makes disparaging remarks. They end up beating her up (laughing).  Both of my parents were theater people, my dad was in the Madhouse music videos. I did play (with Madhouse) on the Sign O' the Times Tour and I performed on one of the songs of the second album, I think it was “16.”

  My biggest regret...well, I don't really have any regrets. If I did, it would be that I did not release a solo album until 2001. If you think about it, it took me 11 years to do something.  Ultrasound was released Sept. 10, 2001— the day before the 9/11 attacks-- and it took awhile for it to get out there.
  As you know the music industry is a bit age prejudiced and at the time I was 43. But, I did make an attempt to get label support. There was a moment... when I did have a band together. But, I did give up on it at that moment in time. I was so busy in the studio and all of those distractions combined put the kibosh on Dr. Fink and Ultrasound.

  I left Prince's band because I had just signed a contract with another company to produce a record. Later, Prince had made the decision to do Rock in Rio. If I backed out of my contract, I stood to lose a sizable amount of money. I made the decision that I just couldn't get away to do that. I told him he would have to find someone to fill in for me.
   Once they brought in that other person, Tommy Elm-- or Tommy Barbarella -- to fill in for me, they never let him go. In a way, it was (a combination) of self-imposed leaving and being let go by Prince.

  My legacy is that I was in a band that was a significant part of music history; (we) brought innovative music to the forefront in the 1980s.

  I don't understand that the human race, after all this time, has not figured out how to live in peace. I don't understand why religion is still bone of contention after all this time. What's the point? We are such a speck of nothingness, that we keep forgetting that's the perspective from where we are. Time, as we know it, is an illusion...
  There's probably billions of other planets that have life on them in varying degrees of evolution. This is something we forget in our everyday lives... That's how I look at life right now...

Dr. Fink. Courtesy of

  Upcoming Purple Xperience concerts:
  April 5, Neisen's Sports Bar & Grill, (opening act: Q the Clique), Savage, Minn.
  July 26 and 27, 37 Main, Beauford, Georgia
  August 17, Minnesota Legends of Music Concert, St. Louis Park, Minn.

  For more information on The Purple Xperience  click here visit their website.
  Find Dr. Fink and StarVu Studios on Facebook.

Stay beautiful, Kristi


Lead photo of Dr. Fink courtesy of


19 March 2013

All My Dreams: Jesse Jenkins Meets Prince at SXSW

  Jesse Jenkins had the opportunity to live every Prince fan's dream recently.
  The musician invited Jenkins, of Arlington, Texas to his concert last Saturday at the South By Southwest Music Festival (SXSW) in Austin, Texas--via Blogger Dr. Funkenberry, who made an announcement on his Spreecast March 13-- as his special guest, all expenses paid.
  This is not Jenkins' first encounter with The Purple One; He was handpicked by Prince and 3rd Eye Girl to be one of two people to premiere the single “LOL (Live Out Loud)” last month. The lucky fan, who makes YouTube videos related to Prince's music and public appearances, had previously never seen the artist in concert.
  Jenkins talked to “Dyes Got the Answers 2 Ur ?s” Monday night about attending the exclusive concert, hanging out with the New Power Generation (NPG) and meeting Prince:

  ?: Describe how you felt when Dr. Funkenberry told you that Prince was inviting you to SXSW?
  JJ: [I]t was really scandalous. I certainly didn't plan for that. I was not aware that was going to happen. I was more focused on catching him when he hit California, because I wanted to take a road trip down there anyway...I just automatically assumed this wasn't going to happen, because, I (didn't) have $800 and even if I did have $800, I don't know if I would spend it all on that one event, because, that's a lot of money...When it was announced, I didn't know what to think about it...It was truly a surprise.
  I had people telling me that I should send 3rd Eye Girl a message and that I should make a video about how I'm (near) Austin. But, I'm not like that; I don't like asking people for favors... People said “you should ask, maybe they'll help you out, they sent you a song...” I didn't think it would happen, with the timing, I mean it was just four days (from then)...
  ?: What kind of response did you get from other fans right after the announcement was made on the Spreecast?
  JJ: People said “ oh, you're so lucky.” There was a person (2elijah) on who made a thread about how it was awesome that Prince decided to go this far. Everyone was just happy for me, because, they know I make videos (on YouTube) about Prince and that I've never seen him (in concert). The immediate response has been overwhelmingly positive...and they tell me that I deserve it and things like that. (People have) just been really nice, supportive and happy (for me). People have been telling me that they have been crying seeing (my) reaction (on the Spreecast).
  ?: Once the reality sank in that you were actually going to SXSW in the days before the concert, what was going through your mind? How did you feel?
  JJ: I started to become apprehensive after a while, because, it was announced on Wednesday... and I didn't get an e-mail or anything until that Friday...
  I was just feeling really good, though. I didn't really process it all, (because), I was waiting for a confirmation. I'm so paranoid with things and I thought “ I don't know, man, maybe they're just setting me up. Maybe they're trying to embarrass me or something like that (laughing)... "
  But, I was still happy because I know Prince is a man of his word. I knew it was going to actually happen, I just didn't know how it was going to work out... I just had all of these doubts... I was freaking out about transportation, because on the Spreecast, I said I was an hour from Austin, then I found out I'm three hours from Austin... (I thought) what if they say that's too far?
   I'm still shocked that it happened. It was really nice of (Prince) to do this for me, because I've only been making my videos about him for less than a year. He wanted to hook me up with the hotel, seeing him and the chance to meet everyone (in his band), it was just overwhelming.

  ?: Describe your trip from Arlington, Texas to SXSW?
  JJ: Well, I finally got the e-mail from Julia Ramadan (who works for Prince) on Friday... She said that she going to arrange for somebody to pick me up and she said she was going to get me a hotel room. She said she would get back in touch with me after a meeting... She did and said the (driver's) going to pick you at 3 pm. It was just like that.
  I couldn't hardly sleep... I probably got like a couple of hours (of sleep). (The next day) I went to the barbershop and I got my hair shaped up and I got back around 2:45 pm. I figured (the driver) was going be a little late, but, (he arrived) at 3 p.m. on the dad told me that somebody was outside to meet me. (The driver) asked for my bags and we left...
  It took a while to get to the hotel, because, there were so many people at this event. You know, I'm from New Orleans and Bourbon Street is always packed, but, it was
like Bourbon Street 2.0, intoxicated...I've never seen so many people.
  We had trouble finding the hotel. We didn't know if the hotel was just being renovated or what, because, it was not obvious that it was a hotel; it was connected to a restaurant. (But), finally we made it...
  When I got to the hotel, I made the little video recording. I knew a friend in Austin and I wanted to hang out with her, because, I missed her birthday party (the previous) week.    She sent me a message that said “oh, you're in Austin? Good, then we can hang out.” 
   (Before I met her), I walked around the city for about 30 minutes or so trying to see where the club was (where the concert was being held). I was going to take a (pedicab), because I didn't know all this other stuff had been planned for me. Then my friend picked picked me up.
  ?: What was the concert like?
  JJ: It must have been around 9 p.m. when Ramadan called me and said that Prince wanted to see if I wanted to go see Andy Allo (in concert).  Me and my friend were already (in the car) looking for food, so, I had to tell her that, unfortunately, I had to go back to the hotel and take a shower, because, you's Prince and I wanted to meet Prince and Andy Allo. So, she took me back...
  Ramadan said somebody was going to pick me up and they would drive me over to where she was, because, she was already at the club where Andy Allo was performing. He was really late, he was supposed to get there around 9:30 p.m. and he didn't get there until 10:20 p.m. 
  He apologized, because, he was stuck in traffic...He was going to drop me off at the club where Prince was playing, but, he said, no, I'm supposed to take you somewhere else. He was trying to call Ramadan, but, she didn't answer...
  She actually got a hold of me (on the phone) and told me she was still at the club and that Andy's set was almost over. By then, we were stuck in traffic and by the time she was giving me directions to where she was, it was already 10:45 p.m.
   The streets were blocked, so, I had to get out of the car and I had to find where she was, because, we couldn't get there with the car. I was on the phone with her for five minutes, trying to find out exactly where she was at. I was running through the streets saying “where are you?” and sweating my suit out, man! So, I finally met her and we hug, she said “come on, let's go,” and I saw (Allo) performing “People Pleaser” right in front of me. 
   (Later, on the way to Prince's show) a lot of people thought we (Ramadan and Jenkins) were Prince, because we were riding (to Prince's show) in a white Escalade. (They) were saying “we can't wait to see you, man!”  Ramadan said "you should scream 'aaaooowah!'" and I think I did, but, I didn't do it too well... While we were driving there she gave me the wristband, told me she was happy I was there and said it was going to be a good concert...

   I saw Donna Grantis (guitarist for 3rd Eye Girl) as soon as I got in the club and I hugged her. I was so happy to see her, but, I was so nervous... I told her how awesome she was and she told me it was good to see me. Then I saw Hannah Ford (3rd Eye Girl's drummer) and I hugged her. Her husband was there and we talked for a while. Then, I saw Ida Nielsen (3rd Eye Girl's bassist) and then Shelby J came. I talked to her and Shelby had the smoothest skin...that's one thing I remember...and she said, “well, let's take a picture,” and Ford took a picture (of us). 
  I saw Elisa Fiorillo-Dease and she said "Hey, Jesse!"-- they all called me by name-- and she told me it was awesome to see me. I talked to Cassandra O'Neal and all of the horn players, a bunch of them. I don't remember their names, though...It was such a family atmosphere...
  (When we got inside), everyone was just dancing, because A Tribe Called Quest was already on stage...Q-Tip performed for about 45 minutes or so and, finally, he said “I'm gonna clean the stage. I don't ever do this for anybody, but, I'm doing it for Prince.” Everybody just went crazy.   (Later), the symbol came on the stage and that's when it finally hit me, like, this is real, I'm finally about to see Prince.
  I was in the VIP section, so, I was up close, I was basically right next to the band--right next to the drums and the guitar-- and he put on a show. He finally arrived; he had the black suit and the pink shirt. He walked out with the cane and everything, orchestrating the band, my mind was blown.
  His voice was perfect. I've heard a lot of Prince performances and he couldn't have sounded any better. His was falsetto was perfect, he was doing all kinds of dance moves and playing the keyboard...He didn't play the guitar at all-- which was kind of a surprising thing—but, he didn't need to, with the control he had over the band...
  You know Prince and you know he's a wonderful performer, so, I don't even have to go into how good he was. I could go on and on talking about that. It was the best concert; I've never partied so hard. He kept coming back for encores. Every time he left, he kept coming back and he kept bringing it harder each time he came. So, finally, he just threw the mic in the crowd and he just ran offstage. There was just guy (in the audience) who was crying and he was like “man, I've never seen anything like that.”
  I was just high off of it (the concert)...Donna's husband, who was with me the whole time, he was preparing me. When Prince would hit these notes, he would just grab my back. Of course, his wife was on fire... ?uestlove (was standing) right behind me; he was just grooving and jamming along with everybody else. Everybody was just partying. There was never a dry moment. I'm surprised I can talk right now, because, I was just screaming.
 Another cool moment was when Prince was playing... he looked right at me and he was just smiling. I was not expecting the songs he performed like “Extraloveable” and “Act of God.” It was more like a party, it didn't feel like a concert. Prince was the "partyman" all night.

  ?: What happened after the concert?
  JJ:  Ramadan came to me after she was finished and she said “come on, Prince wants to meet you.” I said “what?!” and she said “yeah, let's go!” Before that, John Blackwell gave me his drumsticks.
  I (was) shaking, shaking, shaking. Prince wanted to meet me! I went down,  pass the security guards, they open up the trailer and there is Prince. It's just me, Ramadan and Damaris Lewis. He looks at me, comes over and gives me a hug. I'm like “Oh my God, Prince, it's Prince!” and he said “yeah, it's me.”
  I said “Prince, I love your work so much and I really appreciate all that you've done. You're a wonderful artist, a wonderful person, I love your work and I love you.” He said “thank you and I love you back. Thank you for all of the support that you've given me, you're very genuine and that's why we had to bring you out here.”
  I told him that was it one of my favorite shows I had ever been to and he said “yeah, it's one of my favorites, too.” I said “where do you get that energy from? It's no wonder that you don't count time...Look at you!”
  Then I look at Lewis and said “Damaris, you are sexy!” and then Prince said “oh thank you, good night, time for you to go,” like he was going to kick me out of the trailer and I said “no, no, no, I was just kidding!”
  He said “yeah, well we caught you on the Spreecast... and he said he sent the video to the band and they were all crying. We had to give them tissue, because they were so happy to see you get so excited to come see me.”
  I said “I was expecting you to get on guitar,” and he said “well... the band was on point and I didn't even need to do that because, they made up for everything.”
  He added, “I really appreciate you, I love your videos and I love your spirit, that's why I brought you out here and this won't be the last time.”
  I said “I love you, Prince.” I hugged him again, I hugged (Lewis) and that's when she gave me the mask she was wearing. Prince said “it was a pleasure to see you,” and I said “it was nice to see you!” I left and I couldn't believe it was happening. I saw (the man) guarding the trailer and he said “man, how did that feel?” and I said it was awesome. He said, “man, the only person I saw Prince hug was Q-Tip,” because he hugged him when he came onstage. He said, “I never see Prince hug anybody else. He must see something in you.”
  I waited for a little while and I went back inside and I saw Liv Warfield, who wrote “LOL (Live Out Loud).” She was so happy to see me and I was so happy to see her. She said “you have such a beautiful spirit and we love you. You have to come see us again.”
  I talked to her for a while and then I went back outside. Then I saw Ford's husband, Joshua, and he said “Intercontinental?” That was the hotel I was going to and he said “come on, you're riding with us.”
  I waved back to the trailer and I said “Bye, Prince and I love you all so much.”
  I get on the (tour) bus and everybody said “Hey Jester... it's nice to see you.” and I said “ hey everybody, you guys are awesome.”
  I sat right next to Ford. At the time, I didn't want to sit next to Ford, because, I wanted her to sit next to her husband and she was like “no, you can sit right there.”
  We're on the bus and we're just talking about how awesome it (the concert) was. She said “we're so glad you could come, you're so awesome, we love your spirit, we love your support, thanks for everything.”
  I just said how I'm blessed and thanked God. I admire their faith, because, they have a lot of faith in God and it's always about the bigger picture...
  (The band) was dropped off first at their hotel and I hugged...all of them and I said “thank you so much for this opportunity” and they all said “no problem, you have to see us again.” Joshua said “that's (God's) favor, just continue to do what you're doing, man, you're a good guy. They get off the bus and I'm just taking a deep breath and I'm just thinking “wow, that was great.” Then I got back (to the hotel room)... and that's when I made the video.
  I'm going to give you a bonus story... when I made time, I called Ramadan to say thank you for everything and she said “no problem, Prince really likes you and he was happy to see you. He really likes your energy and you're part of the family.” 
  I called her the next morning, just to confirm everything and say thank you again... I said, “I really wish I had stayed longer.” She said, “you know, Jesse, you should have, because, me, Prince and (Lewis) went to IHOP right after you left.”
  I said, “are you kidding me?!” She said, “yes and we didn't have any bodyguards...and you could have come...”  She said he was talking to people, but, it started to get busy, so, they had to get their food to go. Of course, he didn't take any pictures. I don't know why people are asking if I took pictures, I have enough respect to know (not to take pictures of Prince)...have you ever seen one picture of him with a fan?
  She said it was so much fun and that when I called (her) that she was just thinking about me. She saw all my tweets and Prince said he appreciated the love. I said, “well, you must have seen my video.”
  She said “you made a video, oh my God, we have to see that, too. We really love you, Jesse, you know you're part of the NPG...”
  I said “thank you for everything...but, I'm still mad at you for not bringing me to IHOP (laughing).” She said “don't worry, this won't be your last time.”
  So, I packed all my stuff, I checked out and I went home. It was just spectacular, one of the best moments of my life... The NPG is a strong family, what I loved about them was everyone seemed to have so much respect for each other...

  ?: How do you feel now that a few days have passed?
  JJ: I feel blessed. I feel like I've just been rewarded a great gift. It just encourages me...One thing Prince said to me was “keep what you have, you're very rare, not a lot of people have what you have.” It just keeps me on board, because, I don't know how to be anyone else but me.
   It makes me appreciative that someone like Prince could find my enthusiasm and my energy to be infectious – that was one of the words he used. I like that, because, all of my fervor and enthusiasm has to do with listening to...the wonderful music that he has given to us.  I couldn't be more appreciative of him and what he's done...even giving me a chance to meet him, it was above and beyond.
  I always say surrender your expectation, but, I was not expecting him to meet me and to embrace him. It's been surreal; it was just two days ago... It feels like family; it doesn't feel like anything, but, just straight-up family.
  ?: Is there anything you wanted to add?
  JJ: My one regret is that I didn't compliment him on his cuff links, just in case. So, he could have hooked me up with some of those cuff links, because, they were fresh! They were these big sparkly ones...they were just shining from a distance. 
  Looking back, it's always a flood of what I could have said. But, to the best of my abilities, I just let him know that from me and the fans...that we all love (Prince). I made it clear to him, from one fan to millions, we really love him and I think he got that message.  

Stay beautiful, Kristi


All photos courtesy of Jesse Jenkins.


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13 March 2013

Rock and Roll is Alive (and it Lives in Minneapolis): A Review of Bobby Z's Benefit 2 Celebrate Life

  Bobby Z.'s 2nd Annual “Benefit 2 Celebrate Life” brought together fans of the Minneapolis Sound to party up for a good cause.
 The event, held at First Avenue & 7th St. Entry, in Minneapolis, took place at 8 p.m. March 9.  It was a follow-up concert to his first fundraiser, which reunited members of The Revolution--including Wendy Melvoin, Brown Mark, Lisa Coleman, Dr. (Matt) Fink and Bobby Z. himself--, sans Prince, on the very same stage in 2012.
   Proceeds from the benefit will go to the American Heart Association and Bobby Z's own My Purple Heart foundation. The goal is to promote heart health, after he suffered a near-fatal heart attack two years ago.
  This year's lineup included: Princess, featuring Maya Rudolph (of “SNL” fame and currently starring on the NBC sitcom “Up All Night”) and Gretchen Lieberum; ?uestlove, of The Roots;  Andre Cymone; Dez Dickerson; Bobby Z; Alexander O'Neal and Stokely Williams, of Mint Condition—among others.
  O'Neal, who helped popularize the Minneapolis sound in the 1980s with cuts, produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, like “Criticize,” and “Innocent” opened up the show with two of his popular songs: “Fake” and “A Broken Heart Can Mend.” It was a delight to see him, as I learned not long before the concert that he recently moved back to Minneapolis, after living abroad for several years. The crowd seemed excited to see him, too.
  He was followed by Minnesota's-own Nicholas David, a finalist on the NBC show, “The Voice.” (Bobby Z. said in his introduction to the set that the hometown boy was “robbed” of a victory on the show). David sang a rousing version of “ Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and Marvin Gaye's “What's Goin' On,” and O'Neal joined him for the last half of the second song. Although I don't watch “The Voice,” I have to agree with Bobby Z: David should have taken top prize on that show; his voice is amazing.

Stokely Williams and Andre Cymone

Patty Peterson
  Next up was Patty Peterson, renowned jazz singer and sister of “St. Paul” Peterson, who was briefly a member of The Time and also worked with Prince on The Family project in 1985. She sang a very emotional rendition of “Whitney Houston's “The Greatest Love of All.” This performance and Bobby Z's work with the American Heart Association had significant meaning for Peterson: she said she nearly died from a thoracic aneurysm, where the aorta deteriorates and can eventually separate from the heart muscle.
   Stokely Williams, of Mint Condition, did a very lively set--singing and playing the guitar-- and during his second song, he and his band were joined by Cymone.
  I had high expectations for Princess, a Prince tribute band (for lack of a better term) and the duo did not disappoint. Their set consisted of Prince songs from from four albums: Dirty Mind, Controversy, 1999 and Purple Rain. They sang a lot of the naughtier Prince material, the likes of which we won't hear live from the man himself anytime soon:  “Darling Nikki,” “Let's Pretend We're Married," “Lady Cab Driver” and notably “Head.”
  Princess paid homage to Prince by completely owning these songs with a passion and verve that can only be demonstrated by avid fans. Both ladies have said in past interviews that they have been Prince fans for 30 years and I loved the energy they brought to the whole concert.
  There were a few technical glitches at the very beginning of their set (the microphone designated for Rudolph wasn't working). But, she just moved over to another mike and kept it moving. However, for a few minutes afterward she kept motioning to the stage techs to move the pedals (that were used by guitar players earlier) and she later informed the audience that she wanted them moved because she needed room to dance. That's when I knew it was about to get real.
  And it did indeed. Princess harmonized on lead vocals—with Lieberum singing the higher octaves and Rudolph on the lower register, which created a unique sound.
 They also writhed melodramatically, laying down onstage, a la The Kid--Prince's character in “Purple Rain”-- on “The Beautiful Ones.” They sang the part at the very end of “Darling Nikki”where the track is played backwards—the two of them had impressively memorized it that way-- now how cool is that? They also did a staged recitation of the famous scene in "Purple Rain" between Prince and Apollonia, where the young starlet accidentally purifies herself in what she mistakenly believes is Lake Minnetonka. 
 Also, in my humble opinion, the only person who can do Prince's trademark screams better than Rudolph is Prince himself.
  Did I mention that she did all of this while pregnant?

Maya Rudolph and Gretchen Lieberum, of Princess
  “This is a funky ass baby!” she said to the crowd. Lieberum co-signed the fact that her partner in crime is “f****** bad ass.”
  When Princess came back for their encore of “Purple Rain,” the crowd was so hyped, the band so tight and Princess' vocals so captivating that it gave me a inkling of what the energy must have been like when Prince was filming concert scenes for his blockbuster 1984 movie of the same name. The crowd was screaming their approval long after they left the stage.
  These ladies were going to be a tough act to follow.
  But, The Rebels, which included Bobby Z., Cymone, Dickerson and Dr. Fink, all members from Prince's original band formed in 1978, were more than up to the challenge.
  They opened their set with “U,” a song from "The Rebels" sessions in 1979--which at that time included Gayle Chapman--, a song that only the most well-versed Prince fans would be familiar with.
  Cymone had many fans ardently waiting for his return to performing and people were shouting out song requests for him after he barely hit the stage: “Kelly's Eyes!” and “The Dance Electric!” could be heard from different parts of the crowd. He acquiesced to both requests and even threw in a very brief  snippet of “Livin' in the New Nave.” (I personally would have liked to hear “Don't Let the Sun Go Down” from Survivin' in the 80s, but, I wasn't bold enough to yell that out the concert).
Dez Dickerson

Andre Cymone and Dr. Fink
 The band ripped into “Where You Were Mine,” a rock song from Prince's Dirty Mind albumCymone, who sang lead, had given the audience a short disclaimer before he started playing-- he said he had never sang the song live before-- but, there was no need. His falsetto and guitar playing were both on point.
  Dickerson also got a chance to flex his falsetto, singing “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad,” from Prince's 1979 self-titled album, which he said the band performed on TV's “American Bandstand.” He and Cymone traded blazing guitar riffs on this rock anthem by the Purple One. At one point, Cymone switched over to electric bass and the band went into an extended jam, where I'm pretty sure I heard the bass line of “I Feel For You.” (But, don't quote me on that). He also sang another fan favorite: the never officially released song "Modernaire," which was featured in the movie "Purple Rain."
  At one point, I saw ?uestlove move in front of the barrier near of the stage, not far from where I was standing at stage right, to snap a picture of Cymone playing guitar on his smartphone. It was pretty cool to this very famous musician capturing this iconic moment for his own personal memories. He also played drums with the band, as did Williams for the very last song.
  The band also paid homage to musicians Dickerson said influenced them as young up-and-comers: they performed “Some Kind of Wonderful,” by Grand Funk Railroad and “Spanish Castle Magic,” by Jimi Hendrix.
   It had been more than 30 years since these musicians graced the same stage, but, listening to them that night in top form, it sure didn't seem like it.
  After their set ended many of the night's performers came back onstage— for a grand encore of Prince's “Partyup,” also from Dirty Mind.
  It was the perfect end to a very funky night.

Stay Beautiful, Kristi


 Lead photo: Vicki Rivkin and Bobby Z. All photos courtesy of Shayna Olson. 


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