Today We Celebrate The Life & Legacy Of Prince With A Rebirth Of The Flesh (Audio)
A year ago today, the world was rocked by the sudden and unexpected death of Prince Rogers Nelson. It set off an outpouring of love, grief and tributes that continue to this day. At no time in his career was Prince’s name more ubiquitous. In fact, he has been the highest selling artist over the last 12 months, moving over 7.7 million albums. Over the course of the year, no stone has gone unturned in discussing Prince’s life and legacy, but the biggest question remaining is, perhaps, the most important one: what will happen to the legendary treasure trove of music that he left behind?
During his nearly 40-year career, Prince was one of the most prolific artists of all-time. He released nearly 40 albums, not including his work with side projects like Madhouse, and the extensive material he wrote and produced for affiliated acts like The Time, Vanity 6, Apollonia 6, Mazerati, The Family, and more. Beyond that gargantuan catalog, Prince also reportedly had thousands of unreleased recordings that he kept in a secret vault that has achieved mythic status. Rather than a stockpile of outtakes, many, including some of Prince’s closest associates, like his longtime engineer Susan Rogers and The Time’s Jimmy Jam, believe the vault contains some of the finest music Prince ever created.
“Trust me, the vaults are amazing!,” said Jimmy Jam in a conversation with Access Hollywood Live. Jam said that in recent months prior to Prince’s death, he and Prince discussed how to go about curating and releasing the music locked away at Prince’s Paisley Park compound. “We actually talked about it. We had a conversation about that. [Terry Lewis and I] told Prince we wanted to produce [the vault anthologies]. That was one of the things on our bucket list. He laughed, and he said, ‘Okay, what would you do?’ I said, ‘The first thing we do is we go down to the vault, and we get all those records’—’cause there’s [Morris Day & The Time] records, there’s Shelia E. records, there’s great records in there. ‘Let’s get those records and start working with those.’ He said, ‘Okay.’ So yeah, I think he [wanted to release it], and it’s great music.”
One of the most tangible examples of the quality of the music contained in the vault relates to Prince’s album Sign ‘O’ The Times, which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. The album is widely-regarded as Prince’s finest achievement, and, yet, it was actually a hodgepodge of several projects that Prince put together during the time period. As detailed extensively in an article by Rolling Stone, Prince initially began working on an album titled Dream Factory, in 1986. That album would go through several permutations over a 5-month period, only to be scrapped. Seven of its songs, “Sign ‘O’ The Times,” “The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker,” “It,” “Strange Relationship, “Starfish & Coffee,” “I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man,” and “The Cross” would eventually make it to Sign ‘O’ The Times, but 14 other songs from Dream Factory were tucked away into the vault.
After shelving Dream Factory, Prince turned his attention to an album from the perspective of his female alter ego, “said to be inspired by 19th-century intersexed memoirist Herculine Barbin, whose nickname was Camille,” according to Rolling Stone. That album also was scrapped, yielding “If I Was Your Girlfriend,” “Good Love” and “Housequake” for Sign ‘O’ The Times, but adding another 4 songs to the vault.
From there, Prince decided to create a double album titled, Crystal Ball. That project combined the songs that Prince kept for Sign ‘O’ The Times from Dream Factory and Camille, and added “It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night,” “Play In The Sunshine,” “Hot Thing,” “Forever In My Life” and “Adore” into the mix. While Crystal Ball also was shelved, by the time Prince was done, he had 15 of the 16 songs that would complete Sign ‘O’ The Times, and another 3 songs for the vault. Thus, in the creation of Sign ‘O’ The Times, just 1 of Prince’s 39 released albums, he produced at least 21 songs he was on the verge of releasing, that were instead stored in his vault.
Over time, many of those songs would be released as part of later projects, B-sides and bonuses for Prince’s NPG Music fan club members. Once such record, that was part of both Camille and Crystal Ball, was “Rebirth Of The Flesh.” The song was set to open both projects, and it features Prince in heavy Funk Rock mode. He is at the peak of his powers, using his guitar as a lethal weapon and pointed horn bursts for emphasis. Though he shunned Hip-Hop in its early days, he adopts a cadence usually reserved for MCs, as he opens with “Kick drum pounds on the 2 and 4/All the party people get on the floor/We got the beat U’re looking 4/The rebirth of the flesh is at your door (Let it in y’all!).”
There is nothing sad or reluctant about the song. It is an aggressive exhortation to embrace life to its fullest, and to use music in the rejoicing. In many ways it captures how Prince likely would have wanted to be celebrated in transcending his own flesh. His second verse says it all: “It’s a brand new day/3 2 funk ain’t in our way (No no no)/It ain’t about the money, we just wanna play/The rebirth of the flesh is here 2day (Is here 2 stay).” Indeed.
“Rebirth Of The Flesh” is just an example of one of the fantastic songs that, for whatever reason, Prince decided not to share with the world at one time. Imagine what he amassed over nearly 40 years. While Prince may no longer be here with us in the flesh, his music will allow for his rebirth for years to come.