Was We Are the World the Downfall of Purple Rain? Read This and You Decide.
In the midst of the 30th anniversary of Prince’s iconic Purple Rain album, much has been written and said. For Heads who weren’t paying close attention to the media following the hit-packed album, or don’t recall various award show moments, a lot can be lost.
Alan Light is among the music industry’s most revered journalists. A onetime editor-in-chief of both VIBE and Spin, Light has written books alongside Quincy Jones (on Jones’ onetime son-in-law Tupac Shakur), as well as The Allman Brothers’ Gregg Allman. This year, he penned Let’s Go Crazy: Prince and the Making of Purple Rain on Atria Books. The 25-plus-year music critic takes one of the most molecular looks at the Warner Bros.-backed album, its success, and impact.
One thing that’s rarely discussed is the fall-out of Purple Rain. As Light sees it, the album never played itself out, grew outdated, or was under-served by its parent label. As the author explains in his book, Prince—who toured extensively from its June, 1984 release until early 1985—grew into a role. That role, Light believes, is the caricature that was spoofed on shows like “Chappelle Show,” “In Living Color,” and “SNL.”
With quotes from Prince’s then manager, tour manager, and engineer, Medium’s Cuepoint published “When ‘Purple Rain’ Came Falling Down,” an excerpt from the book on what Light see as Prince’s downfall.
The detailed article (with great photographs) follows how Prince dealt with his skyrocketing fame—with recollections of mall flash-mobs in Atlanta, and impromptu Washington, D.C. street closings. It portrays Prince as a once incredibly accessible Minnesota musician who ascended to the mythology of the Purple Rain film, stuck in a role it may seem that he never wished to accept.
Also, Alan Light looks closely at a song that he believes may have been the kiss of death for Purple Rain. “We Are The World,” produced and arranged by Quincy Jones (Light’s onetime collaborator and publisher) was the famed hit by USA For Africa. The organization recruited Bruce Springsteen, Smokey Robinson, Lionel Richie, Kenny Rogers, Ray Charles, and many others for the raising hunger relief in African nations.
The article explains the two-sided story of Prince not ending up on the song. Was it Prince’s ego, or Quincy Jones’ specific demands that held The Artist back from the song—he offered to contribute (on his terms) to. Moreover, following the year’s American Music Awards—when the artists involved flooded A&M Recording Studios to cut the track, Prince went elsewhere.
What Prince (and those around him) did—that night of January 28, 1985, as well as for the charity album, and shortly thereafter is the subject of some great anecdotes and writing, beckoning your read.