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Prince Talks: The Silence is Broken

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How do you feel when you go to New York or L.A. and see the life you could be leading?
L.A. is a good place to work. And I liked New York more when I wasn't known, when I wasn't bothered when I went out. You'd be surprised. There are guys who will literally chase you through a discotheque! I don't mind my picture being taken if it's done in a proper fashion. It's very easy to say, "Prince, may I take your picture?" I don't know why people can't be more humane about a lot of things they do. Now when I'm visiting, I like to sneak around and try stuff. I like to sneak to people's gigs and see if I can get away without getting my picture taken. That's fun. That's like cops and robbers.

You've taken a lot of heat for your bodyguards, especially the incident in Los Angeles in which your bodyguard Chick Huntsberry reportedly beat up a photographer.
A lot of times I've been accused of sicking bodyguards on people. You know what happened in L.A.? My man the photographer tried to get in the car! I don't have any problems with someone I know trying to get in my car with me and my woman in it. But someone like that? Just to get a picture?

Why isn't Chick working for you anymore?
Chick has more pride than anyone I know. I think that after the L.A. incident, he feared for his job. So if I said something, he'd say, "What are you jumping on me for? What's wrong? Why all of a sudden are you changing?" And I'd say, "I'm not changing." Finally, he just said, "I'm tired. I've had enough." I said fine, and he went home. I waited a few weeks and called him. I told him that his job was still here and that I was alone. So he said he'd see me when I was in New York. He didn't show up. I miss him.

Is it true that Chick is still on the payroll?
Yes.

What about the exposé he wrote about you in the National Enquirer?
I never believe anything in the Enquirer. I remember reading stories when I was ten years old, saying, "I was fucked by a flying saucer, and here's my baby to prove it." I think they just took everything he said and blew it up. It makes for a better story. They're just doing their thing. Right on for them. The only thing that bothers me is when my fans think I live in a prison. This is not a prison.

You came in for double heat over the L.A. incident because it happened the night of the "We Are the World" recording. In retrospect, do you wish you had shown up?
No. I think I did my part in giving my song [to the album]. I hope I did my part. I think I did the best thing I could do.

You've done food-drive concerts for poor people in various cities, given free concerts for handicapped kids and donated lots of money to the Marva Collins inner-city school in Chicago. Didn't you want to stand up after you were attacked for "We Are the World" and say, "Hey, I do my part."
Nah. I was never rich, so I have very little regard for money now. I only respect it inasmuch as it can feed somebody. I give a lot of things away, a lot of presents and money. Money is best spent on someone who needs it. That's all I'm going to say. I don't like to make a big deal about the things I do that way.

People think that you're a dictator in the studio, that you want to control everything. In L.A., however, I saw Wendy and Lisa mixing singles while you were in Paris. How do you feel about your reputation?
My first album I did entirely alone. On the second I used André [Cymone], my bass player, on "Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?" He sang a small harmony part that you really couldn't hear. There was a typo on the record, and André didn't get any credit. That's how that whole thing started. I tried to explain that to him, but when you're on the way up, there's no explaining too much of anything. People will think what they want to.

The reason I didn't use musicians a lot of the time had to do with the hours that I worked. I swear to God it's not out of boldness when I say this, but there's not a person around who can stay awake as long as I can. Music is what keeps me awake. There will be times when I've been working in the studio for twenty hours and I'll be falling asleep in the chair, but I'll still be able to tell the engineer what cut I want to make. I use engineers in shifts a lot of the time because when I start something. I like to go all the way through. There are very few musicians who will stay awake that long.

Do you feel others recognize how hard you work?
Well, no. A lot of my peers make remarks about us doing silly things onstage and on records. Morris [Day, former lead singer of the Time] was criticized a lot for that.

What kind of silliness, exactly?
Everything – the music, the dances, the lyrics. What they fail to realize is that is exactly what we want to do. It's not silliness, it's sickness. Sickness is just slang for doing things somebody else wouldn't do. If we are down on the floor doing a step, that's something somebody else wouldn't do. That's what I'm looking for all the time. We don't look for whether something's cool or not, that's not what time it is. It's not just wanting to be out. It's just if I do something that I think belongs to someone else or sounds like someone else, I do something else.

Why did Morris say such negative things about you after he left the band?
People who leave usually do so out of a need to express something they can't do here. It's really that simple. Morris, for example, always wanted to be a solo act, period. But when you're broke and selling shoes someplace, you don't think about asking such a thing. Now, I think Morris is trying to create his own identity. One of the ways of doing that is trying to pretend that you don't have a past.

Jesse [Johnson, former guitarist for the Time] is the only one who went away who told what happened, what really went down with the band. He said there was friction, because he was in a situation that didn't quite suit him. Jesse wanted to be in front all the time. And I just don't think God puts everybody in that particular bag. And sometimes I was blunt enough to say that to people: "I don't think you should be the front man. I think Morris should."

Wendy, for example, says, "I don't want that. I want to be right where I am. I can be strongest to this band right where I am." I personally love this band more than any other group I've ever played with for that reason. Everybody knows what they have to do. I know there's something I have to do.

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