I was recently asked how I got the title of “Master Collaborator.” Here’s the truth about the title—I made it up a few months ago. To me, this title represents a person who makes a solo performance function like an orchestra. They have big dreams and have no intention of going it alone. They desire to take everyone interested and committed along for the ride, the connection, the fame, and the undoubtedly abundant future.
For some, titles are simply words and/or status symbols. For others, they are a way of life.
After spending five days in Minneapolis for #Celebration2019 honoring Prince among the purple family, it was clear that Prince was—and still is—a Master Collaborator. The event included discussion with band members, staff, friends, and of course his fans—known as “fams.” We toured Paisley Park, watched footage of Prince on stage, broke bread together, danced, and shed tears while embracing one another.
This was an event where strangers became friends through the celebration of Prince and his music. Following are the items that stood out to me as reasons why his legacy of Master Collaborator lives on:
Prince allowed others to shine. Several band members noted Prince could play every instrument better than they could. However, Prince is one man and it truly takes a village to create a movement and leave a legacy. He found the best band members and staff, inspired them to achieve their highest potential, put them in the spotlight, and supported them along the way.
Prince shared his vision and allowed others to help him architect something even greater than he could’ve imagined on his own. Prince was relentless in pursuing his vision, and he was meticulous about the way it came to life. However, he had many players on his team who fueled his creativity. Revolution band member, Mark Brown noted Prince allowed and appreciated constructive criticism. Anderson further noted feedback, “would energize him.” It was as if he knew it would spur him to greatness and he “loved that energy,” according to Brown.
Prince enlisted the help of others through inspiration. Revolution band member Mark Brown noted Prince as a General with many soldiers who helped him build. He noted Prince as strategic in the way he picked people to join him. He also stated, “I wanted to help him win. He didn’t have any ulterior motives. He was a bad mofo. I knew I’d never reach that level of ‘badness,’ so we gave to him.”
Prince trusted his associates and related with them. Revolution band member, Wendy Melvoin noted, “There was a certain trust to it. We could talk about ANYTHING together.” Lisa Coleman, another Revolution band member noted the camaraderie among the band noting, “It was the first time for all of us.”
Prince created a mosaic with the talents of others. By adding to his team and cultivating the talents of others, he created a beautiful mosaic with the brilliant perspectives of those who went before and those who stood next to him. As one who stood next to Prince on stage, Melvoin noted, “We were a very special box of paints. We gave him colors he had never seen.”
Prince orchestrated the actions of his team. While Prince is known as a solo artist, the musical productions functioned more like an orchestra. Each was filled with countless instruments, singers, dancers, and production crew members.
A Funk Soldier, Kirk Johnson, noted, “I never thought I’d be traveling around the world playing the drums, but he was always pulling the best out of you.”
Prince wasn’t all work and no play. Revolution band member Bobby Z recalled “Rehearsal was like school with recess. The mind and body were working for him.” Band members recalled countless games of HORSE played on the basketball court (Prince always won).
Funk soldier, Chance Howard said he was welcomed as a band member after Prince challenged him to a race. At the time, Howard weighed over 525 pounds. That didn’t stop him from putting his best foot forward.
Prince shared his personal talents and gifts for others to benefit. Prince wrote some incredible music that created abundant futures for other artists. Some of these songs include Nasty Girl by Vanity 6, Jungle Love by The Time, I Feel for You by Chaka Kahn, and Manic Monday by The Bangles.
Prince also supported Sinead O’Connor in her a remake of “Nothing Compares 2 U.” When asked about the star’s success with the number one cover, Prince replied, “I love it, it’s great! I look for cosmic meaning in everything. I think we just took that song as far as we could, then someone else was supposed to come along and pick it up.”
Prince shares resources with others. Paisley Park was not just Prince’s home and recording studio. He brought other artists in for rehearsals, concerts, and recording. In an interview with Prince regarding the studio, he stated, “If you create something together, you share it equally.”
Musical greats like Aretha Franklin, REM, Stevie Wonder, Madonna, James Brown, and countless others recorded iconic singles and LPs at Paisley Park.
Prince creates space for people to connect. Music is a master connector. Throughout his life, Prince brought people together for concerts, parties, screenings, and movies. Even after his death, he continues to connect people not only through his music and those who play in his honor, but through the annual Celebration event.
I met countless people at the event who said something along these lines, “My friends and family don’t understand how much I love Prince and what he did for me through his music. But here (at Celebration), I’m among friends and purple family who understand. They don’t think I’m crazy, they meet me here, and we connect.”
Celebration isn’t a one-time event, either. Many travel alone to Celebration (from out of state and even out of the country). However, upon arrival, they are greeted by the spirit of Prince, surrounded by fams, and given the opportunity to gather and get through this thing called life while locking arms. This connection leads them to meet year after year.
They are not alone. While he’s not physically among us, Prince hasn’t stopped orchestrating or collaborating. Drummer Bobby Z stated, “He was an old soul from another century, but at the same time, timeless. He’s immortal.”
“Some people want to die so they can be free.”
—Lyrics from Controversy
Let’s Dance (and collaborate)!
Want to know why collaboration is so important? Check out my TEDx Talk, “The Dance of Collaboration.”