A year after Prince’s death, his old friend Morris Day remembers a legend, a mentor and an enigma. The Time singer, who was made famous by playing Prince’s musical rival in the 1984 film “Purple Rain,” first started playing music with Prince when they were teenagers, but even he was shocked to learn that his contemporary had been struggling with drug issues before being found dead in his Minneapolis estate.
“He had always been such a wholesome guy, he never even allowed pepperoni pizza in Paisley Park,” said Day, whose new song “Over That Rainbow” comes out on Friday and pays homage to Prince. “So it caught me way off guard. There was some suffering going on there that he wasn’t sharing with anyone else.”
Day first collaborated with Prince in a band called Grand Central when he was 15 and Prince Rogers Nelson was 14. Alas, the world will probably never hear that music.
“There are pictures, but not any recordings,” Day says. “It was in the 70s. None of it ever surfaced on You Tube or online at all.”
Even then, he said multi-instrumentalist Prince could be a controlling bandleader as easily as he could be a team player.
“Depends which day you caught him on,” Day said. “He always wanted to be in control. Control was a big issue for him. Any note that was played on his stage was played because he said ‘play it that way.’ He had the best ears in the business and ran a tight ship.”
Even as teenagers, laughed Day, a proud frontman himself: “We had creative differences but we always worked it out. He became much more of a control freak when he got his record deal and everything came together. It wasn’t so bad when we were kids.”
And it isn’t just Prince’s musical legacy that Day says we can believe in. Apparently tales of the 5-foot-3 pop star’s basketball prowess, made famous by the recently deceased Charlie Murphy, were true.
“He was a hell of a basketball player,” said Day. “He was good.”
He also calls the 2004 skit Murphy did for the Dave Chappelle show was right on the money.
“Yeah, very accurate,” he said.
With Brian Niemietz