On January 28, 1985, at the peak of Purple Rain mania, Prince and the Revolution delivered a mesmerizing performance of the film and album’s title track on the American Music Awards, and won most of the show’s top honors that night. Thus, in the wake of Prince’s death on April 21, there was a certain symmetry to the album winning another Best Soundtrack prize at the 2016 Awards. (It was eligible due to the album’s resurgence in sales and fan interaction after Prince’s death, as reflected in Billboard and its data partners, including Nielsen Music and Next Big Sound, according to a rep for the show).
The award was accepted by Prince’s only full sibling, Tyka Nelson. “Prince defied the odds: a black teen from Minneapolis with a goal to electrify the world,” she said in her moving and tearful acceptance speech. “He had the courage to be different with his vision and God-given talent. What he told me was that he wanted to be known as the world’s most prolific songwriter. And with 984 titles to his credit and counting, he has done just that. In the words of Prince, ‘With love, honor and respect for every living thing in the universe, separation ceases.’ And we all become one being, singing one song.”
And while they weren’t at Sunday’s ceremony, the five core Revolution members — bassist Brown Mark (aka Mark Brown), keyboardists Lisa Coleman and Matt Fink, guitarist Wendy Melvoin and drummer Bobby Z, all of whom performed with Prince for much of the 1980s — were certainly there in spirit, and all five talked about it with Billboard on Monday. Following is a brief excerpt from a wide-ranging 75-minute conversation — about the making of the Purple Rain album and film, the group’s indelible chemistry, what it was like to work with Prince during those years and how they came together in the wake of his death — that you can read here.
How did you all feel about Purple Rain winning Best Soundtrack at the American Music Awards? Did you watch?
Wendy Melvoin: We all saw it. It was really bittersweet, to be honest. It was really lovely that … it’s just, it’s very complicated. It feels beautiful that it happened and bittersweet at the same time, because our man is not here.
Matt Fink: We agree with Wendy, all of us. [His death] was the most shocking thing. I felt like I went out of my body, it was horrible — I felt like that for the [following] two days.
Bobby Z: We’ve known Tyka for decades and “family is family” is what we said to each other last night. I think it was more of a ceremonial award to bring Purple Rain back after all this time; it certainly wouldn’t have happened without his passing. I think it was their way of paying tribute to Prince. And for us it’s just a testament to the record we made — it’s one of the greatest memories for all of us.
Wendy: What was healing at the time of his death was that we reached out for each other. We met at my house in L.A. and just sat together in my backyard and cried and talked about him. I think it got us closer to Prince than any of us had been in years.
BrownMark: He loved us. We were his family. I was supposed to be in the NPG [Prince’s post-Revolution band] and he talked to me about that group, but it was never going to be the same as the Revolution. And I kindly declined because … y’know, once you’re in a group like The Revolution, it’s very hard to play with someone else, in my opinion. He loved everybody [among his musicians], but we were family.
Lisa Coleman: The fact that the American Music Awards chose Purple Rain [for the 2016 award], it seems almost proof of what we’re saying: that something special happened, and sadly with his passing it came back again.