In January 1984, Tom Ross christened the CAA music department, a venture blessed by Mike Ovitz and Ron Meyer. We got off to an amazing start, signing a number of great artists, but that summer we found rocket fuel. Prince was coming off the hit “Little Red Corvette,” and Ovitz and Ross signed him with the promise of making his dream project, the movie Purple Rain, a reality.
After the movie’s enormous success, I was very fortunate to book the Purple Rain Tour and every one of Prince’s live concert dates for the next 11 years. He was one of those rare live performers who could transport an audience, make them leave behind their own world to become part of his. The shows were mesmerizing, leaving the audience breathless, exhausted but also energized. Each new album pushed his creative genius in the live space.
In our first seven years together, Prince had changed managers (a few times), changed lawyers (a few times), and I was the last man standing. In the three years that followed, I had the privilege to speak with him every single day, working to carry both his music and his message forward. He was engaging, thoughtful, funny, passionate, incredibly smart and always challenging.
From his first label deal, where he insisted on (and received) total creative control, through his years with “slave” written on his face, Prince fought for the artist’s right to create and to have ownership of those creations, and to determine how the world sees and hears them. He would say his songs were his children, and wondered aloud how someone else could own his children.
Prince did not have an issue with people making money through his art, only with those who controlled it, who determined when and where it was released and used, and who ultimately had the final say. Even when it hurt his career, Prince was an advocate for artists.
These days, words like “brilliant,” “creative,” “inspiring,” “iconic” and “genius” get tossed around without any measure or discipline, but those words only begin to define a man who broke barriers, blazed trails and provided hundreds of millions of people with a soundtrack to their lives. He also blessed me with a lifetime of memories.