June 7, 2017 marks what would have been Prince’s 59th birthday. But as a Jehovah’s Witness, Prince didn’t celebrate birthdays for the last portion of his life. So instead of focusing on his years, let’s take a look at his people: 59 friends, mentors, and collaborators who helped make him who he was. Each link leads to a feature or interview fleshing out their relationship with Prince.
Michael Bland | New Power Generation drummer
Michael Bland went deep into his time with Prince in a recent interview on The Current’s Local Show (which airs Sundays from 6-8 p.m.). From his first encounter with Prince to his time with the Replacements’ Paul Westerberg to the upcoming “This Thing Called Life” Fine Line tribute (June 8-10), Bland sounds warm and comfortable talking with Andrea Swensson.
Donna Grantis, Hannah Welton, and Ida Nielsen | 3RDEYEGIRL
Prince’s last band didn’t know each other before they were called to Paisley Park. Years later, they’ve grown together in skill and trust.
Judith Hill | Collaborator
“A lover? Yes. But more than that, a true friend,” Judith Hill said while performing her song “Cry, Cry, Cry” at the Dakota Jazz Club in March. Her relationship with Prince was many things, especially musically collaborative; the duo surprise-released her album Back in Time via Live Nation in 2015.
Liv Warfield | NPG vocalist
Liv Warfield came out of Peoria, Illinois (and later, Portland) to feature on Prince’s Lotusflow3r and join the New Power Generation. These days, she co-fronts a band called Roadcase Royale with Heart guitarist Nancy Wilson.
Shelby J. | NPG vocalist
Few others could made Prince laugh like Shelby J.: a personality-filled powerhouse vocalist.
André Cymone | Friend and collaborator
From the days Prince crashed at his house through the several following decades, André Cymone could tell enough Prince stories to fill a book. Luckily enough, Andrea Swensson will share plenty of his memories in this year’s Got to Be Something Here.
Sheila E. | Drummer; ex-fiancée
Sheila Escovedo’s Latin-influenced drumming lent Prince’s music a whole new energy. Not only that — for a brief period, the two were engaged to be married.
Janelle Monáe | Collaborator
Monáe is one of those artists who didn’t need Prince’s help to break big. The Kansas City native is an actor (Hidden Figures, Moonlight), label runner (see: Wondaland Records), and incredible musician in her own right — but spending time at Paisley Park and releasing Prince duet “Givin Em What They Love” certainly couldn’t have hurt.
Lisa Coleman, Wendy Melvoin, Dr. Fink, Bobby Z, and BrownMark | The Revolution
Prince’s Purple Rain band reunited in 2016 at First Avenue and joined the line-up for Rock the Garden 2017. Years before he’d participate in a full-band Theft of the Dial, drummer Bobby Z spoke with Andrea Swensson in 2014.
Questlove | The Roots drummer; Prince devotee
Prince may have booted him from the turntables at a party, famously replacing Questlove with animated movie Finding Nemo. But Quest has the ultimate respect for Prince, an artist he considers integral to popular music.
Mayte Garcia | Dancer; Prince’s first wife
Almost as famous for her belly dancing as for her relationship with Prince, Mayte Garcia recently published a book called The Most Beautiful: My Life With Prince.
Lowell Pickett | Co-owner of the Dakota Jazz Club
Prince frequented the Dakota Jazz Club as a guest and a performer, and he spoke with Lowell Pickett on the regular.
Apollonia Kotero | Apollonia 6 frontperson
Hailing from Santa Monica, California, Apollonia became a cultural touchstone after starring opposite Prince in Purple Rain. She’d later appear in lesser-known films such as Ministry of Vengeance (1989) and start an multimedia company called Kotero Entertainment.
Roger Linn | Inventor of the LM-1 Drum Computer
Although he never met Prince in person, Roger Linn was essential to Prince’s work and vice versa. His LM-1 Drum Computer shows up across Prince’s whole discography.
Susannah Melvoin | fDeluxe (The Family) vocalist/keyboardist
Susannah Melvoin had many roles in Prince’s life: Wendy’s twin, fDeluxe member, and briefly, his fiancée.
Chank Diesel | Typeface designer
Chank Diesel started designing love symbols for fun. But after Prince caught wind, Diesel’s work ended up on seven different album covers.
Jesse Johnson | The Time guitarist
Back in town after quite some time, the D’Angelo compatriot recently played three shows at Bunker’s in Minneapolis.
Kate Bush | Collaborator
Kate Bush and Prince had such a mutual respect that Bush sent him “Why Should I Love You” for some low-key background vocals — and kept the completely divergent version that Prince sent back.
Barack Obama | President of the United States
When Low Cut Connie frontman Adam Wiener visited the West Wing, he spotted photos of Prince giving a White House performance. In one of them, Malia Obama is shown pulling her dad onstage, and in another, Prince and President Obama share the frame. While talking with then-White House photographer Pete Souza, he learned that the president requested them hung after Prince’s passing.
Maya Rudolph & Gretchen Lieberum | Princess
Wendy Melvoin called Rudolph and Lieberum, a.k.a. cover band Princess, onstage on night two of the Revolution’s 2016 First Avenue run. Prince knew about and approved of their work.
Susan Rogers | Sound engineer, 1985-89
Speaking with Cathy Wurzer, Rogers remembers her days of recording with Prince.
Dave Chappelle | Comedian
Prince loved to laugh, and he reportedly found it hysterical when actor/stand-up comedian Dave Chappelle impersonated him on Chappelle’s Show.
Eric Leeds | Saxophonist in Madhouse and fDeluxe (the Family)
It’s been years since Prince and Eric Leeds had a real conversation, but while Leeds worked in Minneapolis, he spent time hopping around various Prince projects, including Madhouse and the Family.
Alan Leeds | Tour manager and executive
Eric Leeds’s brother, Alan Leeds managed Prince’s tours and worked as the head of Paisley Park Records from 1988-92.
Madonna | Collaborator
Years after their brief romantic relationship and “Love Song” collaboration, Prince and Madonna reunited at Paisley Park in 2015.
Morris Day | Frontperson of the Time
The Purple Rain star grew up on Minneapolis’s North Side, forming a band called Grand Central with Prince and André Cymone years before dancing the Bird.
Larry Graham | Mentor; collaborator
Sly and the Family Stone had more influence on Prince than almost any other band. So Prince held his friendship with the funk band’s bassist, Larry Graham, near and dear to his heart. In fact, his Jehovah’s Witness conversion came as a result of Graham’s faith.
Jon Bream | Music critic
Jon Bream has covered hundreds of artists for the Star Tribune over the years, but the one he keeps getting asked about is Prince. Having spent decades interviewing, studying, and reporting on Prince, Bream possesses a perspective on Minnesota’s most famous native that only a handful could reasonably claim.
Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis | Members of the Time
Now legendary in their own right, thanks to production work for artists such as Janet Jackson and Boyz II Men, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis began their careers as members of a band called Flyte Time (which soon became the Time). “Months before Prince passed,” Okayplayer writes, the duo “asked for the keys to the vault.”
Chaka Khan | Influencer; collaborator
Chaka Khan’s “I Feel For You” actually appeared first on Prince’s 1979 self-titled album, sans the Melle Mel rapping and Stevie Wonder harmonica. Prince set up his first meeting with the Rufus star in disguise; “This is Sly” (as in Sly and the Family Stone), he told her on the phone. “I’m down at Electric Ladyland.” After finding out she’d been duped, she didn’t stay at the studio long.
Stevie Wonder | Influencer; collaborator
Stevie Wonder and Prince were mutual fans. At the Xcel Energy Center Prince tribute in October 2016, Wonder played “I Feel For You” with Chaka Khan, “Take Me With U” and “Raspberry Beret” with Tori Kelly, and “Someday We’ll All Be Free,” “Superstition,” and an instrumental jam on his own.
Sheena Easton | Collaborator
Above and beyond their Sign O’ The Times duet “U Got The Look,” Prince and Sheena Easton worked together on “Sugar Walls,” a 1985 Easton single.
Tommy Barbarella | NPG keyboardist
Tommy Barbarella, born Tommy Elm, got his stage name from the 1968 sci-fi film Prince screened at a January 2016 Paisley show.
Ingrid Chavez | ‘Graffiti Bridge’ co-star; collaborator
Chavez — or the “Spirit Child,” as Prince called her — collaborated with Prince on Lovesexy and her album May 19, 1992. She also co-wrote Madonna’s “Justify My Love.”
Cat Glover | ‘Sign O The Times’ backing vocalist/dancer
Both Prince and David Bowie wanted Cat Glover in their bands; Glover chose the Purple One. Her dancing is integral to 1987 movie Sign O’ The Times, which Paisley Park screened in December 2016.
Rosie Gaines & Tony Mosley | NPG members
Neither Gaines nor Mosley may be household names, but both featured prominently in Prince’s ’90s work. Gaines sang on “Diamonds And Pearls” and the live version of “Nothing Compares 2 U,” while Mosley’s raps set the tone for “Gett Off” and “Sexy MF.”
Levi Seacer, Jr. | NPG bassist; Madhouse member
In this “virtual roundtable” with 11 Prince-associated bassists, Seacer talked about the “funky drag” and “rumbling” Prince liked his bassists to have.
Dywane “MonoNeon” Thomas, Jr. | 2010s bassist
MonoNeon often played with 3RDEYEGIRL and recorded a new project with Prince, drummer Kirk Johnson, and saxophonist Adrian Crutchfield shortly before Prince’s death.
Laura Mvula | Collaborator
Little of their shared work has made it public so far, but Prince supported British soul singer Laura Mvula much like he did Judith Hill and Janelle Monáe.
Owen Husney | Manager
Last April, he joined Andrea Swensson and André Cymone at 430 Oak Grove, the site of the historic Loring Park Sessions.
David Rivkin | Paisley Park recording engineer
Bobby Z’s brother, David Rivkin (a.k.a. David Z), recorded Prince before the world had any idea who he was.
Denise “Vanity” Matthews | Vanity 6 frontperson
After a falling-out with Prince, she’d be replaced by Apollonia. But Denise “Vanity” Matthews was originally cast as the lead in Purple Rain, fronting a band called Vanity 6. She passed away just weeks before Prince in 2016.
Mavis Staples | Influencer; collaborator
The youngest of the original Staple Singers, Mavis Staples recorded two albums for Paisley Park Records: Time Waits for No One (1989) and The Voice (1993). “We’d stay up all night singing and I would leave Paisley Park in the morning,” she told the New York Post.
Gayle Chapman | Early Prince keyboardist
She’d soon be replaced by Lisa Coleman, but Gayle Chapman was the keyboardist in Prince’s first touring band.
Dez Dickerson | Former Revolution guitarist
As a member of the Revolution, Dez Dickerson wrote music for Vanity 6, the Time, and 1999, contributing vocals to “1999” and “Little Red Corvette.” But after finding religion and growing uncomfortable with explicit music, he departed the Prince camp and was replaced by Wendy Melvoin.
Sonny T. | NPG bassist
One of the core members of the New Power Generation, left-handed bassist Sonny Thompson (a.k.a. Sonny T.) will join Michael Bland and Tommy Barbarella at the upcoming “This Thing Called Life” Prince tributes.
Jellybean Johnson | The Time & the Family drummer/guitarist
Jellybean Johnson — born Garry George Johnson — went on to play guitar and drums for Janet Jackson after the Time broke up in 1985. He also produced Mint Condition’s album Meant to be Mint.
Chuck Zwicky & Scott LeGere | Paisley Park recording engineers
Working at Paisley wasn’t always easy. But on the whole, these recording engineers say they had a good ride.
George Clinton | Funk pioneer
Before showing up at Paisley Park to perform during Celebration 2017, the Parliament-Funkadelic legend praised Prince, one of his most accomplished musical descendants. “You could see he was Sly [Stone] for the new generation,” the New Jersey native shared.