The unexpected death of Prince Rogers Nelson has stirred up some past rumors of an intense rivalry between Prince and the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. Both ’80s icons, these two enigmatic performers dominated MTV and the music charts, still influencing the music of today. Maybe now is the time to lay those rumors to rest.
Quick to discredit these rivalry rumors is long-time Prince keyboardist Cassandra O’Neal speaking to ABC.
“Michael was a definite influence and inspiration for Prince. They both respected each other and that’s the cool thing.”
Prince and Jackson grew up at the same time. While Prince was in school, learning how to master many instruments, Jackson was a hitmaker with the Jackson Five and had an Academy Award-nominated solo song with the hit “Ben.” O’Neal confirmed this influence.
“There was a place in Paisley and there’s a screen and nice bit old couch and we would watch old clips of “Soul Train” and he would talk about just the influences he had. Michael and his brothers were definitely a part of that. “
Most famously, Prince was asked to perform on Michael Jackson’s song “Bad.” While Prince was known for some risky lyrics, he was not about to risk his career on some poor Michael Jackson lyrics, as he later laughed and told Chris Rock on a VH1 special. Refusing to perform “Bad” with Michael Jackson had more to do with quality control, not any sort of rivalry.
“The first line of that song is ‘Your butt is mine. Now understand, who gon’ sing that to whom? Because you sure ain’t singing it to me and I sure ain’t singing it to you.”
Not only was Michael Jackson a huge influence on his life, but so was James Brown. A few years backPrince discussed the Godfather of Soul.
“James Brown played a big influence in my style. When I was about 10 years old, my stepdad put me on stage with him, and I danced a little bit until the bodyguard took me off.”
Understanding this bit of history makes this viral clip of Prince joining James Brown and Michael Jackson on stage suddenly more significant. In this moment, Prince was propelled from being the adoring fan into becoming the rock star worthy of sharing the stage with two of his idols. Prince crossed the threshold of music stardom.
So, did Michael Jackson secretly want to become Prince? Many Michael Jackson fans and beat writers have mistakenly believed that Michael Jackson named both of his sons Prince after Prince Rogers Nelson, honoring the musician Prince. Instead, Jackson named both of his sons after Prince Albert Screws, his maternal grandfather. There is no indication that Jackson named his sons after his ’80s chart rival. Because the only rivalry between these two artists was that on the charts.
As musical entities, they were quite different. While both were showy dancers, Prince was always in front of a guitar or keyboards, while MJ in front of a mic. While Michael Jackson focused only on more sweet pop, Prince ventured into jazzier, funkier music, always changing his band and testing his style. Prince was the consummate musician, pushing boundaries of race and androgyny, while Jackson was very focused on doing what he had always done, create hits and dancing.
In the 2014 “Lost Interview” with Prince, Rolling Stone asks Prince to talk about Michael Jackson.
“I don’t want to talk about it. I’m too close to it.”
The Daily Beast found an even older interview, from 2009, in Le Monde, where they asked him to speak about Michael Jackson‘s death. Prince was quite clear about his intense feelings.
“It is always sad to lose someone you loved.”
Again, this does not speak about rivalry. This sounds more like Prince really respected MJ. Most likely, he wanted to be on par with his childhood favorite. More than likely the competition was more within his own perfectionist self, pushing himself to create the magical music of his mind.
Prince was found dead in the elevator of his Chanhassen, Minnesota home on Thursday morning. KSTP reported that on Wednesday, the star of Purple Rain was seen by a doctor at a Twin Cities hospital. After the appointment, the 57-year-old was seen at a local Walgreens visiting the pharmacy.
Media outlets have theories that Prince overdosed on Percocet, used to treat severe hip pain. Because the Jehovah’s Witness faith does not believe in blood transfusions, Prince did not go in for surgery and instead used the opioid to manage pain.
Yesterday, a private memorial was held, attended only by Prince’s family members and close friends.
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