Prince And Michael Jackson Rivalry As Real As ‘Purple Rain’

The rivalry between Prince and Michael Jackson was real all along. Now it can be told. It’s nothing like the rivalry between Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber, where snippets are usually all made up by the media most of the time. Time takes readers back in time to when Prince stole the show from Jackson during a 1983 James Brown Concert in L.A.

“Right from his entry on piggyback from a fellow audience member, to a crazy guitar solo that ends with him shirtless, watch as Prince completely steals the show.”

Salon spoke to the critic Touré, who’s written widely on music and culture and is the author of I Would Die 4 U: Why Prince Became an Icon.

“It was a real rivalry. I know from people who were friends with Prince that he cared very deeply about the competition with Michael Jackson, the rivalry with Michael Jackson. You notice that ‘1999’ and ‘Thriller’ came out within a month of each other. And ‘1999’ [no relation to Taylor Swift’s 1989] is Prince’s best-selling album to date – I think it sells two million copies before ‘Purple Rain’ comes out. I think it’s the fifth best-selling album of that year. It’s a big success for him; he’s moving upward. He’s at least doubling the audience he’s had previously.”

For its part, Slate cites four instances which depict the serious competition between the Prince of Pop and the man known only as Prince.

“1. Michael Jackson attempts to show up Prince at a James Brown concert. 2. Prince bails on the recording session for ‘We Are the World.’ 3. Prince beats Michael Jackson at ping-pong. 4. Prince declines to duet with Michael Jackson on ‘Bad’.”

Between Salon and Slate, it was Salon that captured the essence of item number four succinctly.

“And at one point, Michael sent Prince a song called ‘I’m Bad,’ with hopes that Prince would jump in it and they could collaborate on the song together. Prince was so offended at the notion of Michael Jackson doing a song called ‘I’m Bad’ – in a world where Prince existed as an actually bad person – Prince re-recorded the song, and sent it back to Michael, like ‘Here’s how you should have done it.'”

Slate, however, has poignantly underscored how one stage was just too small for both musical geniuses.

“Even now, Prince and Jackson represent a fascinating dichotomy: As much as Jackson seemed intent on catering to his audience, presenting a safe, family-friendly image—this was before anyone accused Jackson of pedophilia, remember—Prince seemed to go out of his way to confound, even antagonize his fans, an approach that served him surprisingly well in retrospect.”

The Slate stance is echoed by DW.

“Prince was the absolute antithesis of Michael Jackson.The music world is shocked by the sudden death of singer and guitarist Prince. The exceptional musician was very different from his peer.”

DW interviewed Uwe Kronefeld from the German Rock and Pop Museum in Gronau.

“Prince was someone who mixed and blended the most diverse music styles. This was completely new and innovative in the 1980s. From simple ballads to completely new electronic sounds, Prince amazed and at the same time fascinated his audience. Prince was always full of surprises and expressed that in his music.”

Rivalry, however, doesn’t always mean that the rivals in the equation find each other inferior. In fact, in all the instances presented thus far, the intense animosity between the two seems to be more pronounced on one side. These circumstances reveal that of the two competitors, it was Prince who felt like competing the most.

Michael, on the other hand, has left a lasting legacy of his deep-seated admiration for Prince: Naming two of his children after him. At this point neither star can speak for themselves since they have both passed away. And it looks like there is no Prince diary stashed somewhere. For now, as well, it looks like 2016 will be remembered as the year when two prominent and influential musicians died: David Bowie and Prince.

Under the circumstances, the best thing to do is to assemble the pieces together based on what Michael did and said, and the same goes for Prince. That is, when either one or the other were still alive. But the question persists: Will Michael Jackson name his beloved children after his rival if he hated him [Prince]? From this perspective, the rivalry seems terribly one-sided. And for a while there, too, it were as if Michael had spoken from the grave.

[Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images]