Bobby Z's heart stopped. Twice. In the hospital. His family was summoned. So was his rabbi. But Z survived.
Now, 12 months later, he is drumming, producing and celebrating with the band that made him famous, Prince & the Revolution. Sunday night at First Avenue, the "Purple Rain"-era lineup will reunite -- Dr. Fink, Brownmark, Wendy & Lisa and Bobby Z.
And Prince? "Out of respect, he might not come," Z said. "It's not a dis, it's the opposite."
Over the years, the Revolution has discussed getting together, but "schedules got busy and -- someday, someday, someday," said keyboardist Lisa Coleman. "We could have lost Bobby and lost the chance. It made us say: No more waiting."
Their only reunion was in 2003 when the Revolution, sans Prince, did a cameo performance at a Los Angeles charity gig organized by Sheila E.
"It seemed so natural," Coleman said. "We just counted off one of the songs. I think they're so ingrained in our bodies."
To prepare for the First Ave show, the band has conducted meetings via e-mail -- Z calls it "virtually rehearsing" -- but the players also were getting together this weekend to practice in a Twin Cities studio.
It's a far cry from the 1980s, when Prince played the role of demanding drill sergeant at rehearsals that would stretch for hours.
This time, guitarist Wendy Melvoin will handle the bulk of the lead vocals.
"I'm going to interpret them in my own little way," she said in a conference call with Coleman last week from Los Angeles. "I'm not going to try to sound like [Prince] at all.
She's not holding out for Prince to show up, either. "He is not really sentimental" about anything, Melvoin said, including the group that disbanded in late 1986 after touring in support of his second movie, "Under the Cherry Moon."
But he was quick to call Z's wife, Vicki, after the drummer's heart attack, as Coleman pointed out: "He offered a lot of support and love to Bobby."
It all started the day before the Super Bowl last year. Z felt pain in his shoulder and elbow and thought he had a pinched nerve. His wife insisted he go to the hospital. Things got worse as he received three stents during a 13-day stretch.
Now Bobby Rivkin, 56, can explain the ins and outs of heart disease. In fact, he's formed MyPurpleHeart.org to help raise awareness about heart health. Education will be part of Sunday's program at First Avenue.
He figures he's already made a difference.
His older brother, Los Angeles record producer David Z, decided to get a checkup after Bobby's hospitalization. "He had the identical clogs," Bobby said -- and triple bypass surgery.
And when Z described his symptoms on a Twin Cities radio show, it resonated with a woman who was listening. "Her mother was having some heavy feelings in her arm," Z said. "They took her in and scheduled a triple bypass and saved her life."
He chose the name "Mypurpleheart" because of the Vikings as well as Prince. "No disrespect to the military," he said. "Those guys die for theirs. Mine comes from keeping the beat. If people identify me from Prince & the Revolution and as a heart attack survivor, then it's my purple heart."
In December, Z spoke at an American Heart Association gala in front of perhaps 1,000 people. Since his hospitalization, he has gotten himself "in the best shape in a long time." He hits the gym, the treadmill and occasionally the drum kit.
Z's main job is running a record label, CCE, which has put out projects by Alexander O'Neal, Sounds of Blackness, Shannon Curfman and others.
Last fall, Z hatched the idea for a Revolution reunion as a fundraiser/education event for heart health. He says fans are coming from Korea, Indonesia, England and Belgium.
They will get to see special guests, including guitarist Dez Dickerson, who played with the Purple One from 1979 to '83, and saxophonist Eric Leeds, who joined Prince in 1986. Questlove, drummer for the Roots and a hardcore fan of Prince and the Revolution, will offer a post-Revolution DJ set.
What was the Revolution's contribution to Prince's music?
"It really was the idea of mixing up styles," said Coleman, who brought elements of classical, jazz and soul. "We were able to really capture that and make a kind of crossover concentrate."
For the reunion, the Revolution will be assisted by several former Purple staffers, including sound engineer Rob "Cubby" Colby, makeup artist Robyn Lynch and drum tech Brad Marsh.
As for Prince's view of this reunion, Z simply says, "He's been supportive and great about it. It's a big deal that he's letting this happen. [He owns the band's name.] He's totally invited. First Avenue is his house. And we're just house-sitting. He can come. I think he knows the material."
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