He beamed. “That would make a good song lyric,” he said.
He didn’t want to talk about things from the past. “You don’t talk about Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan,” presidents when Prince had his hits in the 1970s and 1980s. However, he did drop the names of many past associates — Andre Cymone, Bobby Z, members of the Time, Paul Peterson, Mark Brown — in the course of a free-wheeling conversation.
Sometimes Prince set the agenda. He went into an extended commentary about young stars such as Justin Bieber lip-syncing in concert. He implored music critics to tell the truth about the lip syncers.
Throughout the chat, he muttered “whatever” with the tone of a teenager when he didn’t want to pursue a topic and dropped the phrase “real time” whenever he got enthusiastic. Sometimes he slapped me on the knee to underscore a point.
At times he paused to listen to the music of Jimi Hendrix playing in the background. Even though he relishes new ideas from his bandmates, he wants them to know about important music of the past, such as Sly Stone, whose bassist, Larry Graham, is now Prince’s mentor (“he taught me the Bible”) and probably his closest friend. He lives near Prince in Chanhassen.
Prince said he plans to attend Graham’s shows May 27-28 at the Dakota in Minneapolis. Will he sit in? “I’ll play with him if he asks me,” he said, sounding momentarily modest.
• • •
The interviewee didn’t hesitate to challenge the interviewer. He brought up a story last fall in which I wondered whether his Afro, which seemed to be coming and going, was a wig.
“This is real time. Where’s all your hair?” he said, looking at my balding head. We all laughed.
He wasn’t afraid to own up to aging as he approaches his 55th birthday on June 7. He volunteered that he uses a TelePrompTer for lyrics (“I have 3,000 songs”) and pointed out that earlier at the Ogden he’d vamped extra long at the beginning of one tune because he couldn’t remember the opening lyric.
Not once at the after-party did Prince pay attention to his girlfriend, a tall Californian in black with long, soft curls. In fact, other than occasionally calling over one of the 3rdEyeGirls to ask a question, he focused on the conversation.
“Where’s the food?” he asked at 5 a.m. Flatbread pizzas were placed on a table in front of him. He grabbed a fork and a cloth napkin and picked at a piece.
His playful mood continued as he watched about 12 people from his organization dancing in a circle like a bunch of grade-schoolers to the sounds of James Brown and Sly Stone.
“Did you take notes, or dance, during the show?” he asked.
“Both,” I answered.
“I’ve never seen you dance,” said Prince, who likes to size up a musician by how she or he picks up their instrument. “Go up there and dance with them.”
“I don’t have my dancing shoes on,” I countered. “I’ll wear them to the Myth.”
The conversation continued on everything from 3rdEyeGirl’s forthcoming album — soon to be released on Kobalt, a new artist-friendly worldwide music service — to Prince’s idea that Vikings running back Adrian Peterson should help pick his teammates the way basketball superstar Kobe Bryant gets to do with the Lakers.