Prince's sister Tyka is singing her own tune on new gospel CD

  • Article by: C.J. , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 29, 2008 - 9:33 PM

Listeners to Tyka Nelson's new gospel CD, "A Brand New Me," could swear they hear her older brother on background vocals.

That begs the question: Could Tyka actually get Prince to sing with her?

"It's a possibility," she told me last week. "I haven't asked him because I don't want his input so much. I really want to do it by myself. But our voices, I think, they'd blend very well."

Sings like Prince. Check.

To some, the Minneapolis singer, songwriter and musician sounds so much like Prince that there was no need for these words "only full-sister of 'Rock Legend' Prince" on the news release about her gospel CD with R&B, funk and pop influences.

"It's my first gospel CD, the first one where I did everything -- the music, wrote all the songs," she said. "Every song is about God. It's all about Jesus. It's a gospel CD, everything leads back to God. All the people [about whom she sings] are bits and pieces of me. People who start out in the beginning of the music have problems. They're in clubs, they're having sex with married men, but at the end they find that nothing can give them that type of joy except God."

While Tyka attends a Pentecostal church, she stressed: "I'm not really any religion. I still study with Jehovah's Witnesses, so I say I'm Apostolic Pentecostal Jehovah's Witness Seventh-Day Adventist Jew."

Tyka is religiously curious, a seeker, much like Prince. Check.

Tyka responded with charming laughter when I suggested that she might want to record herself on video while singing to prove she's supplying all the vocals: "A lot of people say, I think that's Prince in the background? Do you hear Prince in the background?"

Tyka said she recorded the CD at her son Sir's studio. Sir is the name of one son and the other one's name is President. While she almost slipped up and provided Sir's age, she was never even close to providing identifying vitae like a last name.

Lives up to the familial penchants for mystery and names that are titles. Check. Check.

In 1988 she had a major label debut on Chrysalis Records with the release of "Royal Blue," which her consultant/ agent Jeff Taube of MidAmerica Talent said, "Received rave reviews."

Well-reviewed song with color in the title. Check.

Tyka told me that she works in "customer service" jobs to pay the bills until the day that her music, available at CDBaby.com, does.

In 2009 Tyka, who is engaged to be married, is planning on singing engagements in Chicago and Europe and doing "another big thing" -- a book. "I have written a book," she said. "It hasn't been published yet. It's about my life. It won't have any stories in it about Prince." (My gut feeling is that Prince may even make his sister sign a confidentiality agreement.)

About five years ago, I was approached by a guy who said he was promoting Tyka's autobiography, but he never returned my calls. "Maybe because the book at the time [wasn't ready]," she said. "Until it comes out, there is no sense in putting [the proposed title] out there yet."

Tyka's book is about her previous drug and alcohol problems. It's my understanding that her brother was generously instrumental in helping her confront these issues. "He did get me to one of the places that I went," she said. "You don't have to live that way. That's why I'm back out there [singing] again. And that's where the music's headed, too."

A bit of hiddenite?

Tyka likes portraits that conceal her face, much as Prince formerly did.

When finally able to open the photo on my computer, after several minutes of instructions from Jeff Taube, I could not suppress my disappointment. THAT'S JUST HER EYE!

"Yeah, that's true," Taube said. "There's another one where she's kind of covered up with some coins. Yeah, they're kind of different photos but that's her thing, you know." From what can be seen, Tyka looks like LaToya Jackson.

Prince's comments

While talking to Tyka Nelson about her religion (yes, she celebrates Christmas), I did ask about Prince's religious-based anti-gay comments in the New Yorker mag.

"I haven't heard anything about it," she said. "Maybe some of the people around me have, but they haven't mentioned it to me."

She need only read page 77 of the January issue of the Advocate to see how poorly received his comments were. The mag gave Symbolina an unflatteringly title award [a word I don't think should be used] that came with this biting commentary: "Given that most of the American population thought Prince was gay until the release of 'Purple Rain' (only to reconsider the question after they saw 'Under the Cherry Moon') it takes some cast-iron gall for the singer to come out as a Bible-thumping homophobe. ... Oh, and he literally tapped his Bible while [making the intemperate remarks]. Perhaps Prince's brain is partying like it's 1899."

C.J. is at 612.332.TIPS or cj@startribune.com. More of her attitude can be seen on Fox 9 Thursday mornings.

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