Prince Barks Up the Wrong Tree With ‘Lisa': 365 Prince Songs in a Year
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To celebrate the incredibly prolific, influential and diverse body of work left behind by Prince, we will be exploring a different song of his each day for an entire year with the series 365 Prince Songs in a Year.
Sometime in the summer of 1980, Prince recorded a love song for a woman named Lisa. Over an extremely bubbly keyboard groove, he invites her out on a date to the movies and promises that “somewhere, some day, we’ll be together.”
It’s pretty obvious this was neither Prince’s first nor last attempt at seducing somebody with his music, and we’re guessing that his success ratio in such matters was pretty high. But this time out, he had absolutely no chance – and he knew it.
You see, “Lisa” was named after his keyboardist at the time, Lisa Coleman. And she was already in love – with Prince’s guitarist, Wendy Melvoin. The two would soon become the most visible members of his most famous backing band, the Revolution.
“He was very much aware of it,” Melvoin said of the duo’s relationship in a 2009 interview with Out magazine. “He didn’t care if you were ‘black, white, straight, gay, Puerto Rican, just a freakin” – that guy wanted fans. So, anyway he could get them – and a more interesting way he could do it – appealed to him.”
Coleman concurred in a 2017 Now interview: “He wanted Wendy and me to be out in the band, and we were fine with that. He should be considered a gay icon even though he was not gay. He was androgynous and he was sexual and he was alive.”
Musically, “Lisa” comes off like an over-caffeinated cousin to Dirty Mind‘s title track, which combined with the joking subject matter may be why it has never been released. An early clue as to how farcical the famously sober Prince was being on this track arrives when he invites her to “go get blasted,” and continually refers to taking her away from “her man.”
Speaking to L.A. Weekly earlier this year, Coleman remembered Prince as “amazing” and “a gift to humanity” who could also occasionally be a pain in the ass. “One day, he’d come in and be all excited and energetic and happy and want to goof around. The next day, he’d walk in really somber with a cloud over his head, mumble in the microphone, and be a dick.”
Still, the good times obviously outweighed the band, and Lisa Coleman is still in the process of coming to terms with Prince’s death – partly by touring in his honor, alongside a reunited Revolution. She’s also hoping others learn to be more open when they need help, after the notoriously private star’s secret addiction to painkillers used to fight the pain decades of high-impact performances ultimately resulted in his death.
“Prince died because of keeping up his facade,” she continues in L.A. Weekly. “Nobody can live that way all the time. We can’t hold people to these extreme standards. … Prince’s youth was spectacular, but imagine him as an old man and what he’d be able to impart. We lost that. Everybody who is ‘superhuman’ needs let people know, ‘Hey, I’m a person, I’m getting older, I get tired.’ Say whatever they need to, because not doing so killed my friend.”
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