Prince’s ‘The Dance Electric’ Highlights His Competitive Brotherhood with Andre Cymone: 365 Prince Songs in a Year
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.
As youngsters, Prince and Andre Cymone were bandmates and before that, almost literally brothers - with Cymone's family welcoming the future superstar into their own home at the age of 10 when Prince's relationship with his father went sour.
"He came to our house and asked, 'Can I stay here?,'" Cymone recalled to Billboard. "I said I’ll have to talk to my mom. I asked her and she was like, 'Yeah, but I have to call his mom and let her know that he’s here.' So his mom said, 'He can stay there if he wants to.' So, a day turned into a week, week turned into a month, month turned into a year and a year turned into about five or six years, something like that."
After securing a record deal at the age of 18 and releasing his 1978 solo debut album For You, Prince recruited Cymone to play bass in his band. But creative tensions between the two caused Cymone to depart in 1981.
"Because Prince and I were so close, I never thought about whether I was ripping him off or he was ripping me off. Literally, we were learning how to do what we do. My bedroom was in the attic, his bedroom was in the basement," he explained to Wax Poetics. "One day, we were rehearsing to do our tour. Some of the band members loved the groove I was jamming on. Prince came in and he jumped in the jam. He recorded it and came back the next day with lyrics and it was the song 'Controversy.' In the way we grew up and developed, I didn’t think anything of it. But Matt Fink and Bobby Z, when they heard it, they said, 'That’s André’s song.' Prince said something … I realized at that moment, if I stay in this situation, I will never get credit for anything creative that I do. So, I quit."
Cymone's launched his own solo career, but his first two records failed to garner much attention, partially he says because his record company "didn't know what I was trying to do." So he turned to his childhood friend for help. "I was flailing away doing my new-wave thing and wasn’t really having much success, and ... everything he touched was working out in his favor."
Prince offered up "The Dance Electric," a song the Prince Vault says he recorded in August of 1984. Cymone overdubbed his own vocals over the existing instrumental track, and made it the opening song and lead single of his third album, 1985's AC. It became his biggest-ever hit, but Prince's public acknowledgment of his participation in the song's creation led to more tensions between the two.
"I ended up doing the song, and he was like, 'I gave this to André and blah, blah,' and all the reasons why I didn’t want to do the song came about," he told Wax Poetics. "He made it tawdry and not cool. I thought it was like a friend coming together to do something because of our background, and he kind of cheapened the whole experience."
After the release of AC, Cymone shifted his focus to songwriting and producing, contributing to hit records by artists including Jody Watley, Pebbles and Adam Ant. It would be 25 years before he released his next single, a fundraiser for President Barack Obama's 2012 re-election campaign entitled "America." Since then, Cymone has been much more active, releasing three studio albums in just three years – including 2017's 1969.
In 2001, Prince included a live version of "The Dance Electric" as part of the long-form mix tape section of his monthly NPG Ahdio Show download service. Sixteen years later, his own 11-minute version of the track was released on disc and digital formats as part of the expanded Purple Rain reissue.
Happily, in later years Cymone and Prince made peace, even sharing the stage for a live run through "The Dance Electric" during an October 2012 show in Los Angeles.
"We always threatened to get together and do some stuff," he told Billboard following Prince's April 2016 death. "The last time I saw Prince, he said, 'Man, we’ve got to get together. We’ve got do something, we gotta play, we gotta jam.' The one regret I have is that I never really took him up on that."
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