Prince Wonders What We’ll Leave Behind on ‘Last December': 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.
One of the shocking things we learned after Prince died was the fact that he didn't have a will. But that doesn't mean he had never thought about the legacy we leave to future generations. This was the subject of "Last December," which closes out 2001's The Rainbow Children.
Released around the time Prince became a Jehovah's Witness, "Last December" explores how you're remembered after you're gone. "If ur Last December came," he sings in his falsetto, "What would u do? / Would anybody remember 2 remember u? / Did u stand tall? / Or did u fall? / Did u give ur all?"
While much ink has been spilled on the influence of James Brown, George Clinton and Sly Stone on Prince, the gentle falsetto vocals and guitar playing in the verses of "Last December" recall the legendary Curtis Mayfield. A founding member of the Impressions, Mayfield penned and sang lead on gospel-soul classics like "Keep on Pushing" and "People Get Ready" before embarking on a solo career in 1970. His score for the blaxploitation film Superfly gave him a pair of Top 10 hits ("Freddie's Dead" and "Superfly") and he regularly placed hits on BIllboard's R&B chart until the early '80s.
“Curtis Mayfield had a long history of writing wonderful love songs, songs that you’d want to dance slow to in the basement, before he went off in that other direction,” Mavis Staples told The New York Times. “And then all of a sudden he went and wrote some of the best message songs that could be out there. Curtis was a poet, his lyrics came straight from the heart and make me shiver.”
Mayfield died on Dec. 26, 1999, nine years after he was paralyzed when a lighting rig fell on him during a concert in Brooklyn. The Rainbow Children was Prince's first album of all-new material after Mayfield's death.