Prince Plays His Own ‘Tamborine': 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.
Even the most casual Prince fan knows he was frighteningly adept with any number of instruments. But it wasn't until he released Around the World in a Day that the world understood he could play "Tamborine."
As outlined in a Washington City Paper essay, "Tamborine" stands out on Around the World in a Day — although the album is credited to Prince and the Revolution, he cut this track completely alone. It's an appropriate deviation from the band setting, given that the song's lyrics serve as a series of thinly veiled commentaries on the pleasures of masturbation.
Never among Prince's most widely known tracks of the era, "Tamborine" was rarely performed live and seemed destined to remain a lesser-heard footnote until early 2018, when comedian Chris Rock reached into the vault and named a Netflix standup special after the song. Rather than a direct echo of the track's original purpose, he used it as part of a bit about longterm relationships, and how everyone needs to be comfortable ceding the spotlight at times.
"When you're in a relationship, you're in a band, and when you're in a band you have roles that you play in the band," says Rock during the routine. "If you're on tambourine, play it right! Play it with a fucking smile. Nobody wants to see a mad tambourine player. Play it like Tina Turner!"
As fans of either artist are undoubtedly aware, Rock has long loved Prince's music — and Prince respected Rock, sitting with him for a wide-ranging 1997 interview that remains one of the more illuminating public conversations he ever agreed to.
Funnily enough, tambourines and celebrities were something of a minor recurring theme in Prince's career. As Emma Stone told Vogue in 2016, she ended up playing tambourine for Prince during a Saturday Night Live afterparty — and with a bleeding foot, no less.
"I’d taken off my shoes to dance because I am one of those people who dance at parties," explained Stone. "And I stepped in broken glass. It was embedded into my heel. I walked off and was bleeding all over the place." After a nearby good Samaritan "grabbed a knife and took the glass out," she found herself pressed into surprise stage duty.
"Then 60 seconds later," added an incredulous Stone, "one of the SNL people was like, ‘Prince is onstage. Do you want to go on and play the tambourine?'" Needless to say, she accepted — and ended up shaking it as part of an all-star ensemble that included Maya Rudolph, Jimmy Fallon, Martin Short and the members of Haim.