Today, we join the World in celebrating the birth of legendary musician, Prince Rogers Nelson. Tomorrow, June 8, 2017 in Downtown Brooklyn at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering (map), soulhead is co-sponsoring Peach + Black, a panel discussion about the 30th anniversary of Prince’s Sign O’ The Times album. The panel discussion, which is also sponsored by NYU, Louella Productions and New Power New York, will feature an esteemed panel of Prince scholars including Zaheer Ali, Anil Dash, Miles Marshall Lewis, and Elliott Powell. The discussion will be moderated by De Angela Duff and will be followed by a screening of the concert film. The event will begin at 6pm and end at 9:30 pm following the film. Light refreshments will be served and admission is free. RSVP Required Here. An after-party will be held at a nearby location which will be announced at the event.
Given all of the parties and events surrounding the one-year anniversary of Prince’s death and only the second year his fans have had to celebrate the late musicians birthday without him, we felt this event was a timely and edu-taining alternative. soulhead staff had the opportunity to chat with the producers of event, De Angela Duff, Mable Ivory, Deanna Martin and soulhead’s founder Ron Worthy, to learn more about each of them and the interest in creating it.
Check out our discussion below:
soulhead: Why do you think we need to celebrate Prince’s Sign O’ The Times?
De Angela Duff:
Well, we need to celebrate Prince and his musical legacy period for any occasion. However, SOTT is considered by both critics and many fans as his masterpiece. I believe many people cite this as his masterpiece because it is the one album you can listen to to get a sense of ALL facets of Prince and his music. If you can’t listen to all of the albums chronologically (which I highly recommend) and require cliff notes, I suggest listening to SOTT, as it contains all of the elements—the very essence—of Prince’s music.
The album is a geniously rich, imaginative and spiritual listening experience. It is the most original work of any musical artist of our day, in that there is a glorious array of musical styles woven together. The poetry of lyrics can be truly ordinary and average on one song, and then completely profound and political on another. It is a timeless masterpiece that only comes along once in a lifetime, if you’re lucky.
This album is one of my favorites. It’s an aural experience that showcases Prince’s fun, sexy, conscious, spiritual and romantic sides.
Sign O’ The Times struck me the moment I heard the first notes of the title track. Its asynchronous undercurrent, intriguing sound profile, and politically charged lyrics pulled me in for more. At the time of the albums release, I was a junior in high school on a trip to Memphis, Tennessee. Sitting with others my age, we were all blown away. Thirty years later, the album stands up as a bonafide classic among classics and arguably Prince’s best work. If nothing else, it remains my favorite and I am honored to be involved in this celebration of this art.
soulhead: What made you become a fan of Prince?
De Angela Duff:
Some people vividly remember where they were for the first US moon landing and other key events in US history; I vividly remember the first time I listened to a Prince album. I fell in love with Prince as a 10-year-old while listening to Dirty Mind on vinyl in its entirety, sitting on the wooden floor of my aunt’s home in North Carolina. I had never heard anything like it before or since. The cover, while shocking for some, was not shocking to me (as I didn’t know what shock was). I was SO young that all I knew innately was that this guy was different, very different, and even as a little girl I knew immediately that he FREELY expressed himself. That he was unapologetically Prince. I was fascinated that he didn’t need a last name. That his royal moniker demanded respect despite being bikini clad. I also knew that his music consisted of “quality.” That’s what I wanted to do, be apologetically me, while also creating the best work I possibly could as a budding artist! I’m still striving for that even as a 46-year-old.
I was 8 years old when Purple Rain came out. My dad got the album, and I would play the record from start to finish in every sitting. As an only child with a huge imagination, Prince was the friend, who taught me I was already special in “Baby I’m a Star,” and perhaps I could be famous one day. Even though I didn’t fit in and have a lot of friends, I could be weird, unleashed and different with “Let’s Go Crazy!” I learned about how serious and deep love could be in “Take Me With U” and “Beautiful Ones.” And, of course, in “Purple Rain” I discovered the promise of a dream, the hope of a better way and how if we come together, nothing can stop us. In Prince’s music and lyrics, I am taken on an adventure, with unexpected twists and turns in the arrangements. It’s always different, unique and special. With Prince, I am in the song, the story, and the music. No other artist can invite me inside, quite like Prince. I was hooked for life, beginning at 8 years old.
I became a fan of Prince when I was in elementary school, after watching his video for “Little Red Corvette.” I was mesmerized by the talent and hooked by the music, which evolved over the past three decades and change.
Growing up in the 70s, Motown and the Jacksons ruled for the most part. I was immediately on board as a fan from the first time I heard “Soft and Wet” at the height of the disco era. It blended in and stood out and the same time and was tantalizing even to an 8 year old like me. From that point, my love for Prince would rival that for Michael Jackson, Rick James and many others and ultimately win my unmatched musical devotion. I remain a fan because of his unparalleled musical abilities and the endless number of memories his craft has fueled in my life. Going forward, I will continue to be a student of his message of love and peace.
soulhead: What is your favorite and least favorite songs on the album?
De Angela Duff:
I must preface this by saying I prefer the songs as performed on the SOTT film live vs. the album EXCEPT for The Ballad of Dorothy Parker which he doesn’t even attempt to perform in the movie. When I want to listen to SOTT, I actually watch the movie. So my favorite song is quite different for the album vs. the movie. My favorite song from the album is “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker,” and my least favorite song is “Slow Love.” My favorite song from the film is Forever In My Life / It and my least favorite song is (drum roll) Slow Love. If you know the true history of Slow Love, you’ll understand why this is the case, hopefully.
This is a tough question. I love the “Ballad of Dorothy Parker,” “It’s Gonna Be a Beautiful Night!”and “Sign ‘O’ The Times.” My least favorite song is “Slow Love.” I never listen to it through to the end. When that chorus rolls around…”Slo–oo-oh–oo–oh– oo-oh Love,” I feel like I’m spying on a couple, who are about to get busy and need to book a hotel room. Nope, that’s not me. Must skip to the next song. Listening to “Slow Love” is like watching the bedroom scene with Prince and Apollonia in Purple Rain, and discovering they are really kissing and doing other things (not faking it) and going all the way with the tongue — too much exposure and graphic details for me.
Love is too weak to define how much “Adore” means to me. “Hot Thing” doesn’t heat me up.
The best song on this album and his best overall is “Adore.” The song is simply sublime. The melodies and harmonies are second to none. The lyrics express a sentiment that each of us hopes for and works towards in our daily lives. In my opinion, it is his ultimate masterpiece. The worst song is much harder since there are definitely tracks that are obvious classics (e.g. “Ballad of Dorothy Parker,” “If I Was Your Girlfriend”), but very few that I could potentially live without. However, I think the worst song is actually a tie between “It,” which feels way too repetitive to me. It is tied (and I had to say it) by “U Got The Look.” While commercially successful and popular overall, I am not in love with the duet.
Check out this original trailer from the film:
Finally, take some time before Peach + Black to listen to the amazing Sign O’ The Times album below: