RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
"Purple Rain" turns 30-years-old this weekend.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PURPLE RAIN")
PRINCE: (Singing) Purple rain - purple rain - purple rain - purple rain.
MONTAGNE: Prince's semi-autobiographical movie hit theaters on July 27, 1984. The movie its soundtrack were both hits turning Prince into an international superstar. Back then, many people saw the movie over and over again, often clad entirely in purple including, possibly, the next two voices you're about to hear - big fans. NPR special correspondent Michele Norris and TV critic Eric Deggans.
MICHELE NORRIS, BYLINE: So do you remember the first time you saw this film because I have very specific memories of the first time I saw "Purple Rain."
ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Oh yeah - well, I was 18-years-old, and I was a musician - sort of budding musician - had just started a band that a few years later would get signed to Motown. And musicians like me - we went to see "Purple Rain" four, five, six, seve, eight, nine, 10 times, and the irony of it all was that in about three or four years, this sort of loose story of Purple Rain, an artist who's trying to be pushed out by a rival ultimately succeeds - that's what happened to my band. We lived that movie, and so it will always have a special place in my heart.
APOLLONIA KOTERO: (As Apollonia) First Avenue's really famous. A lot of bands make it after playing there - must be real exciting.
PRINCE: (As The Kid) Is that what turns you on?
KOTERO: (As Apollonia) What do you mean?
PRINCE: (As the Kid) Making it.
KOTERO: (As Apollonia) It'd be nice for a change.
DEGGANS: You can't quibble with the acting in the movie because...
NORRIS: Well, that was a nice way to put that.
DEGGANS: ...Most of them amateurs, right? Most of them are amateurs except for Clarence Williams III who played his father who was really...
NORRIS: A well established actor.
DEGGANS: An established actor and was great in the role.
NORRIS: I fee almost like I was having personal connection to this film because it really is a love letter to Minneapolis. That's the city I was raised in. My father's from Alabama, but I was raised in Minneapolis. And my cousin - my first cousin, Mark Brown, who's known as BrownMark to Prince fans, is actually a member of the band Revolution. And this film talked about not just Prince's role as an artist but also sort of the era that he ushered in with that Minneapolis sound. And you heard that in his rival band Morris Day and the Time, which used to be known as Flight Time - and just as an aside, Flight Time actually played at my prom - many, many years ago.
DEGGANS: There you go. There you go.
NORRIS: Let me ask you this.
DEGGANS: OK, sure.
NORRIS: In this film, he reminded people something important - that black artists and particularly black men with a great deal of showmanship played an important role in the foundation and the growth of rock 'n roll.
DEGGANS: Exactly. And, you know, before Prince and Michael Jackson really exploded during that time, there was always this sense that there was white music and there was black music. And black music was funky and the base predominated, and white music was rock oriented, and distorted guitar and high vocals for males dominated that. And Prince came along and said I'm going to play in all of these sandboxes. I'm going to create music that harkens back to James Brown, that harkens back to Chuck Berry, that harkens back to the best of classic rock and the best of funk and create something that you've never heard before.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LET'S GO CRAZY")
PRINCE: (Singing) Oh, no, let's go crazy. I said, let's go crazy. I said, let's go - let's go.
DEGGANS: The music was amazing. And it was like a collection of really great music videos, but it also told you something about Prince. They created this multicultural cast of characters that crossed race boundaries and class boundaries in a way that we hadn't seen before, and it was our story - a pop artist who was speaking to us had the ultimate platform of a movie which did happened much back then. So I think that all of that came together to create this phenomenon that is "Purple Rain."
NORRIS: Your favorite song?
DEGGANS: My favorite songs are not the big pop songs. So one of my favorite songs is "Darling Nikki" because I think it's so unusual.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DARLING NIKKI")
NORRIS: Which we can't play on the radio.
DEGGANS: Which you can't play. But another one of my favorite songs is "When Doves Cry" which was a big hit because there is so - when you look at it on the surface, there is not a lot to that song, but he creates this amazing composition from a really interesting drum pattern, a few chords, a few guitar lifts and that amazing voice.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHEN DOVES CRY")
PRINCE: (Singing) How can you just leave me standing alone in a world that's so cold?
NORRIS: OK, I'm dancing. What about you?
DEGGANS: (Laughing) I'm not dancing but I love that. I love all that stuff.
NORRIS: Eric Deggans, thanks for going down memory lane with us.
DEGGANS: Thanks for having me.
MONTAGNE: And that was NPR TV critic Eric Deggans and Special Correspondent Michele Norris remembering Prince's movie, "Purple Rain" when it came out 30 years ago. It's NPR News.
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