The Revolution: Prince's Band On Reuniting And Healing The band that backed Prince during the Purple Rain era is on tour celebrating his music. Members Wendy Melvoin, Bobby Z. and Doctor Fink say it helps them — and audiences — to process their grief.

Ladies And Gentlemen, The Revolution: Prince's Band On Reuniting And Healing

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Finally today, let's talk about Prince. Music lovers are still mourning the artist's death last April. And those paying tribute often return to one monumental work, "Purple Rain." The album and the film won three Grammys and an Oscar, influenced countless musicians and made Prince a superstar.


PRINCE AND THE REVOLUTION: (Singing) It's such a shame our friendship had to end, purple rain, purple rain.

MARTIN: But a critical ingredient in that success was the band, The Revolution, known for their big sound, tight discipline and above all, chemistry. Prince and The Revolution would go on to make three albums in three years before they broke up to pursue a range of different projects.

Now, though, the band is back together for a reunion tour in celebration of Prince's life and the groundbreaking music they made together during those years. The tour is making a swing through the Washington-D.C. area. And three of the band members were nice enough to come into our studios in Washington, D.C., to visit with us. Bobby Z., Wendy Melvoin and Matt Fink, thank you all so much for joining us.

WENDY MELVOIN: Oh, my God...

BOBBY Z.: Thank you.

MELVOIN: ...That was, like, the greatest intro.


MELVOIN: Can I take those words...

MATT FINK: Very nice.

MELVOIN: ...With us and just...

MARTIN: Oh, you could take me with you, and I could introduce you.

MELVOIN: (Singing) Take me...

BOBBY Z. AND MATT FINK: (Singing) With you.


MARTIN: Thank you all so much for coming in, especially when you're on this demanding tour. So I want to go back to when you all got together. You were either all in your teens or just out of your teens, including Prince. He was - what? - like, 18?

BOBBY Z.: Seventeen.

MELVOIN: He was 17.

MARTIN: Seventeen. I wanted to ask what got you into it. And did you sense, at the time, that this was going to be something that would change your lives? Wendy, do you want to start?

MELVOIN: I was the last to join the fold, and I think the final stitch in what he was trying to accomplish in terms of creating the perfect quilt. I knew at a very young age - I was 13 years old. I was at a club in Los Angeles as an underage delinquent. And I heard - on the dance floor, I heard a song, and I ran up to the deejay and said, who's that girl? And he looked at me, and he went, what girl? I said, the song you're playing right now, and he said, that's a guy. His name is Prince. The song's "Soft And Wet."


PRINCE: (Singing) All I want to see is the love in your eyes.

MELVOIN: I, from that moment on, was completely taken by him. And I joined properly when he asked me in '82. Lisa Coleman, the keyboard player in the band, her and I were a couple, and Prince asked me to play with the band at a soundcheck. Cut to - he called everybody in the band and said, how do you feel about Wendy joining the band? And then I got a call.

MARTIN: Bobby, how did it start for you?

BOBBY Z.: Well, it started with walking by Studio A at Chris Moon's studio and hearing this glorious vocal sound of his stacked harmonies and seeing the afro. And I didn't get a head - you don't get...

MELVOIN: (Laughter) You don't get a full head turn.

BOBBY Z.: You don't get a head turn with Prince.


BOBBY Z.: You get the eyes.

MELVOIN: You get an eye.


BOBBY Z.: So I got the side eye, and then I, you know - I was just like, hey, what's going on...

MELVOIN: I think to speak to your initial question - did we know that there was something special going on? Yeah.

BOBBY Z.: Yeah.

MELVOIN: For sure.

FINK: Yeah.

BOBBY Z.: I did. I mean, it took...

MELVOIN: I did for sure.

BOBBY Z.: For me, the world was late. I saw it immediately. You know, I mean, I had a lot of struggles hanging on, but I drank gallons of the Kool-Aid. I couldn't get enough of it, and still drinking it to this day. I'm a proud Prince Kool-Aid drinker.

MARTIN: You're not the only one. You're not the only one.


PRINCE AND THE REVOLUTION: (Singing) Hey, check it all out. Baby, I know what it's all about. Before the night is through, you will see my point of view even if I have to scream and shout. Baby, I'm a star.

MARTIN: You know, I wanted to ask you - he was famously demanding as a taskmaster. Does that carry over into your work today?

FINK: It does.

MARTIN: Matt Fink, you want to take that?

FINK: Yeah, it does. But he was so dedicated to his craft that he really did make it fun.


PRINCE AND THE REVOLUTION: (Singing) Oh, yeah. Oh.

FINK: The enthusiasm was so infectious that we wanted to bring creativity to the table every day as well. So we would jam for several hours at rehearsals before even starting to work on a song, you know, to play something from a new album. And that would get recorded, and those kinds of ideas would get laid down. And, you know, he would take from some of it, but not always because he had his own vision. But it was - that creative process was - it was always happening for him.

MARTIN: Wendy, you know I have to ask as a guitarist yourself - how do you handle his parts? Do you take his parts - or what do you do?

MELVOIN: I play his parts, but, you know, he hired me because I could. I was a musician before as a young kid. I come from a musical family, and I grew up in Los Angeles. My father was part of The Wrecking Crew. I had already been around all of it, and my gift as a musician was being able to play rhythm very, very well.

And over the years turning into a film composer and TV composer, I've honed my craft on many different instruments and my guitar playing has just gotten better, so I'm not foolish enough to try and do certain things I know I'm not capable of doing. I'm not even going to try. But there are certain ones that I take that are iconic to him, but they're my nod to him.


MELVOIN: (Singing) I can't disguise the pounding of my heart. It beats so strong.

You know, there's a certain muscle memory to the audience when they hear a certain line that he did. And I do my best to nod to that, but it's not going to be him. It's going to be me, and I'm asking the audience to take the position of Prince, not me.


MELVOIN: (Singing) I don't care pretty baby. Take me with you.


PRINCE: (Singing) Come on and touch the place in me that's calling out your name.

MARTIN: If you're just joining us, I'm speaking with drummer Bobby Z., guitarist Wendy Melvoin and keyboardist Matt Fink - Dr. Fink, three members of The Revolution. They are touring in celebration of Prince and his life and his music. And they swung through the Washington, D.C., area, and they were nice enough to stop by our studios in Washington, D.C. What's the vibe been like on the tour so far? I'm assuming that people come because they love the music. They love the band. They love the spirit. But, you know, is there any haterade (ph) happening?

MELVOIN: Oh, for sure.

MARTIN: Really?

MELVOIN: Oh, for sure.

BOBBY Z.: I had a guy come up to me and his girlfriend said, you know, he was really skeptical, but you got him. And that made me feel really good. You know, there's going to be people that are going to come in an ambulance-chasing kind of way, but we're going to try to win those people over, too. I mean, Prince's music does that every time, turns everybody into a smile. And there are some moments in the show without giving it away that are pretty heartbreaking, too, so...

MARTIN: Are your hearts still broken?

MELVOIN: Oh, God, yeah. For sure.

FINK: Of course, of course.

MELVOIN: Navigating through that kind of loss has been really difficult for anyone who's known him or been involved with him. But we were the first people that we contacted after he died, and we didn't know what to do. We were close to getting back together before he died. And, you know, when someone dies in the hope of a future X, Y, Z meets a brick wall, it becomes unnavigable (unintelligible).

And so we decided that we would try and take it as a band trying just to find a way to heal it with the audience and have them try and, you know, have our broken hearts sort of swimming in a pool together and see if we could find a common thread of healing.

MARTIN: But people are still writing about him.


MARTIN: They're still...

FINK: It's very raw.

MELVOIN: Bobby was...

BOBBY Z.: They're just starting to write about him.

FINK: Yeah.

MELVOIN: Yeah. And Bobby was the one that said, you know, there's - they're playing Mozart's music. They're going to be playing Prince music in 100 years from now. So it's...

BOBBY Z.: Yeah. We're still arguing about what Mozart meant. And when we're gone, people will have to argue about what the notes were played. But while we're alive, you're getting a real unique representation of authenticity of stuff we worked on directly.

MELVOIN: And what it meant to him, too.

BOBBY Z.: Yeah.

MARTIN: You know, earlier this month, we heard that there would be a posthumous album of some unreleased Prince recordings that had been locked up at Paisley Park, and we understand that it's quite a large amount of material. And then one single was released then was taken down. And now apparently there's some legal arguments about it. I find myself wanting to ask do you think he would have wanted these tracks released?

MELVOIN: You know, we can extrapolate till the cows come home. It is such a storm of complexity with his estate that everything and anything is contested, and we as a band have been trying desperately to distance ourself from any of the complications that are arising in that estate. We do know for a fact there's at least - he could release two records a year for the next 25 years of unreleased material. That's a fact. Our era - we have at least four records in that vault that could be released, but we don't really know where it's going to go because we don't know. You know?

MARTIN: Bobby, did you want to add?

BOBBY Z.: Yeah. The fact is there's oceans of material, and he made a comment that I won't put it out, but somebody else will. So I think he knew that people were rabid about him and his music, so I'm pretty sure he knew that all this stuff would see the light of day. But as Wendy said, how it sees the light of day will be interesting in the years ahead.

MELVOIN: It will, indeed, because there's a lot of sharks.

MARTIN: I'm sure every day is different kind of on the tour. But can I just ask each of you, like, what's your favorite moment? What's your favorite part of it? So, Wendy, why don't I start with you? And, Bobby, I'm going to give you the last word. How about that? Wendy?

MELVOIN: It's at the very end of the show when I say thank you to the audience, and they say thank you back. It's a - it's really healing.

MARTIN: Matt Fink?

FINK: I agree. Yeah. That's the best thing about it.

MARTIN: Bobby?

BOBBY Z.: Just the smile on people's faces. You know? I don't think they've smiled since last April 21 when they heard the word Prince, and now they're getting a chance to celebrate with us and mourn with us. And it's a beautiful thing.


MELVOIN: I'm going to talk about cognitive dissonance. Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life. Electric word - life, it means forever, and that's a mighty long time. But I'm here to tell you there's something else - the afterworld.

MARTIN: Bobby Z., Matt Fink, Wendy Melvoin, three members of The Revolution. They're touring now in memory of their bandmate Prince who died last year. Thanks so much for joining us.

MELVOIN: Thank you.

BOBBY Z.: Thank you.

FINK: Thanks.

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