Prince was a musical phenomenon, a singular talent, a virtuoso, a genius. Everyone seems to agree. Well, not everyone: I’m calling bullshit. Now, I realize I’m in the tiniest of minorities here, but I’ve never been impressed with Prince, and maintain that much of his music and his act were just ripped off from James Brown. In fact, I believe Prince to be the single most overrated artist in rock history. There, I said it. But what I didn’t realize until recently is that he also blatantly stole from the band America.
America, those folky, soft-rock, sort-of British harmonizers (yes, America’s members, sons of US Air Force ex-pats, actually met in England) famous for ‘Tin Man,’ ‘Horse With No Name,’ and ‘Sister Golden hair’ – as well as the first band I ever saw in concert…What connection could Prince possibly have had to them? This: Purple Rain. Arguably Prince’s biggest song, his movie, shit, basically his whole identity was wrapped up in those two iconic words. And then last week I was chilling to some mellow tunes on Sirius channel 32 The Bridge when they played America’s well-recognized top-10 hit ‘Ventura Highway,’ and as I was singing along it hit me. There it is, in the last stanza (starting at 1:45): “Wishin’ on a falling star / Waitin’ for the early train / Sorry boy, but I’ve been hit by purple rain / Aw, come on Joe, you can always change your name / Thanks a lot son, just the same.” Aha! And in case you’re wondering, that ‘Ventura Highway’ phrase appeared in 1972, 12 years before Prince’s purloinment in 1984. Stick that in your raspberry beret.
So, now that we’ve exposed this obvious pop plagiarism, let’s agree that Prince is a derivative purple sham and give a listen to the original usage by the real geniuses. Screw the Prince of Thieves, and God Bless America.