Artwork created by Jake Franssen for Okayplayer
J'Aime Prince: 13 Times The Purple One References Paris In Song
Artwork created by Jake Franssen for Okayplayer.
Miles Marshall Lewis, a self-professed Francophile, shares some of the moments where Prince drops some beautiful Paris references in his song.
The last time I ever saw Prince, he’d descended onto New York City’s Avenue nightclub from parts unknown last March 18 to announce (of all things) an upcoming autobiography. Always notoriously dismissive about his past, he’d finally promised a memoir entitled The Beautiful Ones scheduled for late 2017— written with critic Dan Piepenbring of The Paris Review. Why Piepenbring? The French connection, of course.
READ: Prince's Limited Edition 'Black Album' Sells For More Than $5,000 In Auction
Since at least his 1979 self-titled album, Prince had a serious Francophile thing going on. His Royal Badass handpicking an editor from The Paris Review came as absolutely no surprise. Living in the French capital for seven years (2004-2011), I saw Prince live there twice—at the historic Grand Palais exhibition hall, and the intimate New Morning club for an amazing four-hour aftershow. (In the 11 times I saw him in concert, the New Morning show wins as my absolute favorite.) Kissing on the steps of Versailles and strolling past Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower with Prince banging on my iPhone, it occurred to me that France made quite a few appearances in his lyrics, almost as if it represented something to him.
Want proof? Here’s an abridged list of subtle French connections from the Purple One’s hyper-prolific oeuvre spanning decades. They were legion, leading us to wonder what the City of Light might’ve ultimately meant to our man from Minneapolis.
Sign 'O' The Times:
The lead line of 1987’s hit effort, he said, “In France a skinny man died of a big disease with a little name…”
Prince used Controversy Music as the publishing company for most of his songs, but the instrumentals he wrote and performed pseudonymously as Madhouse circa 1986 were all copyrighted under Parisongs; ditto for all his output with protégé band The Family (of “The Screams of Passion” fame).
It's Gonna Be a Beautiful Night:
“It’s Gonna Be a Beautiful Night” from Sign o’ the Times was recorded live in Paris at Le Zénith.
Girls & Boys:
“Girls & Boys” has that French lyric: “Vous êtes très belle, mama…” and the bit about loving to “kiss on the steps of Versailles."
Alexa de Paris:
The B-side to “Mountains,” Parade’s second single from 1986, was an instrumental with incredible drumming from Sheila E. entitled “Alexa de Paris.” (It’s criminal this didn’t make his 1993 greatest hits album, The Hits/The B-sides).
U Got the Look:
The “U Got the Look” video has singer Sheena Easton rolling through Paris while French icons speed by in the background: the Eiffel Tower, the Moulin Rouge, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Egyptian obelisk at Invalides.
Around the World in a Day:
That lyric from 1985’s “Condition of the Heart,” off his psychedelic Around the World in a Day: “There was a girl in Paris whom he sent a letter to…”
Do U Lie:
“Do U Lie” opens with a little French girl’s “Les enfants qui mentent ne vont pas au paradis,” which means, “The kids who lie don’t go to heaven.”
“Cindy C,” Prince’s Black Album ode to supermodel Cindy Crawford: “This song’s about a high-class model over in Paris, France…”
Not to mention “Sexy MF” where he says, “We’re all alone in a villa on the Riviera/That’s in France on the south side in case you care.”
It's Gonna Be Lonely:
And way back to “It’s Gonna Be Lonely,” from 1979’s Prince: “And who could ever resist your accent from gay Paris/It gets me every time.”
The Belle of St. Mark:
Prince even lent his Francophilia to protégé Sheila E. on her 1984 single, “The Belle of St. Mark”: “His Paris hair, it blows in the warm Parisian air/That blows whenever his Paris hair is there.”
Under the Cherry Moon:
Lastly, who could forget Under the Cherry Moon, the ’50s-style black-and-white comedy directed by Prince? This unsuccessful 1986 follow-up to Purple Rain was set entirely in Nice, France.
Miles Marshall Lewis is a popular cultural critic and author. Follow him (and us!) on social media @furthermucker.