Whatever Happened to All of Those Prince Proteges?

May 4, 2016

In the 1980s and ’90s, Prince introduced lots of young singers to the world, writing and producing songs for them. But how’d they do without Prince? 

Sheila E.

She started drumming professionally as a teenager, and it helped that her father was iconic Latin jazz drummer Pete Escovedo. She was an accomplished session drummer by 1978 when she met Prince after a concert with her father. Prince didn’t record with her until 1984, when he prominently featured her drumming and singing on songs recorded for Purple Rain. That association helped launch a solo pop career. Her first single, “The Glamorous Life” (written by Prince) was a top 10 hit and led to a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist.

Morris Day; The Time; Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis

In 1981, Prince took an R&B band from his hometown of Minneapolis called Flyte Time, added in Morris Day (they were high school bandmates) on vocals and renamed the group Morris Day and the Time, which featured prominently in Purple Rain. They had a huge hit with “Jungle Love,” co-written by Prince.

The Time toured successfully and charted a few more hits, until Prince fired keyboardist Jimmy Jam and bassist Terry Lewis—they missed some tour dates because of a blizzard. The duo decided to become producers, and by the end of the ‘80s were among the most sought after producers in pop. They’ve closely worked with Janet Jackson onControl and  Rhythm Nation 1814, which generated a total of 12 top 10 hits.

Diamond and Pearl

In 1991, Prince promoted two of his background dancers, Lori Elle and Robia LaMorte. Planning an album called Diamonds and Pearls, he gave Elle and LaMorte the stage names of “Diamond and Pearl,” featured them in four music videos, and put them on the cover of the album. Prince never made an album for them, but on the tour in support of Diamonds and Pearls, he made them do all of the media and press because he didn’t feel like it. Elle went on to be a Broadway choreographer, creating dances for Smokey Joe’s Café, Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, and a revival of West Side Story. LaMorte focused on acting, most notably co-starring on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Carmen Electra

Best known for starring on Baywatch, posing forPlayboy, and being married to basketball player Dennis Rodman, Electra’s career began in 1991 when she moved to Los Angeles to become a professional dancer. Instead, she met Prince, who thought she should be a singer and a rapper. He produced Carmen Electra’s first and only album…which flopped.

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