Let’s Go Crazy

In early March 1976, outside of a small, unmarked building nestled deep in the heart of a chilly Minneapolis industrial district, over a hundred young pop music hopefuls waited in line, nestling each other against the cold. Inside, a local radio station, in association with Warner Brothers Records, was holding open auditions, not unlike those seen in today’s top television hit 퀌�American Idol,퀌� allowing hopefuls the opportunity to perform for a celebrity judge and possibly secure a record contract.

At the end of a long day, the final five contestants stood together, the best Minnesota had to offer, waiting for Smokey Robinson and a chance at stardom. Among them was a young man who at the age of 7, abandoned by his father, had taught himself piano by playing along to TV jingles. By 18, he had recorded numerous demos and this, he was sure, was his only chance.

Once Smokey arrived, things got more interesting. Tired of the overproduced song-and-dance stars of the day, Robinson was looking for someone with real pop sensibilities and the heart to back it up, not just a pretty face with moves. So he judged the contest blindfolded, with his back to the contestants. That way it was the song, not the looks, that would move him.

As song after song droned over him, Smokey felt his heart sink, until he heard that voice. A voice that knew the fear of being alone, the fear of failing and the joy of singing about love.

It was that voice that would receive not a one- but a six-album deal with Warner Brothers Records. It was that voice that would immortalize the purple rain falling on the streets of Minneapolis. It was that voice that would become one of the most eccentric and brilliant pop stars of the next two decades. It was that voice that would become Prince.

Dylan Tanner loves Prince. He also has a beautiful daughter, two cats and one dog.