‘I don’t like the sound of my own voice,” Prince was saying. “I hope you don’t mind if I ask you not use a tape recorder for this.”

The falsetto love man doesn’t care for his own voice? I didn’t bother telling him that so many of us feel exactly the opposite way.

In 2004, I had the opportunity to speak with the diminutive artist after his sound check and before his concert at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre. The interview took place in his dressing room, a candle-lit haven where questions about his personal life were off limits. Music played softly in the background, and an acoustic guitar sat next to a formidable collection of cosmetics, arrayed in front of a mirror.

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If the funk-pop auteur didn’t like the sound of his voice, it occurred to me that he was probably fine when it came to his own reflection.

Here’s another thing that Prince didn’t care for: people listening to his sound checks. But I had defied orders and avoided security staff long enough to hear a couple of run-throughs of I Feel For You, a song of his that was a hit for Chaka Khan in 1984.

Later, in his dressing room, when I mentioned to Prince that he was “sounding good out there,” he gave me a glare and said that nobody was allowed to hear him play before the concert proper.

He wasn’t happy, and I later wondered which member of his security detail was fired because of my snooping.

But then again, one of things we spoke of was his supposed spoiled rock-star aloofness. He dismissed it out of hand. “When they describe me as outlandish, they mean Negro,” he laughed. “It sounds the same to me and it’s restrictive, the words they use.”

After a pause, he leaned in close and asked, “Do you feel me?”

I felt him.

He had a gentleness about him – a peaceful and positive aura at odds with a reputation built on his years of public vitriol directed at record companies. “How could I not be upbeat,” he said, mentioning that the great saxophonist Maceo Parker was playing with him. “Please, I’m blessed.”

Later, during the concert, when a Parker solo wasn’t met with the applause Prince felt was due, he ground the show to a halt. “It’s a matter of respect,” he said, playfully but firmly admonishing the audience.

The performance ended with Purple Rain, the man’s celebrated anthem.

Purple rain, purple rain

If you know what I’m singing about up here

C’mon, raise your hand

And he was felt.

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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