Magazine article Guitar Player

Purple Partnership: The Revolution's Wendy Melvoin Recalls the Co-Writing Process for Purple Rain

Magazine article Guitar Player

Purple Partnership: The Revolution's Wendy Melvoin Recalls the Co-Writing Process for Purple Rain

Article excerpt

HISTORY TENDS TO PORTRAY PRINCE as a genius/control freak/one-man band, but it's important to note that Purple Rain is credited as "produced, arranged, composed and performed by Prince and The Revolution." This is not lip service. Like Robin to Prince's Batman, or Keef to his Mick, Wendy Melvoin's sass, spirited vocals, and avant-garde guitar structures played a crucial role in the creation of the Purple One's masterpiece. Melvoin offered to look back at some Purple Rain sessions as the reformed Revolution continued its 2018 tour.

Which Purple Rain songs were you involved in creating?

I had a hand in everything, except "Darling Nikki" and "The Beautiful Ones."

How did you develop the chordal structure to "Purple Rain"?

The band was in rehearsal, and Prince brought in this chorus. He said, "I've got these three chords. It's almost like a straight-up country song. I need everybody to be who you are, and let's make it something else." I used my bag of tools to take this progression that sounded simple, and rework the chords to give it more subtext and elevate the song into something higher. I had a jazz-harmony background, so I re-harmonized the chords as triads. I also used my thumb on the neck similar to the way Richie Havens did. If my index finger was barring the 3rd fret, my thumb could barre the low-E and A strings on the 5th or 6th frets. That's how I played "Purple Rain."

For the record, what is the song's opening chord? …

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