Corinne Bailey Rae Remembers A Night With Her Idol, Prince

Sep 2, 2016
Originally published on September 2, 2016 6:40 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Now a story about the kind of hard work that goes into being one of the greatest artists in the world, namely, Prince. This tale begins with a British singer named Corinne Bailey Rae. She's touring the U.S. right now, playing some of the songs that made her fans fall in love with her music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PUT YOUR RECORDS ON")

CORINNE BAILEY RAE: (Singing) Girl, put your records on, tell me your favorite song, you go ahead let your hair down.

SHAPIRO: Last May, she and I talked about her latest album, "The Heart Speaks In Whispers." Prince had died just a few weeks earlier, and that might be one reason I heard such strong echoes of him in these new songs, especially a song called "Horse Print Dress."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HORSE PRINT DRESS")

RAE: (Singing) Baby, I'm tickled with your love, I'm flying. Spin this kaleidoscope 'round 'cause I don't want to come down.

SHAPIRO: So I asked Corinne Bailey Rae about the impact Prince had on her, and she told me he was an inspiration, almost a mentor.

RAE: Prince came to our first show in New York, and then he came to London and invited me to those O2 Arena shows.

SHAPIRO: She went on to tell us a story. This story wasn't about her album, so we didn't include it in the interview we broadcast back in May. But it stuck in our heads, so we wanted to share it with you now.

RAE: The best night we ever had was - with Prince - was when we were both playing in Abu Dhabi. We'd finished our show we went to watch him. It was incredible, you know, he tore the house down. And then afterwards he was like, come to the aftershow. So we went to the aftershow, had a little dance, you know, he was there. And then he said to me, you know, do you want to come back to the hotel and watch the show. And I said, what are you going to do another show now? And he said, no, we're going to watch the show.

SHAPIRO: Like the video, the recording.

RAE: He meant the film - the show they just did, which was two hours long. So we're going back to the hotel room and it was on the big screen, and they all watched it back. And he went 'round - and really subtly went 'round to each member in the band and just gave them little pointers about, you know, how they could improve things.

SHAPIRO: Wow.

RAE: The main reason he wanted to watch it, he said, was because he wanted to be a better artist. You know, he pointed to himself on the screen, he said, I want to beat that guy. And I thought that was a really amazing dedication from someone who's like absolutely at the top of the game, sold millions of records, connected with millions of people all over the world and just one of the geniuses of music. And he's like, I want to be better. I want to do better. I want to do better shows.

SHAPIRO: Wow.

RAE: And he said that, you know, James Brown and Michael Jackson used to watch themselves back and critique themselves and improve, you know, how could I land on that beat better? How could I do this spin tighter? And that really blew me away. And I think so many of the best people in music are people who are just constantly working, constantly trying to improve what they do. And, yeah, I learned a lot that night just being around him and seeing his dedication.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRINCE SONG, "KISS")

SHAPIRO: That's the singer Corrine Bailey Rae remembering one of her idols, Prince.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KISS")

PRINCE: (Singing) You don't have to beautiful to turn me on. I just need your body, baby.

SHAPIRO: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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