Morris Hayes on 'Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic'

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Morris Hayes, Prince's longtime keyboardist and music director for the New Power Generation, explains how Ani DiFranco inspired Prince. (MPR)
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Morris Hayes speaks on Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic
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Covering musical and personal ground, New Power Generation keyboardist/musical director Morris Hayes and Purple Current host Sean McPherson taped a marathon interview - more than two hours, all told - so we're sharing it album by album. Here's the fourth of ten.

Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic

You're with Purple Current. I'm Sean McPherson. I'm chatting with Morris Hayes, and we're digging into some incredible records from Prince's catalog, including Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic, which was a wildly collaborative record - very different than almost any record in Prince's catalog as far as so many featuring spots and so many different vocalists showing up. Can you set the scene a little bit about Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic and working with Prince at that time?

You're right. It's really crazy because there's Chuck D and Maceo [Parker]. There was a lot of different - Sheryl Crow - just a lot of really different artists that participated on making that record. It was really interesting, just day-to-day, just with the different studio sessions. Speaking of Maceo, Maceo had come to the studio. He was recording with Parliament and doing something with George Clinton. I remember Prince telling me, "Look at him, man." It was Maceo, Fred Wesley and Pee Wee [Ellis] - they kind of speak their own language. It's like they're saying stuff. It was like Eddie Murphy doing a comedic thing about James Brown [imitates James Brown]. It was like that in real life. Maceo would go like, "Fred, do the thing where - and yeah." Just like that.

A lot of shorthand.

And then pow, they'd play it and everybody was locked in like bananas. And he's like look at them - it's organic, they can see each other's thoughts. And he just had such a great respect for Maceo. And when he called him in on that to do that, it was like bananas. I think at that point it was like yeah, we got to have him and Pee Wee, like we got to annex him. Because that was like - James was one of his favorite artists in terms of one of the people I think - the way I always looked at Prince was like he is basically, in my estimation, not his but mine, I said Prince is basically James, Sly Stone, Little Richard, Elvis, just all rolled up into one artist because he took certain elements from each of those - James and all of them - certain elements from each one of those artists that made his whole thing. And he just made hybrid situation out of that. And Jimi Hendrix, of course. I was like man, this is like bananas. This record, he just decided to try some different things and get some other collaborators and do some other things. "Everyday is a Winding Road" - all of these different types of vibes, but then put a different spin on it. It was really cool. It was fun for me because I love Chuck D and I love all the - Sheryl Crow is amazing. She's down my neck of the woods in Arkansas. So it's like it was really cool. I just thought in doing that he went outside of his norm.

On Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic Prince certainly did go outside of his norm, especially - some folks I wasn't surprised that he called up, but then there was some head-scratchers, like he had worked with Chuck D, but Eve was a young artist at the time, and they sounded so sexy together. To me it elongated Prince's relevance with a younger artist because he could really hang with Eve on the tracks. Can you tell me about working an artist like Eve in that setting?

He really liked her. She had a vibe. I think he liked that confidence that Eve had. She was real cool, and it didn't hurt that somebody that was working in Londell McMillan's camp. He represented the Rough Riders, and so he was tight with them, and I think he may have even made that introduction. But Eve was dope. We all liked her, and Prince thought she had a very cool style, and that she just had a real clean flow in terms of how she delivered her stuff. And I think that just appealed to him. We was always happy to see that connection happen. We just thought it was such a departure from what he was doing. I think it did ingratiate him to a different audience. I think a lot of people that was not checking for that was like oh, wait a minute. And like you said, they were hanging. They just doing it, and I think that was really incredible - just a difference in what he was doing. So I dug it. I thought it was cool and was anxious to see what the next thing was going to do.

You're listening to Purple Current. I'm chatting with Morris Hayes, longtime keyboard player with Prince. Right now we're digging into Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic. And again, a very collaboration-heavy record, and one artist that maybe on paper would seem like a head-scratcher to have involved, but if you actually think about kindred spirits I think probably has a pretty big connection, is Ani DiFranco. I got to thinking about all these artists that really struggled against the major label system or disavowed it. I'm thinking about Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, Ani DiFranco - all people who Prince had profound respect for. With these artists where it seems like they were really charting their own path, do you sense that Prince felt some sort of alliance with those individuals?

There's no question about it. Ani DiFranco was one of his heroes in terms of the way she did her business, the way she was independent and really successful without that whole big label scenario. And I think that's something he looked up to with regard to Ani. I talked to him about it a couple times. He just really loved her in terms of being a maverick - somebody that was out doing the game and hitting it. And he liked that fact that she was good at what she was doing. Ani was really severe. She was dope. And I think that all rolled in the fact that she had the business savvy and industry savvy like that. I think he really took a note from her playbook and just decided this something he was definitely going to blow up, and wanted to work with people like this. That was really interesting at the time. I remember meeting her, and just how cool the relationship was. I was really glad to see it. And Ani and Maceo, they were cool. So I think that was a really big deal, and I think that really influential for him.

You're tuned into Purple Current. I'm chatting with Morris Hayes, longtime keyboard player with Prince. We're digging into Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic, and we've been talking a little bit about Maceo. Maceo has such a sonic fingerprint basically that connects to James Brown, that connects to Parliament-Funkadelic that when you hear the alto bouncing across on a track it's unmistakable. How did Maceo's presence, first as guest, for a time as a member, jive with the Hornheads, jive with the folks who had been there from day one? I'm not a horn player. I'm a bass player. Nobody ever goes oh, and this is Charles Mingus who's also joining you on the gig. How does that work?

I think it works because everybody respects Maceo. I think when you're a Hornhead, and you're any horn person, when somebody says Maceo Parker, that is an instant legend that you have to just tip your hat to and give the proper - we say "the props" to - because that's a OG number-one.

The great thing about me is I'm just country. I just ask folks stuff because I just want to know. I'm curious, and so I asked Maceo one day, I said, "Maceo, how did you get to be Maceo?" He said, "Morris," - he just called me Morris the Boris - he said, "When I was coming up, everybody wanted to be Bird. There was so many people wanting to be Bird, that was really good, that could really be Bird better than me - so I started thinking I can't be Bird. Too many people want to be Bird. So I have to do something different. I wanted people to remember me." And Prince, one of his favorite lines about Maceo - Prince used to tell me, "Maceo whup people with three notes. He'll play three notes and whup everybody in the room." Just like Mohammed Ali - just liked he'd do three notes and play [sings] and whup everybody. He said he loved that about Maceo, and Maceo just said, "Morris, I wanted people to remember me. I just found this style." The way he could just get in the pocket and get into a place that just like - he occupied that space. And man, I'm telling you, I was like wow. And he'd just say yeah man, and it was just one of those things, and it stuck. But that was a conscious thing, to say, I want to just create my own space that I exist in, and here we have a lotta people who want to play like Maceo.

I think that was the thing, and I think the fact that it's like James Brown DNA. That's something that appealed to Prince I think in terms of these are the cats that inspired him. Having Maceo - that's like having Jacques Cousteau clean out your fish tank, man. It's like you got Maceo showing you, doing the thing, it's like - you don't get no better than that. And for Prince to be able to have him backing him and playing on his thing, I think that was a dream of his as much as having [Larry] Graham play bass on stuff. These are all people that we grew up listening to and admired, and then here he is and playing with us. It was crazy.

More from Morris Hayes


The Gold Experience (1995)Crystal Ball (1996)Emancipation (1996)Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic (1999)The Rainbow Children (2001)


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