When Prince passed away, his longtime musical director, Morris Hayes, wasn’t surprised by the honors and the memorials that followed.
“Prince was No. 1. He was an iconic superstar in terms of music,” Hayes said.
“Prince was rock star’s rock star. I was with him for 20 years. He was the biggest person in the room, no matter where he was. At the same time, with opioids in the press and the media, when somebody as big as Prince succumbs to that, that’s a big news story. With celebrities, it reminds us there’s a really huge problem.”
He was shocked by the purple hue that took over the world.
“Every place went purple,” he said. “That was mind-boggling to me—the Sydney Opera House, for example. That was a powerful thing for an enigmatic artist. We knew he was a big star and a big celebrity, but it went beyond what I imagined.”
New Power Generation comes to the Chandler Center for the Arts on Friday, September 27, to spread Prince’s musical message.
After years of touring, recording, playing and performing with Prince, the members of the New Power Generation perform a nonstop musical kaleidoscope of Prince’s most iconic hits. The show features classic Prince & the NPG songs like “Cream,” “Sexy MF,” “Get Off” and “Diamonds & Pearls,” intermingled with songs like “Nothing Compares 2 U,” “1999,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Pop Life,” “Purple Rain” and “Kiss.”
“Fans can expect the same level of performance people were used to when they saw Prince—minus Prince,” Hayes said. “One of the things we want to bring to that show is the same level of professionalism and musical quality.
“We’re acutely aware it’s a different situation without Prince at the helm. We respect the music and pay tribute in a way that Prince would be proud.”
Hayes had an inkling the New Power Generation would be able to continue. After Prince died, the NPG performed during a tribute in St. Paul. The more than five-hour concert featured 52 songs.
“There was so much music,” he said. “It was such a great tribute. We had Steve Wonder, Chaka Khan, Doug E. Fresh. It was like a long overdue family reunion. It was a sad situation, but we all felt really good about it.
“Our former manager was there, and she saw it. She saw how grateful everyone was. There’s still an appetite for Prince’s music to be performed live.”
Hayes enjoys sharing stories about Prince as well. That’s something else fans can expect from the band—guitarist/vocalist Tony Mosley, bassist Sonny Thompson, percussionist/vocalist/drummer Damon Dickson and guitarist Levi Seacer Jr. NPG’s lead singer is the charismatic MacKenzie, a Los Angeles-based singer, originally from a small town in Virginia.
“I was with Prince for 20 years,” Hayes said.
“I remember one time, we saw Robert Downey Jr., who plays Iron Man. We were at a place in L.A. I saw him across the way with his friends, ‘Oh man, there’s Prince.’ He was just trying to build his courage to say something.
“It happens all the time—maybe not Iron Man. We were getting ready to leave and when we get in that mode to go to the car, Prince got up, the security guard got up and they went to the car. Prince walked right by Robert Downey Jr. It was a crushing moment. He shot down Iron Man.”
Eventually, Prince invited Downey to his home.
“That’s how huge Prince was, though. He was always a presence.