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Music

How a night with Cindy Crawford inspired a classic Prince song

Crawford had found herself alone. As usual, Nell’s nightclub was packed, and somewhere along the way, her friends had been consumed by the swirling crowd, leaving her staring up at the warm orange light emanating from the art-deco bulbs latched to the ceiling. Towards the darker fringes of the dancefloor, leather couches oozed with cross-legged couples luxuriating in one another’s company, and ahead of her, the thump of the PA sent pulses of music right to the back of the room.

It was while lost in one of those half-trances that overtake us in moments like these that Crawford felt somebody’s clothes brush along her arm. As she looked about for the mystery dancer, being nearly six feet tall, she saw only the tops of people’s heads. Then, she looked down to see Prince, who was pulling out all his best moves, dancing alongside her. Recalling that night, Crawford said: “I was out at this club called Nell’s on 14th Street in New York…and all of a sudden there was this little-er person that came and started dancing with me. And I was like, ‘Oh, that’s Prince. So cool.'”

Little did Crawford know that Prince would later release a song about that night in 1994 on his Black Album, released the following November. When the album came out, a friend approached Crawford and asked her: “‘Do you know Prince wrote a song about you?’ And it’s on the Black Album, which I still have, and it had a song on it called ‘Cindy C.’ And now I know what was going through his mind as we were dancing.”

But a quick look at the lyrics reveals that perhaps Prince had more than dancing on his mind that night. For example, Prince sings: “In the middle of the night (Oh, Cindy C) / Will you f*** with me?”, before going on to riff on the line: “Cindy C, play with me / I will pay the usual fee. (look at me)/ your birthday suit tonight / She doesn’t look as good as I do”.

There’s been some debate about the true motivation behind this song, but I wouldn’t be surprised if ‘Cindy C’ is in fact a song about rejection. Crawford was one of the most desired women of the 1990s and is an icon of the fashion world to this day. It seems perfectly possible that Prince was equally beguiled by her, but when he sings: “I’m gonna see you in (look at me) / your birthday suit tonight.” Alas, on that night in 1994, it seems that even his notorious charisma wasn’t enough to win Crawford’s heart.

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