The professional careers of Prince and the legendary New York disco nightclub Studio 54 only briefly overlapped during their contemporary heydays. Prince was only 22 when the original club was shut down in 1980, thanks to its owners evading taxes, and although he had two albums out by that point, Prince never performed at the iconic disco club.
That’s probably for the best. Prince himself was lukewarm on disco, with only his debut LP, For You, showing any real influence from the genre. The singer moved in a more R&B direction for his next album, and from there would begin to fuse styles into his own signature blend of pop, rock, and funk. As Prince found his sound, the original Studio 54 went under, and as it reopened, it found itself at the pointed end of the disco backlash that was taking over in the early 1980s.
In 1998, the Roundabout Theatre Company experienced a building issue with the Henry Miller Theatre, where the company was staging a revival of Cabaret. They decided to move into the Studio 54 space, which had largely been abandoned. Thanks to the show’s success, the company decided to buy the space permanently, revitalising the legendary name of the nightclub in the process.
A year later, the theatre played host to the 1999 ‘Yahoo Internet Life Online Music Awards’. The entire ceremony remains a fascinating time capsule into just how novel the internet still was in 1999 with awards like ‘Best Artist Site’ and ‘Best Internet Only Album’ being handed out to The Beastie Boys and Sarah McLachlin’s Mirrorball, respectively. Also there that night was the one and only Prince, who was publicly still going by the moniker ‘The Artist’ at the time.
Prince took home an award when ‘The War’ won ‘Best Online Single’, and the singer took the stage for a performance as well — but not with any of his material. Instead, he was joined by Sly and the Family Stone bassist Larry Graham and took on some of Graham’s legendary back catalogue. The makeshift band performed ‘The Jam’ and ‘Free’ from Graham’s ’70s outfit Graham Central Station, before finishing off the performance with a rendition of the Family Stones’ ‘Everyday People’.
Check out the performances of ‘The Jam’ and ‘Free’ down below.