Prince was an artist known for his wide-ranging musical tastes. He favoured funk and R&B but had inclinations towards rock, jazz, hip-hop, and even the folk styling of Joni Mitchell. He created his own sonic world where genre signifiers were almost impossible to level onto him, and his collection of records, tapes, and CDs is vast.
The records store Electric Fetus in Minneapolis was a favourite spot for Prince to shop for music, and even though it wasn’t as fashionable as vinyl, ‘The Purple One’ continued to buy CDs well into the 2010s. During his last visit to the shop, on Record Store Day in 2016, Prince picked up six CDs that work as accurate summations of his genre-blending ways. Just five days later, he would be gone.
Here are the six CDs Prince picked up that day.
The last six records Prince bought before he died:
Talking Book – Stevie Wonder
Prince’s dedication to Stevie Wonder was well known. Wonder’s iconic mix of funk, soul, rock, R&B, and pop were foundational in Prince’s own exploration and amalgamation of the genres. Like Wonder, Prince was a talented multi-instrumentalist who favoured a wide range of songwriting topics and always kept up with modern musical sounds.
Depending on who’s making the list, Taking Book is either the first or second masterpiece of Wonder’s career (I say second because Music of My Mind is pure gold), and the mark it left on Prince was easy to see. Prince would later get to play the album’s first single, ‘Superstition’, with Wonder in 2010.
The Time Has Come – The Chamber Brothers
The Chamber Brothers are now a somewhat forgotten psychedelic soul band from the late ’60s, having been overshadowed by acts like Sly and the Family Stone around the time of their creative peak. But the band were leaders in the funk movement and were instrumental in creating a mixed-race group of musicians before such a thing was widely accepted.
‘The Time Has Come’, and its parent album is another great example of genre-fusing, taking the then-nascent psychedelic rock genre and combining it into a stew of soul and R&B. The album also has fantastic takes on The Impressions’ ‘People Get Ready’ and Wilson Pickett’s ‘In the Midnight Hour’.
For a direct line, listen to The Time Has Come and Around the World in a Day back to back to understand the mammoth influence.
Hejira – Joni Mitchell
Prince’s admiration for Joni Mitchell has been well documented, but most point to his love of Blue, specifically the song ‘A Case of You’, when talking about the artist’s devotion to the folk-rock icon. But Prince was a Joni lifer, as evidenced by his final CD pick up (maybe he already had Blue and wanted to go for something else).
Hejira is a travel record, and it plays as a sort of tragic mirror to the way Prince’s life ended. He had become unresponsive on his personal jet after his final show in Atlanta and had to be revived with naloxone. Hejira celebrates the journeys of exploration but also warns of the toll that the road can have on a person. Prince probably needed a break, but slowing down wasn’t his style.
Inspirational Gospel Classics – Swan Silvertones
The Swan Silvertone Singers were a gospel choir that achieved a fair amount of success with rock audiences in the ’60s. Paul Simon credits them for inspiring ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, while John Fogerty cited them as providing the basis for ‘Proud Mary’.
Prince’s own devotion was well-known as well. A Jehovah’s Witness in the latter part of his life, Prince was known to avoid certain lewd numbers from his past as he grew older, at least in part due to his religious faith. It’s not surprising that his dedication to God was strong, even in his final days.
The Best of Missing Persons – Missing Persons
In terms of ’80s pop stars, few could match the level of success that Prince obtained. Through his collection of fantastic records and singles, unparalleled abilities as a live performer, and mysterious life offstage, Prince was only rivalled by names like Michael Jackson and Madonna when it came to superstardom.
Part of that success came from keeping his ear to the ground with regard to new acts. Missing Person’s was a new wave band that brought the style of English synth-pop into an American setting. Prince would have been foolish not to take note of the rise of the new wave, and he evidently kept a fondness for the genre well into his later life.
Santana IV – Santana
It’s no surprise that Prince would take inspiration from the fiery fretboard work of Carlos Santana. What is slightly surprising is his choice of album. Santana IV was a reunion of the core Santana lineup from their early history, featuring most of its most celebrated lineup that played Woodstock and played on the group’s first three albums.
Since the band imploded after the third Santana album, Santana IV is appropriately named, even if it’s technically the band’s 38th album. Prince was as intrigued as any die-hard Santana devotee must have been and dutifully picked up the CD as his final music purchase.