At its core, The Sopranos documented one man’s battle against the age-old truth that all ducklings eventually fly the nest. The 86 culture-changing episodes that followed simply dealt with the repercussions as the pains of their parting came home to roost. As Tony’s high-flying ways were beset by panic attacks, it became clear that no matter how high a duck flies, it must come down for water. The ducks left, and the tribulations that followed were mere ripples in the water.
The show featured many iconic musical moments, from John Cooper Clarke’s take on the mayhem of civility with ‘Evidently Chicken Town’ to Tinderstick’s melancholy dirge with ‘Tiny Tears’. However, Prince was adamant that he would lend his own work to the show’s eclectic music canon as the Purple One refused to license the use of his music for the crime show.
Apparently, Prince knew well in advance of even being asked that his work would never feature on the show. As Michael Imperioli, who is best known for playing Christopher Moltisanti in the show, told the Talking Sopranos podcast, at an after-party for Spike Lee’s Girl 6, he approached Prince. “Then his two bodyguards — a man and a woman — stepped in front of me,” Imperioli recalled. Before continuing: “And one of them says, ‘Can you not look at him, please?’ I was stunned.”
Why exactly Prince had an issue with Imperioli is unclear, and it seemingly proved equally inexplicable to the actor himself. Whether this is the reason why Prince turned down The Sopranos offer is unclear, but as producer Martin Bruestle revealed, his management certainly told them in no uncertain terms that the purple one would never lend his art to the acclaimed series.
Prince himself, however, was no stranger to featuring in TV series. The ‘When Doves Cry’ singer featured in the comedy New Girl where he appeared to have a pet butterfly. And he once again exhibited his comedic side on Muppets Tonight in 2007, where he played a southern country denizen named Jed and offered up a rendition of ‘Raspberry Sorbet’. Perhaps these appearances are proof that he simply preferred the lighter side of TV that suited his religious ways a little better.
Whether James Gandolfini would’ve been disappointed not to be able to churn out an on-screen rendition of his work is another matter entirely. In a recent Instagram Q&A with Imperioli, he revealed that the late actor’s favourite record was probably Dookie by Greenday. “He would play the vinyl of Dookie in his trailer at work. Totally serious,” Imperioli wrote. He added in another comment, “No joke. He loved Green Day.”
Adding in a later Stereogum interview: “Gandolfini would also sing ‘Basket Case’ and make up his own lyrics about HBO and the writers and producers of the sopranos,” he told the publication. “Usually when he was feeling overworked and overexposed, and his lyrics would reflect that. Some of the more musical crew members would add a verse or two. Great fun.” Imperioli added, “He also named his dog dookie and used it in his email address.”
You can check out our supercut of Tony Sopranos ten greatest lines on the show below.