The Beautiful Ones

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"The Beautiful Ones"
Song by Prince
from the album Purple Rain
ReleasedJune 25, 1984[1]
FormatCD
RecordedSeptember 20, 1983
Sunset Sound, Los Angeles[1]
GenrePsychedelic pop
Length5:13
LabelWarner Bros.
Songwriter(s)Prince[2]
Producer(s)Prince[2]

"The Beautiful Ones" is the third track on Prince and The Revolution's soundtrack album Purple Rain. It was one of three songs produced, arranged, composed, and performed by Prince. The others were "When Doves Cry" and "Darling Nikki". The song was recorded at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles by Peggy Mac and David Leonard[2] on September 20, 1983.[1] The song replaced "Electric Intercourse" on the Purple Rain album.[3]

Controversy[edit]

Susannah Melvoin[edit]

The song was originally said to be written for Susannah Melvoin[4] (Revolution band member Wendy's twin sister) to woo her away from her then-boyfriend.[5] The timeline fits, as Susannah was seeing someone else when she met Prince in May 1983. The notion that the song was written for her was also confirmed by engineer Susan Rogers. Melvoin has admitted that she isn't completely sure about the genesis of the song: "I can't say that the song was exactly our story, but he wrote it during that time," Melvoin says in Let's Go Crazy: Prince and the Making of Purple Rain. "He wasn't always specifically writing about what he was going through, because he also had to be consistent with the Purple Rain storyline, but he was drawing from things that had happened in his life."[6]

Denise Matthews[edit]

Only much later, during a 2015 interview with Ebony magazine, did Prince finally identify who the beautiful one really was: Denise Matthews aka Vanity, his one-time protégé and girlfriend.[7] The pair had met in 1980, with Prince bestowing the stage name Vanity, as he felt looking at her was like looking at the female version of himself. She would go on to inspire some of his biggest early hits. He also created a band around her, Vanity 6, for which he wrote songs and produced.[8] She had originally been cast in Purple Rain, playing the female lead in the midst of a love triangle between characters played by Prince and Morris Day, but suddenly left Prince shortly before production began. Prince clarified, "I was talking to somebody about 'The Beautiful Ones'. They were speculating as to who I was singing about – but they were completely wrong," Prince said. "If they look at it, it’s very obvious. 'Do you want him or do you want me,' that was written for that scene in Purple Rain specifically, where Morris would be sitting with [Apollonia] and there’d be this back and forth. And also, 'The beautiful ones you always seem to lose,' Vanity had just quit the movie."

Vanity's death in 2016 brought her role in this song's creation back into sharp focus for Prince. Only hours before an Australian performance, Prince learned that she had died at age 57, due to kidney failure. He reluctantly took the stage, dedicating many songs to her. A saddened Prince told the audience: "I thank you all for being patient. I'm trying to stay focused, it's a little heavy for me tonight... she knows about this one." He then played "The Beautiful Ones", replacing the lyric "I'm begging down on my knees" to "Denise, Denise".

Use in Purple Rain (film)[edit]

In the film, Prince sings the song directly from the stage to Apollonia, who is sitting with his rival Morris Day. The song is a direct and urgent appeal to Apollonia to choose Prince as her lover—and it is a direct challenge to Day. Ultimately, as the song ends and Prince lies, apparently spent, on the floor of the stage, Apollonia leaves in tears. (Later, she surprises him when he is unlocking his bike to leave.)

The version on the Purple Rain album is slightly cut; a longer version of the song exists.

Personnel[edit]

Unless otherwise indicated, Credits are adapted from Genius[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Prince (19 November 2018). "The Beautiful Ones". Prince Vault.
  2. ^ a b c Prince (and The Revolution). "Purple Rain" (Album Notes). Warner Bros. Records. 1984.
  3. ^ "Everybody Want What They Don't Got", Uptown #44 (September 8, 2000). Archived December 4, 2008, at the Wayback Machine Accessed December 22, 2008.
  4. ^ “Prince’s Girlfriend Inspires ‘The Beautiful Ones,’ But Which,” “Diffuser” (June 22, 2017). Accessed November 29, 2017
  5. ^ Nilsen, Per. Dance Music Sex Romance: Prince: The First Decade (SAF Publishing Ltd., 1999). ISBN 978-0-946719-64-8
  6. ^ “Prince’s Girlfriend Inspires ‘The Beautiful Ones,’ But Which,” “Diffuser” (June 22, 2017). Accessed November 29, 2017
  7. ^ “Prince’s Girlfriend Inspires ‘The Beautiful Ones,’ But Which,” “Diffuser” (June 22, 2017). Accessed November 29, 2017
  8. ^ “Secrets Behind Prince’s Last Australian Tour, A Year On From His Death” (April 20, 2017). Accessed November
  9. ^ "The Beautiful Ones". Genius. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  10. ^ "The Beautiful Ones - Prince (lesson)". YouTube: Son...Ted Talks Bass. 1 November 2018.