STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
@brianbingaman on Twitter
Still coming to grips with the death of Prince last year, members of The Revolution — the enigmatic entertainer’s backing band during his rise to super stardom in the ’80s — have reunited and are on tour celebrating his legacy.
For drummer Robert Rivkin, who goes by the stage name Bobby Z., the loss is particularly deep. He was in Prince’s band from the beginning of his career in 1978 until The Revolution went their separate ways. “To tell you that I’m alive, and he is not, is more than strange,” said Rivkin, who became a spokesman for the American Heart Association after surviving a heart attack in 2010. He raises awareness of the often atypical symptoms of a heart attack, as well as funds for the AHA, through his charity, My Purple Heart — a name he says Prince gave a thumbs-up to use.
“Two summers ago I was at Paisley Park for the 30th anniversary of ‘Purple Rain.’ He was in his full glory,” Rivkin said, adding that Prince was particularly excited about the then-new music that became the albums “Art Official Age” and “Plectrumelectrum.”
Bobby Z., Wendy Melvoin, Lisa Coleman, Brown Mark and Matt Fink will take the stage at the TLA at 8 p.m. April 30, and for a sold out show April 29. Rivkin said the sets have been featuring “Purple Rain” cuts such as “Computer Blue,” not-often-heard hits like “Pop Life” and the “Under the Cherry Moon”-era track “Mountains.” He described the concerts as having a special energy, with a lot of audience sing-along.
“A year ago, we never imagined this would happen. But now he’s gone, and we have to do this for us and the fans,” he said.
When asked how he reacted to the drum machine and electric percussion sounds Prince started using on his breakthrough album “1999,” Rivkin said: “Like all professions, if it’s getting automated you get scared. Our manager said: ‘It’s there — learn how to use it.’”
Although the film “Purple Rain” elevated the members of The Revolution to what Rivkin described as international movie star status, a la “Hard Day’s Night,” after the conclusion of their 1986 tour with Prince, Melvoin and Coleman pursued their own musical interests and Sheila E. would take the place of Bobby Z. “All bands kind of evolve, and he was always ahead of himself. When we went on tour with ‘Purple Rain,’ (the 1985 follow-up) ‘All around the World in a Day’ was already in the can. He didn’t want anybody to look back,” he commented.