Morris Day vs. the Prince Estate

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It seemed like any other Thursday until Morris Day, infamous for his role as Prince‘s nemesis in Purple Rain and the lead vocalist of The Time, posted a statement on Facebook regarding the Prince Estate that cracked open a huge case of purple drama.

I've given 40 years of my life building up a name and legacy that Prince and I came up with. A name that while he was alive, he had no problem with me using. I Literally put my blood, sweat, and tears into bringing value to that name. In fact, he booked me on several tours, and many jam packed nights at paisley park, under the name Morris Day & The Time. Not once ever saying to me that I couldn’t use that name configuration.. However, now that Prince is no longer with us – suddenly, the people who control his multi million dollar estate, want to rewrite history by taking my name away from me, thus impacting how I feed my family. So as of now, per the Prince Estate, I can no longer use Morris Day & The Time in any capacity.

Afterward, representatives of Prince’s Estate which is Comerica Bank & Trust, replied via email to music site Stereogum indicating, “Given Prince’s longstanding history with Morris Day and what the Estate thought were amicable discussions, The Prince Estate was surprised and disappointed to see his recent post. The Estate is open to working proactively with Morris to resolve this matter. However, the information that he shared is not entirely accurate.

Prince‘s heirs, who also have a stake in the Estate, were completely caught off-guard and indicated that they had no idea about this discussion that occurred between Morris Day and Comerica. “There was no discussion of this with the heirs,” said L. Londell McMillan, adding: “Comerica is very odd in how they do things.

So what’s the deal here?

Even though Comercia Bank & Trust is communicating to everyone that what Morris Day posted is “not entirely accurate“, Morris Day’s attorney was reportedly present and he indicated that what Morris took away from the meeting is exactly what was communicated.

There were some inaccuracies in Morris Day‘s statement, such as indicating that Prince did not have an issue with him using the band name. In 2011 The Time attempted to use the band name when they recorded their last album Condensate and were forced to change their name to The Original 7ven. A DVD was part of that album and includes a brief discussion on the forced name change. Morris Day was notably agitated causing an uncomfortable scene where band members are notably concerned that Morris was about to speak his mind.

When asked at a press event, Jimmy Jam told Artisan News that Prince owned the name The Time in the recording arena, but not for touring. However, the tour never came to fruition as Jesse Johnson left The Orignal 7ven due to a lack of the band’s commitment to any tour dates and as a result jumped ship to tour with D’Angelo. The Time had some feedback on Jesse Johnson‘s departure, but the damage was done.

The Time was ultimately an extension of Prince‘s funky party-pimp side and he was always actively involved in the writing and recording of their music from their debut album The Time all the way through to their album Pandemonium. When The Time wanted to record their album Condensate without any of Prince‘s involvement this time around, Prince immediately kept them from recording as The Time to protect his intellectual property ultimately forcing them to rename the band to The Original 7ven.

As expected, the move caused a lot of dissension publicly by the band, but none so much as Jesse Johnson’s swipe at Prince on the Condensate album cover where he donned a button-down shirt with a paisley design along with a sly middle finger.

Jesse Johnson’s Middle Finger to Prince

This wasn’t the first time that Prince had been protective over The Time looking back on when he had fired Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis simply for producing outside of the project. He had legitimate concerns that they would produce the “Minneapolis Sound” onto other artist albums that were outside of his control.

On the touring front, there were only a handful of shows as The Original 7ven. Many of the members left the project after Jesse Johnson‘s departure. The remaining members and their replacements became Morris Day and The Time. It remained that way for over a decade. A change that Prince apparently tolerated until his untimely passing in 2016.

So why call for a change a decade later?

Sources close to this new situation believe that since more than half of Prince‘s catalog was acquired from the heirs and handed over to New York independent music publisher Primary Wave, there are new rules being put in place. Between that majority acquisition and the oversight of Comerica Bank and Trust, it’s an inventory process happening that will monitor all means of revenue being generated by Prince‘s massive catalog. This includes music by The Time, The Family, Apollonia 6, Vanity 6, Sheila E., and many others that Prince has worked with over his lifetime as part of that catalog.

Most of those bands, in their Prince-ly iterations, no longer perform with the exception of occasional shows by The Family who renamed themselves F Deluxe, and the Revolution who are not currently touring. Bands such as F Deluxe, Sheila E., Andy Allo, Judith Hill, Janelle Monae, and others that Prince has worked with have moved on from his material and tour with their own original music.

While it’s unknown whether Comerica had the same types of discussion with other artists that were Prince‘s side projects, Morris Day and The Time remains the only act that generates revenue using a concert performance where almost 90% of songs played are written and trademarked by Prince. The following setlist below is from Morris Day and The Time‘s concert at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills, CA, and illustrates the point.

The Time perform in Chattanooga, TN – Photo by Funkatopia

1999 (Prince)
Get It Up
(Prince)
Cool
(Prince)
Pandemonium
(Prince – credited to the Time)
Chocolate
(Prince)
Wild and Loose
(Prince)
The Stick
(Prince)
Fishnet
(Morris Day)
The Oak Tree
(Morris Day)
Jerk Out
(Prince)
777-9311
(Prince)
Intermission
(Purple Rain/Prince Tribute Video)
Gigolos Get Lonely Too
(Prince)
The Walk
(Prince)
D.M.S.R.
(Prince)
The Bird
(Prince)
Jungle Love
(Prince)

With the overwhelming majority of the concert being Prince‘s music, it would only be a matter of time before Comerica and/or Primary Wave stepped in to investigate any revenue being currently generated from their newly acquired investment.

Legally, the Prince Estate holds the licensing for the music in question and if they feel as if there is impropriety in Morris Day‘s usage of the music or even the band name, they technically have the legal right to do so regardless of how emotionally attached Prince fans are to the history.

While some have suggested that he should continue touring as “Morris Day“, ultimately Morris Day feels strongly that the removal of The Time addendum will have a dramatic effect on his livelihood and ability to provide for his family.

Prince fans remain up in arms and blame the Estate for being overwhelmingly focused on money instead of protecting Prince‘s legacy in all its forms. While the Estate has refused to acknowledge the conversation that Morris Day claimed in his Facebook post, his knee-jerk reaction serves as a significant indicator that a major change is coming for all bands with previous ties to Prince. And now, it will almost certainly affect the future of Morris Day and The Time.

Which side of the fence are you on?

1 thought on “Morris Day vs. the Prince Estate

  1. Read the Variety article. Morris signed away any claims to the trademark. He does not own it but the estate said it was willing to work with him meaning he will have to pay. Revenue needs to be generated abs Prince is not around to provide your dollars anymore.

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