‘Love Sign’ Brightens a Dark Phase in Prince’s Career
“Love Sign” was many things in the world of Prince. It marked Prince’s courtship with musical royalty (Nona Gaye, daughter of soul legend Marvin Gaye, duets). It launched 1-800-NEW-FUNK, Prince’s first direct-to-fans internet enterprise. It was a protest song that bridged “Ronnie Talk to Russia” and “Free” with “We March” (also featuring Gaye) and “Baltimore” (“Let's all get up off the front and find a cause to back”). It was a celebration of faith in the spirit of “God” and “The Cross”, (“In a chariot of red and gold / The cool, fuzzy voice said, ‘Come save your soul’”). Best of all, it was a glorious ray of light in an otherwise dark period of Prince’s career.
As Prince entered 1994, he was a decade past the triumphant success of Purple Rain, and a year away from the glorious comeback of The Gold Experience. He had just baffled many by writing the word “Slave” on his face to protest a $100 million recording contract with Warner Bros. He then changed his name to the unpronounceable glyph that had adorned much of his album artwork, merchandise and even his motorcycle.
He also combined three things that were perfectly fine on their own – Homer’s Odyssey, Carmen Electra and musical theater -- to create Glam Slam Ulysses, a stage production that quickly closed but introduced songs that would wind up on several of Prince’s subsequent releases. By February, Prince’s fortunes began to change with the worldwide success of the independently released single, “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World," and it continued with the summer release of “Love Sign."
While many referred to Prince's glyph as "The Love Symbol", the release of a song called "Love Sign" at the height of glyph-mania indicated this marriage of male and female anatomy symbols may have had a name inside the Artist's heart. “Love Sign” was the lead single of the 1-800-NEW-FUNK album, a collection of notable artists under Prince’s wing at the time, including funk icon George Clinton, Mavis Staples and gospel act, the Steeles – plus Madhouse, the NPG, future wife Mayte Garcia and then girlfriend Gaye.
As awkward as it must have been, Gaye and Garcia both feature prominently in Prince’s promotional push for the album. They appear together – Mayte as a dancer, Gaye as the singer – on The Today Show and a Soul Train appearance (one of the few times you’ll ever see Prince lip sync a live performance; the second being what appears to be the formal introduction of "Acknowledge Me," a track that would later appear on Crystal Ball).
A few years after appearing with Gaye and Garcia on The Today Show, Prince returned to the set to send off his friend Bryant Gumbel, proving that his good nature and sense of humor remained intact throughout the highs and lows of his magnificent career.
In early 2017, Garcia published a bestseller about her time with Prince, titled The Most Beautiful. Prince reclaimed his name in 2000 and reunited with Warner Bros. in 2014.
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