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MO SPEAKS: PRINCE
AND THE DUKE

After many years of eschewing interviews, legendary Warner chieftain Mo Ostin recently relented and had a conversation of unprecedented depth with our own Bud Scoppa. That exchange appears in its entirety in our most recent print edition; below are a couple of key excerpts.

[Prince] said something quite interesting to Lenny Waronker. He said, “One of the things I want to make sure is that you don’t make me black.” He just wanted to be treated like all artists. He wanted to be Fleetwood Mac; he wanted to be The Beatles, The Rolling Stones; he didn’t want to be restricted to being an R&B artist. He was right—when he went into pop, when he went into rock, whatever he did, he did it extraordinarily well. I remember when we signed Duke Ellington at the very beginning of the history of Reprise, Duke said to me, “I don’t want to be categorized as a jazz artist.” He said, “I’m a musician and do every kind of music.” And Prince had pretty much the same idea.

He always had autonomy. I mean, the power of the creativity, his inventiveness, daring, he was always pushing boundaries, all of those things made us say to ourselves, “Hey, this guy is the real deal.” Norman Granz once said to me, “I never tell Oscar Peterson how to play piano. Don’t get in the way—get out of the way.” We knew how good he was, and he was what he was.

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