Mark Brown shares his story of being Prince’s bass player

Senior Abby Trout sat down with Prince’s former bass player, Mark Brown, and gained a unique perspective on the pop legend.

A lot of students listen to the iconic pop star Prince, but many don’t have the full inside scoop on his wild lifestyle, and the story of how it all started.

When Prince started, he was young, a star on the rise, and alone. Purple Rain was his debut album, but Prince couldn’t have done it alone. He created his own group known as the Revolution. Mark Brown started playing in the Revolution at nineteen years old. He was the bass player and the most known member of the Revolution.

Brown and Prince met in a bar called 7th Street Entry. Prince used to hang out at the club and watch Brown play base for Fantasy. One day Brown got a phone call; it was Prince and he asked Brown to join his band. Prince once said, “If [Brown] weren’t playing the bass for me I’d take bass out of songs completely.”

Prince didn’t start using the band until he made the album Purple Rain. Each member contributed to making every song on the album. “Working with him was cool––he could be a handful sometimes. Called it going to the College of Funkology––graduating from the Purple College of Prince,” Brown said.

Although Prince appreciated Brown and his talent as a musician, they never had the best relationship. There was some tension and jealousy between the two of them. Working on the movie Purple Rain is when the drama erupted. Prince had almost every scene with Brown cut out of the movie. “Prince was like that one teacher you wanted to strangle every once in a while,” Brown said.

As every band does, Prince and Brown went through some rough patches. Still, Brown learned a lot from Prince. The biggest thing he learned was to be a perfectionist. “The biggest thing I learned from Prince was work ethic, how to work hard for what you want, never accept ‘no’ as an answer,” Brown said.  

They were pretty good friends for the most part, aside from some issues they had earlier in their careers. They hung out together a lot with Morris Day. Brown would always describe Prince’s personality as shy when you first met him but when you got to know him he was truly a funny guy. “Prince was a funny guy––if he wasn’t a guitar player he could be a comedian. He was a bit of a prankster. He used to prank me and the other band members all the time,” Brown said.

Prince wanted to be revolutionary and an iconic star, so he was. “Prince strived for the stars, wanted to be super famous, reached out for it and he was successful at it.”

Prince and Michael Jackson were compared all throughout their careers. They were both known as the “King of Pop,” but there can only be one king. Brown made it clear that Prince was never given enough credit. “Prince isn’t given enough credit. Not the same as Michael Jackson. He could entertain and perform. He was a true genius and one of a kind. He was the Mozart of music. Most people didn’t spend enough time to listen to who he was and what he was doing. Prince was and forever will be the baddest cat on guitar. He self-taught every instrument. Had a lot of uniqueness and this energy about him. He was an influencer and made Madonna who she is today. He had this rawness most musicians didn’t carry. Michael can be the King of Pop but Prince is the King of Rock n Roll,” Brown said.

The music industry has changed a lot over the past 30 years and will keep changing, Brown got to witness these many changes and wishes things could’ve stayed the same. He thinks kids today are missing the point of music. “They don’t appreciate real music. They don’t have [the] privilege to listen to real music live. Real music is gone,” Brown said.

Brown left the Revolution after seven years to go off on his own. He was much more successful without Prince in the picture. He wrote several jingles for commercials, started over 100 bands and had six of them get record deals. He quit the music business in 2002 and returned after Prince’s death in 2016. The Revolution came back together and they’re still on tour now.