It’s not a stretch to say that Prince was influenced by musical artists like James Brown and Little Richard, but what about Elvis? Turns out The King of Rock and Roll was also an influence on The Purple One.
Every pop artist that came after Elvis was most likely influenced by him either directly or indirectly. According to The Elvis Influence app on Spotify – a musical six degrees of separation – Prince was influenced indirectly by Elvis by way of his interest in The Beatles.
While Prince never named Elvis as an influence, Presley definitely had an effect on his career. When Prince’s former manager, Bob Cavallo, was recently asked what the artist’s dreams were when he was young, he answered that Prince “wanted to be Elvis.”
It may not be obvious how Presley influenced Prince on the surface, but there are many similarities between the two performers. Both Elvis and Prince were overtly sexual performers, while also being extremely spiritual. Both wore flashy outfits on stage and both were versatile performers, to say the least, who could easily switch from one genre of music to the other and perform all exceptionally well.
Perhaps the most important influence, intentional or not, of Elvis onto Prince was the effect of starring in his own film. Presley had starred in 31 feature films throughout his career which helped cement his iconic status. In the early 1980s, although Prince had achieved success with a few hit records, he was still not a household name.
Prince insisted on making a semi-autobiographical film about his life which resulted in Purple Rain. However, Hollywood wasn’t interested. His former manager, Joseph Ruffalo, told CNN that the film had to be made independently. Remarkably, Purple Rain featured a first-time director, first-time film producer and was cast with only two professional actors.
Prince’s persistence paid off. Purple Rain was a huge success in 1984 grossing $68 million. In 1985, Prince would receive an Oscar for best original film score for Purple Rain. The movie soundtrack garnered Prince two number one singles and three additional top 10 hits. The film made Prince a star showcasing his electrifying live stage performance. Prince later starred in two more films, Under The Cherry Moon and Graffiti Bridge.
Not shy about playing other people’s songs in concert, Prince performed a short version of Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock” on MTV Germany in 1993. In 2009, Prince chose to sing a jazzy version of Elvis Presley’s “All Shook Up” at the 43rd Montreux Jazz Festival. This unique performance of the song shows a Prince paying tribute to a King that inspired him to achieve greatness.