Purple Rain functioned largely as a showcase for Prince—his bottomless talent, his rakish charm, his unbridled sexiness. But the film and its attendant videos also taught more viewers about The Revolution, the collection of Minneapolis musicians Prince assembled to help him carry out his ambitious, genre-melding visions of a funkier world. Combining club-hewn chops with killer pop instincts and camera-ready charisma, The Revolution worked with Prince between 1982 and 1986, the period where his output was as radio-ruling as it was expectation-defying. The apocalypse-now funk fantasia “1999” introduced the band to viewers of the then-nascent MTV. The bare-bones “Kiss” showed that all the band needed was a pocket and a groove. The power ballad “Purple Rain” proved they could best even the most grandiose stadium-rockers. You get the idea.
Prince dissolved The Revolution in 1986, just after it was expanded to include members of the Twin Cities R&B group The Family. Intra-band relationships and collegiality with Prince persisted through the years. Wendy Melvoin and keyboardist-vocalist Lisa Coleman, childhood friends on a parallel journey, performed as the baroque-funk duo Wendy & Lisa and jammed with Prince a few times over the years. Keyboardist Matt “Dr. Fink” Fink, bassist Brown Mark, and drummer Bobby Z all returned to the Minnesota funk traveler’s court. After Prince’s sudden passing in 2016, Coleman, Melvoin, Mark, Bobby Z, and Dr. Fink came together to grieve, and their meeting led to the five members reforming as The Revolution, bringing the songs that defined their period with Prince on tour.
Their frontman may be gone, but the sterling musicianship and songwriting that kept “America” and “Computer Blue” relevant long into the age of Black Lives Matter and smartphones live on with every performance by The Revolution. “[Prince] was always kind of a solo artist,” Bobby Z told The Guardian in 2017, “but the fact that The Revolution were able to give him the colors on a palette made me proud.” Baby, Prince was a star, but The Revolution helped shoot him further into the galaxy.