Morris Day still puts on performance clinics. One of the true characters of rhythm-and-blues, who portrayed Prince’s foil in the iconic 1984 film “Purple Rain,” he remains a dynamic dancer and charismatic singer.
Day, 56, who will lead The Time when he performs Friday at The Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, is proud to be an old-school entertainer.
“I love it,” Day said while calling from his Las Vegas home. “I grew up on James Brown, and he was one of the greatest performers ever, and I literally grew up with Prince.”
When Day was 8, he and his mother left their Springfield, Illinois, home for California. However, after visiting his aunt in Minneapolis, they gave up their plan to hit the coast.
“That was the best thing to happen to me,” Day said. “It’s where I belonged. I became friends with Prince when I was 15, and that was the beginning of something special. We were too young to go to clubs, so we would just get in the basement and practice, practice and practice. People go on about how odd Prince is, but he wasn’t odd at all. He is a genius; that’s for sure. He was my buddy. I knew what he was capable of, and he knew what I was capable of, and we had a great time together.”
Prince and Day jammed with each other as teens, and the connection continued when they were 20-somethings. Day wrote “Partyup,” which landed on Prince’s breakthrough “Dirty Mind.” He was a founding member of Prince’s band The Time.
Day became a star in ’84 courtesy of “Purple Rain,” and he started a solo career. Day charted in ’84 with the wacky and funky “The Bird.”
“It’s hard to believe that 30 years have passed since 1984,” Day said. “It’s been that long since ‘Purple Rain. ... It was great, but it’s not what I’m all about.”
Day has made his mark as an unpredictable entertainer. “So I think I stand out today partly because of that,” Day said. “Things have changed with this generation. Music isn’t created like it was back in the day. It’s computerized. The live show isn’t what it once was. The difference between music today and back in the day is that when we made music, we created it to be re-created. We might have played to tracks, but we played live in the studio when we were recording songs. We formed bands. Today, it’s like a glorified talent show when you see what’s out there.”
After recording the slick “Condensate” in 2011, Day is working on a new album. “It’ll be different with the next one,” Day said. “It’ll be a more raw album.”
Day, who has appeared in films such as “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane,” “Moving” and “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back,” is unpredictable. “You never know what I’ll do,” Day said. “I try to keep it interesting for my fans and myself. We’re getting ready to rip it up, like we do every summer. We’ll be red hot by the time we get to Florida.”