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Jill Jones

funk prince soul female vocalists paisley park

Jill Jones was born an only child near Dayton, Ohio. Barely into her teens, her mom had a relationship with Fuller Gordy (Barry's brother) and Jill moved to California. "Everyone was at Motown. That's really what started it because I got to see how it all worked, how sessions would take place. Those are my first recollections, when I moved to L.A. and was around all those people."

"My mom started managing Teena Marie and Teena moved into our house. She invited me to start writing with her. I started to really understand my range because Teena has such a broad range. Being her background singer I started working professionally, leaving school to go sing on gigs."

"I had finished high school when I ran into Prince. I had already been on a tour and we had met. I called and said I needed a job because school just wasn't my thing." With her hair dyed blond she was soon a staple on MTV standing next to keyboardist Lisa Coleman singing one of the three-part vocals of 1999. On the LP she put in a steamy performance as The Lady Cab Driver on the song of the same name. When 1999 hit the road Jill pulled double duty singing with both Vanity 6 and the Revolution. Unfortunately she was kept behind a curtain for all but two songs. Prince had deemed her "plain Jane" and audiences to this day have never understood why.

"At the beginning of my relationship with the Prince entourage, it was to give a more credibility to the sound that was being pitched to the labels, yet it would go against the marketing side- the young girls who were really cute but perhaps lacked a little in the vocal department. Once I became on-salary then everything opened up. It's like having a 9 to 5 except it's 24/7 and someone would call you to come to the studio. I would sing on so many different things and a lot of stuff got mish-mashed. I don't know who kept a score of who was doing what. Sometimes I listen to songs and go 'that's me!'

Her cameo role in PURPLE RAIN stole the show. She played the waitress at the club (the now-legendary First Avenue in Minneapolis) exuding a charisma that led many to wonder why she wasn't cast as the female lead.

In '87 the one 'protege' who deserved it most would step out on her own. The Jill Jones album was on its way but the label refused to promote it. "Prince had some successes and the politics started to encroach upon what he could do. Unfortunately when you become that successful in any business it's always amazing to watch the people who start to surround the person who actually had the dream, who brings the dream forward and makes it a reality. It's infuriating to watch how people thwart it and create the monster. They helped to create it and facilitate it. Most record labels have let artists have their labels almost in a condescending way. They ultimately lock those artists into ridiculous business-like formations and then squash anything they put out. He fought very hard, he was micro-managing like he did the other ones, as far as being there 24/7. I did it with David Rivkin. He had full faith and trust in what we were creating. I think they were trying to teach him a lesson, like he was getting to big for his britches. And if it hadn't been for the English Warner Brothers I wouldn't have had anything. It was the guys in England who brought me over and promoted the record. The American Warners did nothing because they would not let him have any more successes."

Although Warners refused to promote it those who did hear the album recognized it's artistic merits. "I met Miles Davis through Prince and he was really kind to me. Miles loved my album and he made Prince very happy when he told him that. And that should go on the record!"

Things shifted towards the end of the decade. A second Paisley Park album was planned never materialized. The songs from this era are YOU DO ME I'LL DO YOU with Ryuichi Sakamoto and C'EST SI BON for an Yves St. Lauren commercial. She had a falling out with Prince that ended her tenure at Paisley Park. Shortly after giving birth to a baby girl her mother, to whom she had been very close and had helped nurture her career, died after a long battle with cancer. Soon her marriage fell apart. At one point she was hospitalized with a blood clot by her heart. From then on things would never be the same again.

By the end of the 90's she began to slowly emerge back into the public eye. She sang with Jazz guitarist Ronny Jordan on a cover of Carly Simon's WHY and backup with Sinead O'Conner, then with Chic on their '96 Japan tour and LIVE AT BUDOKAN CD/DVD. With the release of TWO with Chris Bruce in 2001 she emerged once and for all as a fully realized artist in her own right. "It was a very moving experience for me. I'm very proud of that record. It's a little thought provoking about things in my life and trying to figure out what I had to be grateful for because you get a little broken as you go along. You know, rocky roads… you get a couple shards sticking out."

Her next release was WASTED in 2004 as the vocal/guitar duo The Grand Royals with Ian Ginsberg. "It was a very different style of writing, going into a grittier feel. During that time there was some sort of reality check that came. The Grand Royals sessions are based upon 'this is for real, this isn't a joke'."

Her MySpace player features her most recent songs. HELPLESS MAN "was with Ian, a project we did with Sony/Columbia and had SO GLAD TO MEET YOU (unreleased) originally." LIVE IN ME is an outtake from WASTED. "Chris and I wrote a song called SWEET LIBERTY back in the 80's and each time it's evolved into something else." FUCK YOU 'TIL YOU'RE GROOVY is a breathy, spacious piece that further enhances the sex symbol of G-SPOT. "I love making music but I want to evolve it into something a little more to help solidify certain things in the industry. Maybe setting up a company to execute certain kinds of media and that way I can deal with artists who are having their moment." Reflecting back on her beginnings with Motown, "The Gordy family did instill inside of me one thing which is the entrepreneurial stuff; you should _try_, you should just try to create. And Prince was like that too."

During the 80's when she was closest to the limelight Jill Jones stood out from the pack despite limited exposure. Without being prominently featured she showed a promise that was widely acknowledged. After a long road she has at last fulfilled that promise. And so begins the next chapter for this diversely talented singer and songwriter…

Jill Jones has published photos.