Prince Stops Working and Gets to Work in ‘Let’s Work': 365 Prince Songs in a Year
To celebrate the incredibly prolific, influential and diverse body of work left behind by Prince, we will be exploring a different song of his each day for an entire year with the series 365 Prince Songs in a Year.
There's a difference between working and work, and it's not just semantics. Many are the people who can attest—nay, testify, like they do in church—to Prince's penchant for working, for putting in the hours necessary to do what it was he did that dragged us all (willingly, mind you) into his gravitational pull.
He understood that it takes effort to get creative expression from one's head and heart into a form that others could engage with. Sometimes, one has to sacrifice short-term benefits for longer-term gains, even if it means running counter to one's reputation.
"Nobody can be what they are twenty-four hours a day, no matter what that is," he told Rolling Stone in 1985, responding to a comment that his fans see him as a "wild sexual person." "You have to eat, you have to sleep, you have to think, and you have to work. I work a lot, and there’s not too much time for anything else when I’m doing that."
"He runs on energy, adrenaline,” Paisley Park engineer Hans-Martin Buff once said of him. "He works long hours, but he accomplishes a lot. No one works more quickly. I’ve been at sessions [with other artists] where it takes half a day to bring in a keyboardist or a bassist to play a part, but if something’s missing in one of his arrangements, he just does it himself and moves on."
That's working—thousands of hours of it, over the course of 40 or so years.
Then there's work.
Work is what you allow yourself to do when the working is done. It's physical, spiritual, sexual; it takes place on the stage, on the dancefloor, in the bedroom. When Prince got his falsetto going and recorded "Let's Work" for Controversy in 1981, this is the kind of work he was singing about. "C'mon let's have some fun," he invites, "we'll work till morning comes." He's not talking about construction work; he's not talking about retail work; he's not talking about working. He's talking about … well … this:
"I'd love to turn U on, I'd work U all night long / If I could get U in the raw, I'd make U climb the walls / Oh yeah nothing can stop us now, I'm gonna show U how / Show U how to work"
Nobody's clocking in. Nobody's writing down orders. Nobody's taking union-negotiated breaks for lunch. If anybody's taking a break, it's probably just to snuggle or get a drink, before getting back to work. Yes, it's a night shift, but after working "till the morning comes," you can imagine feeling the satisfaction of a job well done.
It's not working. It's work. Prince knew the difference. Of course, he did.