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1999 by Prince

Album: 1999Released: 1983Charted:
  • Written during the height of the Cold War, this party jam has a much deeper meaning, as Prince was expressing his fears of a nuclear Armageddon. Under the Reagan administration, the United States was stockpiling nuclear weapons and taking a hawkish stance against the Soviet Union, which he referred to as the "Evil Empire." In this song, Prince sings about enjoying our time on earth while we still can, since by year 2000, we probably won't be here ("Everybody's got a bomb, we could all die any day").
  • Prince doesn't sing on this track until the third line. The first lead vocal is by backup singer Lisa Coleman:

    I was dreamin' when I wrote this
    Forgive me if it goes astray

    Next up is guitarist Dez Dickerson, who sings:
    But when I woke up this mornin'
    Coulda sworn it was judgment day

    Prince takes the next part:
    The sky was all purple
    There were people running everywhere

    All three voices come in on the next line:
    Trying to run from the destruction
    You know I didn't even care

    Originally, Prince envisioned the whole song as a 3-part harmony with Coleman, Dickerson and himself, and they sang it all together. Prince later decided to split up the tracks, letting each voice solo on a line (this is something Stevie Wonder did on "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life"). The second verse follows this same pattern, dividing the vocals amongst the three singers.
  • Prince was a creative volcano during the time he created this song. After completing a tour for his fourth album, Controversy, in March 1982 he set to work on 1999, but also produced albums for The Time (What Time Is It?), and for the female trio he put together, Vanity 6. Those albums were released in the summer, and in September, "1999" was released as a single. The album followed a month later, and in November, he launched a tour. By the end of the tour in April 1983, the second single, "Little Red Corvette," was climbing the charts and his videos were getting airplay on MTV. With 1999 on its way to selling over four million copies, Prince had crossed the threshold into superstardom.
  • According to Rolling Stone magazine, when Prince recorded this track, he would go all day and all night without rest, and turn down food since he felt eating would make him sleepy.
  • A fourth vocalist appears on this song, most notably on the line, "Got a lion in my pocket, and baby he's ready to roar"). That's Jill Jones, who was a backup singer for Teena Marie before teaming up with Prince. She released a self-titled solo album in 1987 on Prince's Paisley Park label. She also appeared in Prince's movies Purple Rain and Graffiti Bridge.
  • Prince re-recorded this song in 1998 after leaving Warner Brothers Records, who retained rights to the original recording. Prince hated Warner Brothers, and re-recorded it in an attempt to keep them from profiting from the original version. The new version reached #40 US at the beginning of 1999.
  • On January 16, 1999, the song spent a week on the Hot 100 at #40, thus making it the only entry to appear on the US singles chart in the year synonymous with its title. Here are four others with the year they charted in brackets:

    James Blunt "1973" (2007)
    Smashing Pumpkins "1979" (1996) Spirit "1984" (1970)
    Bowling for Soup "1985" (2007)

    Also, Estelle's 1980 was a #14 hit in the UK in 2004.
  • Many listeners, including Phil Collins, have compared this song to Collins' similar-sounding "Sussudio," released three years later. Collins admitted he was a big Prince fan and often listened to the 1999 album while on tour.
  • The song only reached #44 in the US when it was first released, but after "Little Red Corvette" took off, the song was re-released, and this time it landed at #12.
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Comments: 16

I have a funny story about this song. Back in 1990 when I was living in Philadelphia, a good friend who worked at a sports arena hidden in a suburban industrial park told me about a little "secret". His secret was that the PLCB (Philadelphia Liquor Control Board), which is a government-owned corporation that owns all wine/spirits stores in the state (that's right, private stores except those run by wineries themselves can't sell wine in PA) had a "wholesale" liquor store hidden deep in the industrial park, with no windows or signs on the outside to identify what was inside. I showed up one day andy to check it out, but I was turned away after going in the door. The liquor was in a room past another set of doors that I was forbidden to enter becausBill - Cheltenham, Pa
One weird lyrical inspiration it seems came from Steely Dan. In their song Deacon Blues, the lyrics are: "I cried when I wrote this song / Sue me if I play too long."Hans - Cambridge, Ma
"Weird Al" Yankovic mentions the line:
'We're gonna party like it's 1899' in Amish Paradise, not exactly 1999, but close! Lol!
Crazyc63312 - Pittsburgh, Pa
The video for 1999 was one of the first videos to break the color barrier on MTV.John - Nashville, Tn
Almost, Justin. He said he'd always loved that song, and so he based the horn intro of "1999" on the opening vocal harmony of "Monday Monday." But he wasn't done there. Next, he took the melody and chords from 1999 and rewrote that into "Manic Monday," completing the tribute to the original song. Yes, genius is the word for it.Keithadv - Springfield, Il
Ive always heard that this song is about the End of the World , the Apocalypse. Prince was predicting it would end in 1999 or 2000.Mike - Hueytown , Al
Perhaps no other track showcases Prince's extraordinary talent to the same extent. It always sounds loud, punchy and fresh no matter how many times you hear it. Grayson is dead right.Marc - London
truly amazing song. the man is a genious.Grayson - Cleveland, Oh
The greatest line I think it 'But life is just a party and parties weren't meant 2 last' I love that line so much for some reason.Chelsea - Wichita, Ks
Wow. All I can say about 1999 is that it is one of the best party songs. Whenever this song is played, people always dance to it. If you try to get the song, make sure you get the 6 minute album version because it is much better than the radio single. Prince is great!Jake - Philadelphia, Pa
Underground experimentalist the Evolution Control Committee parodied this with a compilation CD called "Party Like It's $19.99!"Fyodor - Denver, Co
remixed by bif naked, dave matthews and somebody else(rob thomas?) in 1999 by a radio station in vancouver (c-fox)Rob - Vancouver, Canada
Phil Collins was such a big fan of this song and Prince that 2 years later he wanted a similar sound when he wrote Sussudio.Nelson - Melbourne
The other day I saw in a Dutch TV-show that 1999 was (albeit loosely) based on a melody of a Bach-etude. Unfortunately, I don't know which one...Ferdinand - Hilversum, Netherlands
Chord progression is that of Mamas & Papas'
"Monday Monday". I think Prince said he based it
on that. Anyone?
Justin - Austin, Tx
He performed it in 1999 for a special DVD. AmazingJam Kemal - Lindua, South Africa
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