Written in 1982 during the height of the Cold War, this party jam has a much deeper meaning, as Prince addresses 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."
This scared a lot of people, and Prince voices their concerns:
Everybody's got a bomb We could all die any day
He's far more optimistic though, responding by making the point that we should enjoy whatever time we have on earth while we still can, even if it all ends by the year 2000:
But before I'll let that happen I'll dance my life away
In this purple-skied world, life is just a party, and parties weren't meant to last.
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 gave a rare interview in 1999 when he spoke with Larry King on CNN. More surprisingly, he explained the meaning behind this song. Said Prince: "We were sitting around watching a special about 1999, and a lot of people were talking about the year and speculating on what was going to happen. And I just found it real ironic how everyone that was around me whom I thought to be very optimistic people were dreading those days, and I always knew I'd be cool. I never felt like this was going to be a rough time for me. I knew that there were going to be rough times for the Earth because of this system is based in entropy, and it's pretty much headed in a certain direction. So I just wanted to write something that gave hope, and what I find is people listen to it. And no matter where we are in the world, I always get the same type of response from them."
When the new millennium approached, there was a great deal of concern over the "Y2K Bug," since programmers didn't always account for the change to 2000 in their code. There was minimal impact: When the new year hit, we still had dial tones and internet access, and no major networks were compromised. Prince had no fears. "I don't worry about too much anyway," he told King.
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.
Prince grew up in a household that adhered to the Seventh-day Adventist faith, which believes in the Book of Revelations and the apocalypse that will lead to the return of Christ. Prince rejected the religion as "based in fear," and in this song, he puts his own spin on the end-of-the-world prophesy, turning it into a party.
Leading up to his pay-per-view that aired New Year's Eve 1999, Prince said it would be the last time he performed the song. The special a broadcast of a concert held on December 18 at his Paisley Park Studios, with some additional footage from a show by Morris Day & The Time recorded there the night before. "1999" was the last song in the set, which was later released on video as Rave Un2 The Year 2000.
Prince did retire the song, but brought it back in 2007 for his Super Bowl halftime show performance and kept it in many of his subsequent setlists.
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 Bros. Records, who retained rights to the original recording. Prince had serious beef with Warner Brothers when he found out they owned his masters, so he re-recorded this song in an attempt to keep them from profiting from the original version as the titular year approached. 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.
Following Prince's death, "1999" re-charted on the Billboard Hot 100 at #27, making it the first song to reach the Top 40 in three different decades ('80s, '90s, '10s) with the same version. "Bohemian Rhapsody" became the second song to reach this milestone when it charted a third time in 2018 following the release of the movie of the same name (its second chart run came in 1992 following its inclusion in Wayne's World).
John from Corvallis, OregonWasn't Manic Monday written by the Bangles?
Jb from United StatesPrince was not a person who sat around worrying about the end of the world. He wanted to add something positive to the dialogue about the end of the world, and instead of worrying about it, we should party.
Bill from Cheltenham, PaI 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 becaus
Hans from Cambridge, MaOne 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."
Crazyc63312 from Pittsburgh, Pa"Weird Al" Yankovic mentions the line: 'We're gonna party like it's 1899' in Amish Paradise, not exactly 1999, but close! Lol!
John from Nashville, TnThe video for 1999 was one of the first videos to break the color barrier on MTV.
Keithadv from Springfield, IlAlmost, 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.
Mike from Hueytown , AlIve always heard that this song is about the End of the World , the Apocalypse. Prince was predicting it would end in 1999 or 2000.
Marc from LondonPerhaps 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.
Grayson from Cleveland, Ohtruly amazing song. the man is a genious.
Chelsea from Wichita, KsThe 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.
Jake from Philadelphia, PaWow. 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!
Fyodor from Denver, CoUnderground experimentalist the Evolution Control Committee parodied this with a compilation CD called "Party Like It's $19.99!"
Rob from Vancouver, Canadaremixed by bif naked, dave matthews and somebody else(rob thomas?) in 1999 by a radio station in vancouver (c-fox)
Nelson from MelbournePhil Collins was such a big fan of this song and Prince that 2 years later he wanted a similar sound when he wrote Sussudio.
Ferdinand from Hilversum, NetherlandsThe 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...
Justin from Austin, TxChord progression is that of Mamas & Papas' "Monday Monday". I think Prince said he based it on that. Anyone?
Jam Kemal from Lindua, South AfricaHe performed it in 1999 for a special DVD. Amazing