Who Recorded With Prince the Longest?
Figuring out who recorded with Prince the longest might seem a bit oxymoronic. After all, he rose to fame as as do-anything artist who created projects like 1978's For You and a self-titled 1979 album all by himself. Prince later returned to this solo, or mostly solo, approach on 1998's The Truth, 2002's One Nite Alone and 2009's MPLSound.
But his stirring discography was also dotted with many notable in-studio collaborators, some with quite lengthy tenures. His restless muse meant that Prince regularly changed bandmates, but he often returned to favorite recording partners, too.
For instance, Morris Hayes has been called Prince's "longest-tenured sideman," but with the important caveat that he "played with Prince off-and-on for 20 years." That perfectly describes Prince's working relationship with most of his bandmates.
Saxophonist Eric Leeds began doing studio work with Prince in 1985, and was still an occasional collaborator into the new century. But there were four breaks along the way, one lasting some seven years. Prince stopped recording with Lisa Coleman and Wendy Melvoin in 1986, only to reconnect two decades later on Planet Earth.
There were surprises along the way, including the brief recording tenures of some very familiar names. Bandmates like Brownmark (1983-86), Susannah Melvoin (1984-1986), and Dez Dickerson and Vanity (both 1982), became widely known after appearing on career-making albums between 1982's 1999 and 1987's Sign 'O' the Times – but they exited very quickly as studio collaborators. Meanwhile, late-period cohorts including Donna Grantis, Hannah Welton-Ford and Ida Nielsen (2013-2014) saw the promise of a lengthier time working together evaporate with Prince's untimely death.
Determining who recorded with Prince the longest meant digging into liner notes and scouring the invaluable PrinceVault, but it also occasionally involved a bit of guessing: Prince's 2004 album Slaughterhouse, for instance, didn't include a listing of personnel. We focused only on official albums released with Prince as the leader. Collaborators were then credited for sessions annually, meaning they had to have worked with Prince at least once during that calendar year.
You'll find our tally below, beginning with bandmates who recorded with Prince for at least five years.