Prince took time out from an Australian concert to honor Vanity, his former protege who passed away on Feb. 15.
“I just found out a little while ago that someone dear to us has passed away, so I’m going to dedicate this song to her,”Australia’s News.com.au reported Prince said before launching into “Little Red Corvette.”
Prince also re-worked the lyrics of several songs during his performance to pay tribute to Vanity, such as changing the name Electra in “The Ladder” to Vanity. He also changed the closing words of the song “The Beautiful Ones” from “my knees” to “Denise,” which was Vanity’s real first name.
“I am new to this playing alone,” Prince said before playing “The Beautiful Ones.” “I thank you all for being so patient. I’m trying to stay focused, it’s a little heavy for me tonight. Just keep jamming … She knows about this one.”
He also told several stories about Vanity. “Her and I used to love each other deeply, he said. “She loved me for the artist I was, I loved her for the artist she was trying to be. She and I would fight. She was very headstrong because she knew she was the finest woman in the world. She never missed an opportunity to tell you that.”
He also related one tale in which he threatened to throw her into a swimming pool, but she told him he couldn’t do it because he was “too little.” So instead, he got his bodyguard Chick to do it for him.
“I probably shouldn’t be telling this story,” he said. “But she’d want us to celebrate her life and not mourn her.”
Vanity — born Denise Katrina Matthews — died in a Fremont, California hospital on Monday. Last year the singer put up a GoFundMe page, stating that she was diagnosed with an inflammation of the small intestines called sclerosis encapsulating peritonitis.
Born in Canada, Matthews initially focused on modeling. Moving on to music, she sang lead for Vanity 6 from 1981 until 1983, during which time the group scored the hit “Nasty Girl.” Her music career also encompassed two solo albums, along with the hits “Pretty Mess” and “Under the Influence.”
Following a 1994 crack cocaine overdose that left her with near-renal failure, Matthews renounced her stage name and became a born-again Christian. “When I came to the Lord Jesus Christ, I threw out about 1,000 tapes of mine — every interview, every tape, every video. Everything,” she said.
Following a 1997 kidney transplant, she devoted herself to evangelism, speaking at churches.