Prince is one of the most successful musicians of all time, having released more than 40 albums and winning seven Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe, and an Academy Award. He was an amazing musician, songwriter, and performer who brought joy to millions of fans across the globe with his songs and performances.
In addition, Prince had something unique about him. He had been a strong supporter of female artists for a long time. Prince established a reputation of taking numerous young female artists under his wing as protégés, including Wendy Melvoin on guitar. Melvoin, her female guitarist, played an integral role in many of Prince’s top songs and albums, including Purple Rain. Let’s get a closer look at this incredible guitar player.
Who was Prince’s female guitarist? Wendy Melvoin was Prince’s female guitarist. In addition to her guitar duties, Melvoin also helped Prince write songs. Wendy Melvoin joined The Revolution in 1983 and became one of the most talented guitarists in the world of pop music, playing solo after solo on hits like “Purple Rain.”
Who is Wendy Melvoin?
Wendy Melvoin is a guitarist and composer who made her name as the lead guitarist in The Revolution, Prince’s backing band. Melvoin joined during their Purple Rain days, but she was only in the band for two years. Still, those two short years was still plenty of time for Melvoin to make her mark on the music world as she became a high-profile member of the band, featured in the “Kiss” video and on a Rolling Stone cover.
Wendy Melvoin’s Early Life
Wendy Melvoin was born in Los Angeles on January 26, 1964. Melvoin’s guitar skills can also be attributed to her background since she comes from a musical family. Her father was composer and jazz pianist Mike Melvoin, a former president of The Recording Academy. Mike Melvoin was also a famous studio musician who recorded the likes of Frank Sinatra and John Lennon.
Wendy Melvoin’s brother was Jonathan Melvoin, a keyboard player who toured with the American alternative rock band Smashing Pumpkins. Additionally, her twin sister is Susannah Melvoin, a singer and songwriter who worked with Prince in the mid-1980s.
Alongside her twin sister Susannah, Wendy Melvoin began her career in music at an early age. Melvoin received her first guitar on her sixth birthday. Growing up, Melvoin practiced the guitar in private that no one knew in her circle that she played the guitar. In a 1986 interview with Rolling Stone, Melvoin shared that “The instrument was still so personal to me that I didn’t want to share it with anyone.”
How Wendy Melvoin Met Prince
In 1983, after Melvoin had graduated high school, she visited her childhood friend Lisa Coleman in New York. At the time, Coleman was already a keyboardist in Prince’s band The Revolution for the 1999 concert tour.
While Melvoin was staying at Coleman’s hotel room playing the guitar, he was overheard by Prince down the hall. Prince wanted Melvoin to pay more and liked her guitar skills. Prince then asked Melvoin to fill in for Dez Dickerson at a soundcheck that the guitarist missed.
Soon after, Melvoin joined Prince’s band as a replacement for Dickerson after leaving, following disagreements about religious themes and certain aspects of the stage show.
Wendy Melvoin, Prince’s Female Guitarist
After Melvoin was in, Coleman and Melvoin were the only women in The Revolution. Melvoin and Coleman quickly created a special bond with Prince. They had a significant influence on his production for the rest of their time in the band.
Wendy Melvoin’s first performance with the band was at a benefit show at the First Avenue club in Minneapolis. Melvoin was only 19 years old when she performed in front of more than 1,500 fans. It was also at this show where Purple Rain was recorded live.
Purple Rain, the first hit album by Prince & the Revolution, was released in 1984. This best-selling album reached number one on the Billboard 200, dethroning Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. Wendy also became a cast member of the film Purple Rain.
In 1985, the song Purple Rain won two Grammy Awards for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and Best Instrumental Composition Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or for Television. Melvoin was credited for her contributions in guitar, percussion, and vocals.
Melvoin also sang lead in the song “I Wonder U,” the third track on the third and final album officially credited to Prince and the Revolution: Parade: Music From The Motion Picture Under The Cherry Moon. Prince’s vocals were featured more heavily in the original mix of “I Wonder U,” paired with a sparse mix of drums and the song’s trademark synth chord. He did, however, strip down his vocals from the mix, allowing Wendy to take center stage.
Wendy & Lisa
The Revolution got disbanded in 1986. According to Jason Draper’s book Prince: Chaos, Disorder and Revolution, Prince broke the news to Coleman and Melvoin, his closest confidants in The Revolution, over dinner on October 7, 1986. Later, he called Bobby Z and fired him, too. Keyboardist Matt Fink elected to stay, but Brownmark quit in solidarity with the others.
After the band broke up, Melvoin continued a musical partnership with Coleman, forming the duo Wendy & Lisa. They built a catalog of albums and produced soundtrack work. Coleman and Melvoin won an Emmy for Outstanding Original Main Title in 2010 for their contributions to Showtime’s Nurse Jackie.
In April 2009, Melvoin publicly confirmed that she is a lesbian in an interview with Out magazine for the first time. She addressed her former romantic relationship with Lisa Coleman until 2002.
Melvoin has also contributed to records by Neil Finn, Madonna, and Glen Campbell. In the reunited Revolution, she has stood in for the late Prince as the group’s de facto lead singer.
Wendy Melvoin was an accomplished guitarist, writer, and composer who worked with Prince on several projects. As a member of The Revolution, she helped create some of his best-known songs, including “Purple Rain .” Indeed, Melvoin became a key element of Prince’s creative sound, serving as the iconic female guitarist for his backing band The Revolution.
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.