Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. Archive

A purple passion

When Prince wrote songs for the little-known Bangles and Deborah Allen, he used a pseudonym. When he wrote songs for the well-known Sheena Easton and Kenny Rogers, he also used a pseudonym. When Prince hooked up with little-known Elisa Fiorillo, he not only wrote five tunes for her, but he put his name and his sound all over her album.

"He's not supposed to use his name on productions outside of Warner Bros. (Records)," Fiorillo said. "He begged for credit on this."

Actually, Prince wasn't supposed to be involved in the project. He ended up doing half the album.

"I came here (Paisley Park Studios) wanting to steal some of the funky sounds from Minneapolis, not thinking Prince was going to work with me," said the Philadelphia-bred, Los Angeles-based Fiorillo.

She arrived in Minneapolis in March 1989 to record five songs with David Z, who was hot, having produced Fine Young Cannibals' She Drives Me Crazy. One day when Fiorillo went to the restroom, Prince came in the studio and listened to her recordings and then wrote a song for her.

"It was not me," Fiorillo recalled of the song. "It smacked me across the face. I thought it was different. No other girls are doing it. It may have a little Prince vibe, but I can do it. It's live and it's aggressive."

The song, I Am, became the title track of her second album, which was releasedthis month.

Fiorillo, 21, and Prince developed a working relationship and friendship. She said she wasn't intimidated, and she was straightforward and honest with him: "I don't sing dirtylyrics. I'm no bimbo. I wantto sing aggressive, funky songs."

Fiorillo, whose father is a classical pianist and music professor, sang on Broadway at age 15, won a Star Search prize for junior vocalist and recorded with Jellybean Benitez, the producer who made Madonna famous.

At the suggestion of a Chrysalis Records executive, Fiorillo turned to David Z for her second album. She ended up collaborating not only with Z and Prince, but also producer-writer Levi Seacer Jr. and Oliver Leiber, who had worked with the Pointer Sisters and Paula Abdul, respectively.

With I Am, Fiorillo wants people "to accept me as a white soul sister. You don't have to be a certain color to be soulful."

She looks multiethnic; her father is Italian, her mother Irish, German and Cherokee. Fiorillo hopes that people will view her as a singer and songwriter, not a "package Prince put together. I can do (dance) steps, but I'm not out to be the next Janet Jackson or the next Paula Abdul."

Fiorillo is romantically linked to Prince in the tabloids.

"My grandmother was excited that they wrote something about me," said the singer. "The friendship is there; I'm not going to deny it. But it's the kind of relationship that will last longer than an affair."