Friday, September 24, 1982

Prince released “1999”



Writer(s): Prince (see lyrics here)

Released: September 24, 1982

First Charted: October 16, 1982

Peak: 12 US, 14 CB, 12 RR, 33 A40, 4 RB, 15 CO, 2 UK, 6 CN, 2 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 0.72 US, 0.25 UK, 0.98 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 18.0 video, 72.62 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

While “1999” is well remembered as one of Prince’s best songs, it wasn’t one of his biggest hits. Based solely on peaks on the Billboard Hot 100, twenty Prince songs fared better on the charts than “1999.” That includes nineteen top-10 hits and the #11 hit “I Wanna Be Your Lover.” In fact, the song didn’t even hit the top 40 – the first time around. When it was released as the lead single for the album of the same name, “1999” stalled at #44. After “Little Red Corvette” reached the top 10, “1999” was re-released and peaked at #12. In the year 1999, the song resurfaced, hitting #40. It then charted for a rare fourth time in 2016 after Prince’s death, reaching #27. It became the first song to chart in three different decades. SF

The song shares a commonality with Stevie Wonder’s “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” which gives lead vocal duties to two other singers before Wonder takes charge. “1999” was initially intended as a three-part harmony, but Prince decided to separate out the voices starting each verse. WK Lisa Coleman sings the first line of the song, followed guitarist Dez Dickerson. Both were members of Prince’s backing band, the Revolution. Prince doesn’t sing until the third line of the song. Jill Jones, a backup singer, also sings a line in the song: “Got a lion in my pocket / And baby he’s ready to roar.”

While the song’s “we’re gonna party like it’s 1999” feels like a celebratory line, it has a deeper meaning. During the Reagan administration, the United States stockpiled nuclear weaponry in an arms race with Russia known as the Cold War. The massive arsenals of both countries provoked a fear of Armageddon. SF Prince sings “Everybody’s got a bomb / We could all die any die.” Of course, Prince still plans to have fun until the end: “But before I’ll let that happen / I’ll dance my life away.”

In a CNN interview with Larry King in 1999, Prince said, “We were sitting around watching a special about 1999, and a lot of people were…speculating on what was going to happen…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…So I just wanted to write something that gave hope.” SF


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First posted 3/10/2021; last updated 10/9/2022.

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