Musicheads Essential Artist: The Time

Let's Go Crazy: The Grammy Salute to Prince
Morris Day and The Time perform on the special 'Let's Go Crazy: The Grammy Salute to Prince,' January 2020. (Monty Brinton/CBS)
Musicheads Essential Artist: The Time
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The Time, a smooth-talking funk group, were Prince’s first successful protégé act and launched the careers of Morris Day and the chart-topping producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

The roots of The Time extend back to the mid-1970s in North Minneapolis, where Terry Lewis was fronting the hard-driving funk group Flyte Tyme and Jimmy Jam was writing songs and playing keys in the R&B vocal group Mind & Matter. Their bands would compete at Battle of the Band showcases against another hot young group, Grand Central, which was led by a teenage Prince and featured Morris Day on drums.

By 1980, Prince's star was on the rise and it became clear that he was writing too many songs to release under his own name. So he created an outlet for his hard-driving, funky grooves — and assembled a ferocious live band that would give him a run for his money and keep that competitive spirit alive.

Although the first Time albums were primarily recorded by Prince and Morris alone, the live original lineup of the Time included Terry's old Flyte Tyme bandmates Jellybean Johnson and Monte Moir, plus the hot young guitarist Jesse Johnson and Morris's on-stage foil, Jerome Benton. Their shows became notorious — their choreographed dance moves, exaggerated stage banter, and well-oiled, tight performances made them an irresistible live act.

Tensions began to mount between Prince and the members of The Time, and by the time Prince began filming his breakout film, Purple Rain, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis had been dismissed from the group. When the film debuted in theaters, the band had mostly dissolved, despite Morris Day and Jerome having starring roles. Because of the success of the movie, The Time's 1984 album Ice Cream Castles had several successful singles, including "Jungle Love" and "The Bird."

When The Time reunited in 1990 for Prince's Purple Rain sequel, Graffiti Bridge, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis had become chart-topping producers, thanks to a wildly successful creative partnership with Janet Jackson. Morris Day and Jesse Johnson had each launched their own solo careers, and Jellybean Johnson had performed in another Prince side project, The Family, and started producing acts of his own.

Decades later, Morris Day and The Time continue to tour, and the founding members of the group still reunite for performances and recording sessions under the name the Original 7ven — most notably in 2017, when they came back together to honor the man who created them, Prince, with a memorial tribute at the Grammys.

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