(March 4, 2022). According to a social media post from Morris Day, the capitalist bug has bitten the Prince estate once again.
And this time it could affect the pockets of one of the most beloved R&B bands of the 1980s and beyond.
On Thursday (March 3), Morris E. Day of the legendary Minneapolis R&B/funk/pop group The Time posted on Instagram and shared on the band’s Facebook page that the estate of the late Prince has declared a cease and desist on the use of the name Morris Day and the Time—a brand that Prince and Day created in 1981 and which the band has been using ever since.
Day, the band’s lead singer and larger-than-life personality, lamented the estate’s decision, noting that the move is one the late Prince likely would not have made were he still alive (he’s probably right). It’s also one that the 65-year-old Day claimed would impact his ability to feed his family and, considering it’s the moniker under which he and his band mates have operated for more than four decades, that’s probably not an overstatement. Here’s the post.
Of course, Morris Day (the singer’s birth name, according to Wikipedia) could be interpreting the matter incorrectly, as representatives from Prince’s estate have claimed, or he could take legal action given how long he’s operated under the name. But the fact that the Prince estate even launched such an action means that it likely has ownership rights (at least of the name The Time). And it wouldn’t be a surprise—as savvy as Prince was back in the day—if Morris Day’s given name is somehow wrapped up in this legal conundrum as well.
All of this comes only months after the 40th anniversary of The Time’s self-titled début album from 1981, featuring the top-10 R&B singles “Get It Up” and “Cool,” and only months before the same anniversary of the band’s even more successful followup, What Time Is It, featuring the all-out jam, “777-9311” (R&B’s answer to Tommy Tutone’s pop/rock classic “867-5309” from the year before).
Both 1981’s The Time and ‘82’s What Time Is It included original Time members Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who were famously fired in 1983 by either Prince or Morris Day (or both) after they missed a flight from Atlanta to a Time gig in San Antonio following a moonlighting session as producers for another ‘80s act (the SOS Band). Their dismissal turned out to be a blessing in disguise as Jam and Lewis went on to become one of the most successful music producing teams in all of pop and R&B history.
A year later, in 1984, Prince cast Morris Day and The Time’s Jerome Benton as his main musical nemeses in the iconic movie Purple Rain, a film that not only catapulted Prince to international superstardom, but considerably raised the profile of The Time as well.
Within months, two of the Time’s most memorable hits, “Jungle Love” and “The Bird,” became their first pop top-40 crossover singles, and by 1990, both Morris Day and The Time would achieve No. 1 success on the R&B charts with Day’s 1987 solo smash, “Fishnet,” and the group’s first top-10 pop single, “Jerk Out,” in ‘90.
The hits stopped coming after that, as the band parted ways due to infighting, but The Time have been touring and making appearances together on-and-off under their popular moniker for decades and it likely is still the bread and butter for Day and several others.
Meanwhile, the Prince estate, who has denied Day’s version of the story, has been very active in the six years since Prince’s sudden passing in April 2016. Its administrators have issued new or previously unreleased material from the Purple One every year from 2016-21 following his death from a drug overdose at his Paisley Park studios. Who knows what the estate has in store for the still-young 2022?
While many Prince purists have questioned whether or not the late Artist would have wanted his music released given he’d successfully kept it from commercial availability for decades while he was alive, many people agree with Morris Day that his former musical partner and employer would not have pulled this latest card if he were around today. As Day points out, if Prince had a problem with the band using the name Morris Day & The Time, he certainly would’ve done something about it during his lifetime.
Contrarily, of course, one could argue that if Day had been more forward-thinking, he might have tried to secure the rights to “Morris Day & The Time” long ago to avoid this legal pitfall.
One thing’s for sure, this isn’t the kind of news and bad faith the Prince estate should be creating to kick off its 2022 business plan, whatever else that might include musically. Sure, business is business, but relationships between longtime friends and associates should count for something when one of them passes this life, especially if that one is the guy that held the purse strings and the other one’s livelihood depends on it, as Day would have us believe.
Who knows where this will end up, but for now it appears that Morris Day and his band will soon be known as The Artists Formerly Known as Morris Day & The Time.
Oops, the Prince estate probably has that name locked up as well.
DJRob (he/him/his) is a freelance music blogger from somewhere on the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter at @djrobblog.
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