Props for Bobby Z


When I look back through the 1980’s I find some of my favorite drummers. This includes Tony Thompson (Chic), Jon Farris (INXS) and the incomparable Bobby Z (The Revolution). During his years backing Prince, Bobby Rivkin, blended the use of acoustic and electronic drums, sampling, and showmanship while providing the backbeat of the famous “Minneapolis Sound.” He often performed standing up while participating in the choreography of the band and set the bar for Minneapolis-style drummers. During this time his brilliant sense of timing and dynamics never faltered. Prince himself has credited Bobby Z with playing his songs with more feeling than the series of drummers that followed. According to his bio: “Rivkin was acknowledged in Prince’s self-titled album as being a ‘heaven-sent’ helper. By the time the ‘1999’ album was released, Prince was relying more and more on electronic drums and Rivkin had to adapt his style to operate these in concert.”

The magnum opus of Rivkin’s playing came on Prince’s masterpiece “Purple Rain.” There is something special about the intentional dragging-tempo of that song and the crescendo that builds before being released in a wall of sound. Prince himself has stated that no drummer can play that song better. Rivkin’s drum kit is as original as his style of play and consists of a Black Simmons SDSV, Simmons SDSV Module, Linn LM-1 Drum Machine, Black Pearl Syncussion(x2), Pearl Syncussion Module(x2), 14” HiHat, 18” Crash, 20” Ride and a 16” Crash. In May of 2013 Bobby Z joined his former bandleader on stage during the closing two shows of Prince’s whirlwind 3rdeyegirl tour. Both shows took place on the same night with Bobby taking over from Prince’s current drummer Hanna-Ford-Welton. He sat in on both shows for one song. On both occasions it was “Purple Rain.”

According to Rivkin that song in particular has a special meaning: “‘Purple Rain’ is just one of those moments, as a band, that you live for,” he said. “From the first moment of rehearsal, when I heard the strains of it on Prince’s piano, to the last time we played it live at the Myth, just last May with him. He calls it medicine, and it is; it just really has something about it, the way it crescendos, the way it crashes, and the way the guitar solo takes you to a place where you just feel different about your life. No matter what, when you hear those opening chords of ‘Purple Rain,’ you just stop time somehow, and just listen.”

Here’s the video for “Purple Rain” featuring The Revolution at their finest:

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Filed under Drums and Drumming

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