The New Power Generation’s musical director and keyboardist Morris Hayes remembers the exact day his life changed: Dec. 17, 1982. That was the day he first saw Prince in person.
Prince’s “1999” tour stopped in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and Hayes was excited to see the show. “When I saw Morris Day and The Time, I said, ‘I’m gonna play with them dudes’,” said Hayes, calling from his Arkansas home. “Then Prince came on … And I said, ‘I’m gonna play with that dude.’”
Ten years later, Hayes found himself in Prince’s new backing band, the New Power Generation, following a stint as part of The Time. “I have no clue how I did it, man,” said Hayes, who still keeps the ticket stub from that show in his wallet. “I just had a dream. And in that dream, all roads lead to Minneapolis.”
Hayes has the distinction of spending the most time in Prince’s backing band, lasting more than two decades with the mercurial artist. And when Prince died in 2016, many turned to Hayes to carry on the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s legacy – first in a tribute concert, which featured Stevie Wonder and Chaka Khan, and then by resurrecting the New Power Generation.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Hayes said of the five-hour tribute show. “But the fans loved it so much. It became a point of healing for all of us … We wanted to continue to do this, to play these songs. It became therapy for the band.”
Now, the New Power Generation isn’t just touring – including upcoming dates at Sony Hall in Manhattan and The Paramount in Huntington – it has landed a new lead singer MacKenzie and is working on new music.
“I thrive off pressure,” MacKenzie said, “But I don’t know anyone who can sing like him. I don’t move like him. Out of mutual respect, I don’t try to mimic him. I focus on being MacKenzie and trying to honor these songs.”
That means the Virginia native tackles everything from the falsetto of “Kiss” to the low notes of “Alphabet St.” and everything in between, though he admits he gets nervous every time he tries to sing the beloved “Adore.”
WHO New Power Generation
WHEN|WHERE 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sony Hall, Manhattan; and 8 p.m. Saturday, The Paramount, Huntington
INFO $22.50-$75; 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com
After splitting with his backing band The Revolution in 1986, Prince went solo for a while. Then, while working on his movie “Graffiti Bridge,” he developed the New Power Generation as an idea and later a band, with the song of the same name, a manifesto with the refrain of “Making love and music's the only things worth fighting for. We are the New Power Generation, we want to change the world.”
The new partnership was an immediate success. Here’s a look at their biggest hits:
“Cream” (No. 1, 2 weeks, 1991)
“Diamonds and Pearls” (No. 3, 1991)
“7” (No. 7, 1992)
“Gett Off” (No. 21, 1991)
“Money Don’t Matter 2 Night” (No. 23, 1991)