URBANA –Morris Day and the Time is coming to Krannert Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, September 15, and Saturday, September 16 at 7:30 p.m. Morning Edition host Kimberly Schofield spoke with Day, a Springfield, Illinois native, about his road to fame and the memories that came with it.
Kimberly Schofield: Morris Day, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. I first want to ask what inspired you to pursue music as a career?
Morris Day: In the early 60s, you know, we got our first color TV. I was just kind of mesmerized with American Bandstand, watching the old Motown acts on there, and occasional footage of James Brown and people that I admired. And you know, I’d get to see that kind of stuff and I’d be like, “Damn, that’s what I want to do.”
KS: I know you’re originally from Springfield, Illinois. Do you still have any connections to the central Illinois area, whether that’s Champaign or Urbana?
MD: Remember the group Champaign?
KS: Yes, sir.
MD: My cousin Rena Jones…that was her name. At one point, we were considering her even being in The Time, back in the day, and flew her up to Minneapolis. I didn’t know her well, I just knew I had a cousin who lived in Champaign. Later on, they had that big hit “How ‘Bout Us.”
I remember all of that. That was kind of a tie that I had. I even went through Champaign and sang background at their studio. But the funny thing about that is… the guy – and we’re not related – that was the lead in the band…his name was Michael Day. My cousin Rena Jones ended up marrying him and I guess her last name is Day now, but she was already my cousin.
KS: Morris Day and The Time really came out in the music scene in the early 80s with the album The Time. Do you have any memories that stick out to you from that time?
MD: I have a lot, you know, because it was all unexpected. Every platform that we reached was something new and exciting. From first being on stage in front of hundreds of people, then thousands of people, then first hearing your record on the radio. There’s just a lot of firsts and really great memories.
KS: What is it that has kept you successful for all of this time?
MD: Love and the fortunate opportunity to be able to do something that I would still be doing for free to this day…and to be able to actually earn a living doing it, that’s a blessing. I just kind of live each day just happy to be in the space that I’m in and to be able to do what I’m able to do
KS: How do you feel about music that is popular today? What are your thoughts on modern music?
MD: The artists are different; the business is different. It’s almost like I’m on the outside looking in. I’m kind of in my old-school mode. That’s what I do, that’s what I listen to. I do listen to some of the new stuff. It’s not the same. It doesn’t give me the same feeling as what I consider good music used to give me when I heard it on the radio and experienced in a club or public setting or anything. It doesn’t really strike me the same way. But it’s the music business and I’m happy for the young people out there doing their thing and happy to have been able to pave the way for them.
KS: Are there any artists who are popular today who you do enjoy listening to?
MD: I always say like what Bruno Mars does.
I feel like he’s a talented musician. I feel like he’s one of the closer artists to what music used to be. There’s a few, but I consider him exceptional as far as a musician and capabilities are concerned.
KS: Earlier we briefly touched on how you had a hand in paving the way for artists. Is there anything specifically about being a Black artist that you love or that you think is specifically significant?
MD: Being a part of a culture that has always created entertainment the way that we have. It’s always emulated and you got to face it…most, you know, when you look back, even rock and roll…we’re the culture that created it. And I just feel blessed to be a part of that. I feel like we’ve created a sound that will carry over for years and years. And I think that’s what pioneers do. And there’s just a lot of Black pioneers – musical, in specific – that have just really changed the game and created so much. Even hip-hop and rap…look what it is now. So… I’m a part of it.
KS: What can people expect to see during your performance at Krannert?
MD: They can expect us to come out and musically be mesmerizing and visually as well. And they get to see that guy that they’ve been liking ever since Purple Rain and maybe even before or maybe after. They’ll get to see me come out and do my thing, me and the fellas. It’s going to be exciting.
KS: Day released his most recent album Last Call at the end of last year and as of now, says that it will probably be his last album. You can catch Morris Day and The Time performing at Krannert on Friday, September 15 and Saturday, September 16, both at 7:30 p.m. at Krannert.
Krannert Center for the Performing Arts is an underwriter of Illinois Public Media.