Prince Finds a ‘Black Muse’ in Damaris Lewis: 365 Prince Songs in a Year
To celebrate the incredibly prolific, influential and diverse body of work left behind by Prince, we will be exploring a different song of his each day for an entire year with the series 365 Prince Songs in a Year.
Throughout Prince's career, many women served as a muse for his lyrics – most famously, but not limited to, Jill Jones, Susannah Mevoin, Anna Garcia, Kim Basinger, Mayte Garcia (as well as every woman on Earth). But he rarely was as blatant about them as a source of inspiration as he was on "Black Muse," which was written in honor of Damaris Lewis, a model who danced on several of his tours and was credited as his muse in the tour programs.
The track appeared on the last album released in Prince's lifetime, 2015's Hitnrun Phase Two, but he recorded it in 2010. As PrinceVault notes, it's two songs in one, with the second half being "1000 Light-years Away," a track intended for Welcome 2 America, an unreleased album from 2011. While the lyrics – which suggest that, together, they can overcome the challenges facing African Americans – may have been inspired by Lewis, the music is clearly influenced by the groundbreaking records made in the '70s by another of Prince's black muses, Stevie Wonder. It's most evident in the keyboard sounds, the background vocals and the jazzy bridge that connects the two tunes.
Prince met Lewis, who was trained as a dancer at New York's Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, in 2010. Shortly thereafter, she was the host for Prince: Behind the Symbol, a special on the Africa Channel about his 2011 residency at the Forum in Los Angeles. He asked her to dance on his 2012 tour of Australia, and she remained part of his inner circle for the rest of his life.
Listen to Prince Perform 'Black Muse'
"Prince let me be me," Lewis told CNN's Don Lemon. "I'm a model; I work in an industry where I'm constantly having to change and be someone else for my work. I was myself all the time. Prince is hilarious. I'm [a] very sarcastic, funny person. We spent most of our time cracking up and laughing, and just really enjoying life."
She showed off an example of their humor and chemistry together during an interview on Australia's Triple M radio. Calling him at his hotel, Lewis pretended to be "Victoria," a woman whom Prince met in Sydney. He quickly realizes who it is, even though he had just woken up. While Prince couldn't remember the specifics of how they met, he does give an overview of how he believed it happened.
"We hired her to be in a video clip," Prince said, "and then I asked her what her aspirations and dreams were. And she told me that she wanted to be a dancer. And that's when my fantasy started."
She was frequently spotted with him in public, and they were a study in contrasts: Lewis was 32 years younger – and, at 5' 10, eight inches taller – than Prince. Still, Lewis insists their relationship was platonic.
"I've never dated Prince," she told Extra. "I was just his dancer and his muse, and he was one of my best friends. ... I really hope that people don’t listen to all the crazy stuff that’s going on. Really, truly understand that this man was private. Respect his privacy."