Savion Glover Taps Out a Solo on ‘Joint 2 Joint': 365 Prince Songs in a Year
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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.
Lin-Manuel Miranda wasn’t the first to bring hip-hop to Broadway. In 1996, 11 years before Miranda’s In the Heights became a hit, dancer Savion Glover starred in and choreographed Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk, a musical that chronicled 250 years of African American history through tap dancing and a score that incorporated blues, gospel, funk and hip-hop. The show was nominated for nine Tony Awards, winning four (including one for Glover’s choreography) and ran for nearly three years.
Glover was only 22 when the show debuted, but had already spent more than a decade on Broadway in The Tap Dance Kid, Black and Blue and Jelly’s Last Jam. Through it has a lineage of legendary African American performers from Bill “Bojangles” Robinson to Sammy Davis Jr. and Gregory Hines, tap dancing had been declining in popularity due in part to its association with negative racial stereotypes. Glover was hailed for re-energizing tap and bringing it into the modern age.
“We’re not talking about a good tap dancer,” Hines told CBS News. “We’ve got to establish that right away. He could arguably be the best tap dancer that ever lived. He’s a genius.”
As a child prodigy whose music was steeped in African American traditions, and as a compelling dancer in his own right, Prince naturally felt a kinship to Glover. At some point in 1996, Prince invited Glover to Paisley Park to bring some noise to Prince’s funk with a tap dancing solo on “Joint 2 Joint,” a track that appeared on Emancipation. At 3:10, Glover contributes his percussive footwork for 22 seconds, takes a few bars off, then returns for another 10 seconds.
It’s all part of a bizarre recording that doesn’t lack for ideas. The nearly eight-minute “Joint 2 Joint” starts off as a typically Prince mid-tempo come-on, but gets heavier as Ninety-9 contributes a rap, followed by Glover’s hoofing, a breakdown with distorted vocals, a verse of Prince’s falsetto, a heavily processed guitar solo, a diss involving cereal and a phone call to a woman promising fidelity.
Glover has continued performing, spending several years touring with a show called STePz, where he choreographed and improvised routines to music by Prince, Stevie Wonder, John Coltrane and Dmitri Shostakovich. Last year, he returned to Broadway, choreographing the acclaimed Shuffle Along, or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, a musical based on 1921’s Shuffle Along – one of the first Broadway hits to feature an African American cast. He also teaches tap at his HooFeRz CLuB in his hometown of Newark, N.J.. Part of his goal there, Glover told CBS News, is “to give to the next generation the dance – not as only a way of entertaining but as a way of expression, a voice. The dance should be respected,” he added. “It should be like an opera. It should be like something at the Met or Carnegie Hall.”