The Time, also known as Morris Day and the Time and The Original 7ven, is an American musical group that was created in Minneapolis in 1981 by Prince. Their work has been a part of the formation of the Minneapolis sound, featuring a mix of soul music and dance music with funk, rock n roll, and more. Led by singer-songwriter Morris Day, the band members are known for having been close Prince associates, and are arguably the most successful artists who have worked with him, achieving particular popularity with R&B fans with tracks such as “Jerk Out” and “Jungle Love“. Band members Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis are also long-time collaborators with Janet Jackson, producing all of her most successful albums. Jam and Lewis produced The SOS Band, Jonny Gill and many other R&B artists also. Morris Day had R&B hit “Oak Tree” and Jesse Johnson got R&B hit “Be Your Man” in 1985.
Prince and formation
The Time was assembled under a clause in Prince‘s contract with Warner Bros. that allowed him to recruit and produce other artists for the label. Inspired by the 1980 film The Idolmaker, Prince decided to put together a pop-funk group that would serve as an outlet for material in the vein of his own early albums, while he explored other genres and styles in his own career.
By 1981, he had built The Time out of an existing Minneapolis funk/R&B unit, Flyte Tyme, which featured Cynthia Johnson on lead vocals and sax, Anton (Tony) Johnson on guitar, David Eiland on saxophone, Jellybean Johnson on drums, Jimmy Jam and Monte Moir on keyboards, and Terry Lewis on bass. To the last four were added Jesse Johnson on guitar and a lead singer and childhood friend named Morris Day, and Jerome Benton who was a promoter drawn from another local band called “Enterprise”, who became Day’s comic foil. Prince had used an Enterprise song, “Partyup”, on his Dirty Mind album.
The band went on to release four albums, consisting of jammy, rock-infused 1980s funk, generally light and humorous in tone, strongly influenced by Parliament, James Brown and Sly Stone. Although they scored numerous hits during the early 1980s, including “The Bird“, “Jungle Love“, “777-9311“, “Get It Up“, “Gigolos Get Lonely Too“, “The Walk” and “Cool“, mostly on the R&B charts, they never approached superstardom. With the exception of singer Morris Day, who was required to follow Prince’s guide vocals note-for-note, none of the band played on their debut album. Prince instead played all the instruments himself, crediting the production to his alter-ego, “Jamie Starr”, and Morris Day.
A rivalry developed between The Time and Prince’s band during their 1982 Controversy Tour. Frustrated with their lack of input on the albums bearing their name and at being underpaid, The Time would take to the stage with the intent of showing up Prince. On the final night of the tour in Cincinnati, during the Time’s set, Prince and some of his band threw eggs at their supporting act from offstage. After The Time’s performance, guitarist Jesse Johnson was handcuffed to a wall-mounted coat rack. Prince demanded no interruptions during his performance, but as soon as he left the stage, a food fight erupted. When the battle continued at the hotel, Prince held Morris Day responsible and made him pay for all damages.
During the 1982–83 1999/Triple Threat tour, The Time served as Vanity 6‘s backing band from behind a curtain, before playing their own hour-long set. They liked the arrangement because the band saw it as free money. Terry Lewis said, “I’ll play behind Vanity 6 for thirty minutes for $250. No problem. I was going to have to do the sound check, anyway.” Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, who had begun writing songs and producing albums of their own (working with SOLAR to produce Klymaxx and with Tabu Records to produce the S.O.S. Band), were stranded in Atlanta by a blizzard and failed to make it to a Time concert in San Antonio, for which Jerome had to mime playing bass guitar on stage while Prince played Lewis’ part off stage, and Lisa Coleman stood in for Jimmy Jam. Subsequently, the duo were fined and then fired, although Prince would state in a 1990 Rolling Stone interview: “I didn’t fire Jimmy and Terry. Morris asked me what I would do in his situation. You got to remember, it was his band.” Whether their firing was due to the incident or to their increasing independence has never been clear. Monte Moir took the opportunity to leave as well, and would also work with Jam and Lewis. The three were replaced with Mark Cardenas and Paul Peterson on keyboards and Rocky Harris on bass. This new line up, with Jerry Hubbard replacing Rocky Harris, was featured in Prince’s Purple Rain film. The Time rode the wave of popularity created by the movie and hit singles “Jungle Love” and “The Bird.”
Day left after arguments with Prince, choosing to pursue a solo career in 1985 after a successful acting turn in Purple Rain. With Jesse Johnson also opting to go solo (taking other Time members Cardenas and Hubbard with him), the band disintegrated. The remaining members (Benton, Jellybean Johnson and Peterson) were reformed into a new short-lived project called The Family. Meanwhile, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis went on to become one of the most successful songwriting and production teams of the 1980s and 1990s.
In 1990, the original seven members of the band reunited for the Graffiti Bridge movie and soundtrack, as well as a new album, Pandemonium. The project was originally called Corporate World and was set to only feature Morris and Jerome, but Warner Bros. demanded that the original line-up be brought in if Prince wanted the company’s backing for the movie. This spawned their highest selling single, “Jerk Out” and the album featured more input from the band than any other Time album. “Nobody really needed to put The Time back together,” said Lewis, “but everybody wanted to. That makes it a great experience all round. We take the musicianship and the craft of what we do very seriously but, when the seven of us get together, it’s naturally a party, fun kinda situation. We carry that from the record on to the stage.”
The reunion was short-lived, as infighting within the band caused them to disband once again. Morris and Jerome have since remained a team, with both trying out some small acting roles over the next few years.
Several members of The Time reunited in 1995, added a few new recruits, Tori Ruffin on guitar, Chance Howard on keyboards, Robert GI’ Grissett Jr. on third keyboards and Ricky “Freeze” Smith on bass guitar. This version of the band can be seen in the Kevin Smith film Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and toured frequently usually billed as “Morris Day and The Time”.
A fifth Time album was rumored to have been completed in the late 1990s, recorded with the new lineup, but production and coordination with Prince has prevented its release. Old Dogs, New Tricks was the working title. A 2004 album attributed to Morris Day called It’s About Time contains a few new tracks written and performed by Day and a number of live performances by The Time featuring the new members along with Jellybean, Jerome, Monte & Morris.
Second reunion and The Original 7ven
In June and July 2008, all of the original members of The Time (Morris Day, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Jesse Johnson, Jerome Benton, Jellybean Johnson, and Monte Moir) reunited once again for a series of shows at the Flamingo Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
A January 2009 interview mentions that guitarist Jesse Johnson states he is working with The Time on their upcoming album. The Time appeared at The Fox Theater, in Detroit, Michigan on June 11, 2010, with the original lineup to a packed house. Two days later during what Jimmy Jam dubbed “The Stingy Tour” on June 13, 2010 the “magnificent 7” played a hometown reunion concert in Minneapolis, MN, and, during that concert, announced on stage that a new album was “90% complete,” which confirmed information provided in a Billboard profile published a week earlier.
In September 2011, the band announced a name change to The Original 7ven and a new album Condensate which was released October 18, 2011 with the single “#Trendin” released September 20. Concerning the name change, Jimmy Jam said that “the decision was made at that point that we could either continue to, shall we say, negotiate or argue or plead or whatever. We decided to go the route of ‘let’s not hold things up because of the name. Let’s embrace the opportunity to move forward in a new era, with a new outlook, with a new album’ and that’s what we did. We think the name reflects exactly who we are. We are the Original 7even and that basically, for me, covers it.”
On April 21, 2016, group founder Prince was pronounced dead in his Paisley Park complex. Members of the band paid tribute to him in subsequent live performances and on Facebook.
On the weekend of June 24th/25th 2016 Morris Day & The Time appeared at a Prince Tribute in London organised by the charity Autism Rocks. The charity was strongly supported by Prince with live shows, including his last ever in the UK. Alongside Morris and The Time were other artists influenced or otherwise involved with Prince including CeeLo Green, Mark Ronson and Larry Graham & Graham Central Station.
On February 12, 2017, the original lineup of The Time played a brief two-song set at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, CA, held at Staples Center as part of a tribute to Prince. The Time’s appearance was followed by a performance by Bruno Mars.