Susannah Melvoin

Susannah was Wendy Melvoin’s twin sister. She met Prince when she was barely 20 at a party at Dez Dickerson’s house in Minneapolis. She dated Prince for a couple of years and the two were even briefly engaged. But they had a tempestuous relationship and eventually split up.

She first appeared doing backing vocals on a couple of tracks on Apollonia 6’s album and on an unreleased Prince track Witness for the Prosecution, all recorded in 1984. Her first credit on a Prince record was doing backing vocals on The Ladder on Around the World in a Day. She then did backing vocals on several more songs on Parade --- Christopher Tracy’s Parade, Girls and Boys and Anotherloverholeinyourhead. She was originally supposed to be the romantic lead in Under the Cherry Moon but she was rejected because she wasn’t a good enough actress. She crops up doing backing vocals on Rock Hard in a Funky Place (off The Black Album eventually released in 1994) and Good Love (which was recorded in 1986 and turned up on the Bright Lights, Big City soundtrack and Crystal Ball). The Crystal Ball set released in 1998 featured some recordings Susannah had provided backing vocals for --- Dream Factory (inspired by Paul Peterson leaving The Family for an acting career), Crystal Ball (one line refers to a mural drawn by Susannah), Last Heart and Make Your Mama Happy --- all recorded in 1986. She’d also done backing vocals on Sexual Suicide, a song originally recorded in 1985. Sign O’ The Times featured her backing vocals on It’s Gonna Be a Beautiful Night, Play in the Sunshine and Starfish and Coffee. She co-wrote Starfish and Coffee. Prince wrote several songs about her --- The Beautiful Ones, Condition of the Heart, Empty Room, Wally, Forever in my Life, If I was Your Girlfriend and Crystal Ball. The Emancipation set released in 1996 featured a song called In This Bed I Scream that was dedicated to Wendy, Lisa and Susannah as a plea for forgiveness. Prince also designed the band The Family as a showcase for her talents.

Susannah still works in the music business. She worked with Wendy and Lisa on their solo albums and contributed to the soundtrack of the Robin Williams film Toys. She also did backing vocals on Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells II as well as working with The Grid and Neil Finn (Crowded House). She has also provided backing vocals for Eric Clapton, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, Donna Summer and Seal. She co-wrote Candy Perfume Girl, a track that appears on Madonna’s Ray of Light album. In 1996 she appeared in the movie Skin and Bone, which was about male prostitutes. She is married to Texan musician Doyle Bramhall II and does backing vocals/percussion on his albums --- the latest one, Welcome was released in 2001. Her and Doyle co-wrote a song with Eric Clapton that appeared on one of his albums. I couldn’t find out exactly when her and Doyle got married but I’m guessing it was sometime in the late 1990s. I think they may also have at least one child but I couldn’t confirm this.

Susannah is very pretty and she was unfairly tagged as a bimbo because of her involvement with Prince even though she was wasn’t as sexually overt as Vanity, for example. She has worked with many respected musicians who I don’t think would employ her if she was truly talentless. She has a great voice but seems to be content to stay in the background rather than launch herself as fully-fledged solo artist.

This article first appeared in Pretty But Schizo #4. © Jane Appleby 2002