Paisley Diaries Volume 4 – Taja Sevelle

Taja Sevelle: Contagious Love

by Miles Marshall Lewis

1987 saw the release of two Madhouse albums, the greatest Prince album of all time, the greatest protégé record of Paisley Park Records’ brief history, and a third Sheila E. album. The last of Prince’s earliest signings (circa 1984) also finally made her debut in September 1987: 25-year-old Taja Sevelle.

As a teenager, Sevelle (born Nancy Richardson) sang in Manhattan Transfer-like jazz bands around Minneapolis and deejayed at local volunteer radio station KMOJ. Aware of her reputation, Prince approached her at First Avenue and asked for a demo; he initially wanted her to front another girl group. Soon she was cast as an extra in Purple Rain and signed to the soon-to-be-launched Paisley Park Records as a solo act. Recorded in Hollywood as a close collaboration with her eventual fiancé, newbie producer Chico Bennett, Taja Sevelle aimed squarely at a pop crossover audience. Like Jill Jones a season earlier, the album commercially missed the target, never cracking the Billboard albums chart. (Both found one-hit-wonder success in Europe with their lead singles though—“Mia Bocca” and “Love Is Contagious.”)

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