Did Prince play guitar on Madonna’s “Act of Contrition”?
Madonna’s 1989 album Like a Prayer, arguably her finest full-length record, ends with “Act of Contrition,” which is, well, a novelty track. The Andrae Crouch Choir from the title track returns, only now the tape is run backwards, and there’s a skronking guitar solo—it’s chaotic and even a little scary, in an Old Testament-meets-Danceteria way. Madonna fumbles through a half-forgotten prayer from her Catholic childhood. “I reserve… I resolve,” she says. “I have a reservation. What do you mean it’s not in the computer?”
That apocalyptic guitar certainly sounds like Prince showing off. He and Madonna collaborated on another track on the same album: the grinding, not really successful “Love Song,” which was largely done by the two of them mailing tapes back and forth to each other. But the credits for “Act of Contrition” just say, “Produced by the Powers That Be.” Asked about the song’s creation, Madonna said she improvised the lyrics: “Whatever was on my head. It’s totally unedited.” And Prince?” He played guitar on it. He also played guitar on ‘Keep it Together’,” which hit #8 in 1990: one more gold single for the Paisley Park walls. “We didn’t have to prove anything to each other,” Madonna analyzed. “And I don’t think he’s had that same opportunity with other people that he’s worked with. Because generally he tends to dominate everything.”
(Excerpted from the 2006 book Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton’s Little John?: Music’s Most Enduring Mysteries, Myths, and Rumors Revealed, published by Three Rivers Press, written by Gavin Edwards.)