Sometimes the best musicians aren’t the ones making headlines on MTV or topping the charts. Wendy and Lisa are a duet who has proven that long-term success in the music industry doesn’t have to rely on stardom or riding the coattails of others; it can be done on pure talent alone.
In their earlier music days, Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Colman were simply known as Wendy and Lisa, those two girls in Prince’s backing band, The Revolution. They contributed greatly to Prince’s overall sound back in the 80s, especially on the soundtrack for the movie Purple Rain, in which they appeared under their own names. Together they established a more rock-based rhythm and synth foundation to Prince’s often psychedelically flavored sound throughout his albums in the 80s.
Wendy Melvoin, an exceptional guitar player whose specialty was creating elusive funk licks and rhythms, is the daughter of Mike Melvoin, former session musician and former president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, those people who vote on the Grammys. Lisa Coleman, a keyboard and synthesizer expert is the daughter of jazz musician Gary Coleman. Their fathers often played music together, thus a childhood friendship was born.
Lisa first began playing with Prince as a replacement for his keyboardist Gayle Chapman, who left after the 1999 album. She helped begin recording Purple Rain. When another band member, guitar player Dez Dickerson, left the band, Coleman suggested Wendy as a replacement.
They stayed with The Revolution for three albums until 1986 after the tours supporting Prince’s album Parade. After a lack-of-recognition dispute, Wendy and Lisa set out to make their own albums with Columbia records. The first single of their self-titled album was “Waterfall“, a moderate success that had video rotation on MTV. The follow-up album, Fruit at the Bottom, was not a commercial success but still extended their sound as blue-eyed funk and soul fueled by grrl power. They released another album under Virgin records and created tracks that were re-mixed by William Orbit, the same brain behind Madonna’s Ray of Light.
In the 1990s Wendy and Lisa began focusing on becoming studio musicians like their fathers. They worked as backing vocalists for musicians like Seal, Sheryl Crow, Eric Clapton, Liz Phair, and k.d. lang.. They also started composing soundtracks and scoring songs for movies. They have a notable song on Robin William’s movie Toys and also scored and recorded singles such as This Is The Life for the Dangerous Minds soundtrack.
Those works launched their career as notable score writers for popular and edgy TV shows. Wendy and Lisa created the introduction music to HBO’s Carnivale and NBC’s Crossing Jordan. You’ve probably heard them most recently on NBC’s Heroes, a popular show about regular people acquiring superpowers. Wendy currently produced an album for an up-and-coming band The Like.
Today Wendy and Lisa are a still sought-after duo not because they used to work with Prince but because of their professional talents and ability to create the perfect mood music for popular television and film.