Prince’s longtime keyboardist talks rumored rivalry with Michael Jackson

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MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (April 23, 2016)–When Prince died this week, music lovers immediately began comparing his unexpected death to Michael Jackson’s.

The King of Pop died in his California home in 2009. Jackson was 50 — seven years younger than Prince when he died Thursday.

Prince’s death revived rumors the two pop icons had an unspoken rivalry. The hearsay was fueled when The Purple One famously spoke out about turning down the opportunity to be in Jackson’s “Bad” music video.

“The first line of that song is ‘Your butt is mine,'” Prince told comedian Chris Rock in an interview that aired on VH1 in 1997. “Now understand, who gon’ sing that to whom? Because you sure ain’t singing it to me and I sure ain’t singing it to you.”

Cassandra O’Neal, longtime keyboardist for Prince, said that in actuality the two didn’t have beef. In fact, they admired each other.

“Michael was a definite influence and inspiration for Prince,” she told ABC News. “They both respected each other and that’s the cool thing.”

“There was a place in [his] Paisley [Park residence] … and there’s a screen and nice big old couch and we would watch old clips of ‘Soul Train’ and he would talk about just the influences that he had,” O’Neal recalled. “Michael and his brothers were definitely a part of that.”

O’Neal said their relationship is something to be modeled.

“We as musicians can take so much from that. Nowadays with social media, it’s so competitive,” she added. “‘I’m doing this and your not.’ They didn’t do this. The ones that really had it like that didn’t do that to each other. They embraced each other and he really made it a point to let us know that.”

But for O’Neal, who also served as a background singer during her seven-year tenure in Prince’s band, there is no comparing the two.

“You can’t compare. Not to me. Not to me. They were equally as powerful and relevant for the African-American music [scene],” she said. “Both of them.”

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