"It was just my way of saying goodbye," says day of his emotional tribute song to the late musical icon, Prince

By Mariah Haas
April 21, 2017 09:31 AM
Jim Smeal/WireImage; Kevin Winter/Getty

It’s been one year since Prince‘s death, and as a tribute to the legendary musician, his friend Morris Day of the band the Time has released a song dedicated to his friend.

“It’s a heartfelt tribute and video,” Day, 59, tells PEOPLE of “Over That Rainbow,” which is co-produced by Snoop Dogg. “It was just my way of saying goodbye.”

In the aftermath of Prince’s death, Day says “a lot of people” approached him to say something about his friend, who he first met in the early ’70s when they were teens and part of a band called Grand Central.

“I didn’t want to. It didn’t feel right,” explains Day. “It didn’t feel appropriate. I wanted to deal with it in my own time.”

As for why he decided to release the song and video now, Day says, he feels like “things happen for a reason in their own time.”

“Right away, I wasn’t ready and I just waited until it felt appropriate,” he continues. “I’m a big believer in: ‘Things happen for a reason and when they’re supposed to happen’—and I just kind of followed my gut on that.”

Looking back, Day remembers the last time he saw Prince in February 2016.

“I was there at Paisley Park and we did a show,” he recalls. “[Prince] was adamant about having us come in, me and my band, and do the show.”

Day notes that Prince had previously “called a few times” asking for the band to come in, but “we never heard anything,” says Day, adding that Prince “was the kind of guy who had no problem with changing his mind.”

“But this time he had his people call and they were very adamant,” he adds. “So we went there and we did the show.”

That day, the old friends “hung out a little bit” before the band’s performance, and “hung out afterwards” as well. “It was cool,” shares Day. “I hadn’t seen him in a long time and I was happy to see him.”

Two months later, the “Purple Rain” singer was gone. “It made me reflect,” says Day. “Did he know something or was he just feeling in alignment with the same divine path I feel like—which is you just follow your gut.”

Continues Day: “I didn’t know if he felt like something was wrong and he wanted to, in his own way, say goodbye or if it was just by chance.”

Last June, the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office stated that Prince died of an opioid overdose, and on Monday, it was revealed in newly unsealed documents that a doctor admitted to prescribing the singer opioids under a false name. (An allegation the doctor’s lawyer denies.)

When asked if he had any indication that Prince was struggling with drugs, Day said: “Not at all.”

“By all accounts, as far as I’m concerned, he seemed like one of the healthiest people that I knew as far as what he put in his body,” says Day. “Even with the people that he had around him. He wouldn’t let you bring meat products into Paisley Park or anything like that.”

“So it caught me off guard,” continues Day, “And I still have trouble with some of the stories that I’m hearing in the aftermath.”

Instead, Day wants people to remember Prince “as the great artist that he was.”

“All the great music and performances that he gave his audience,” says Day, “I think that’s the best way to remember him.”