The Fairlight CMI is a digital workstation used by Prince in the mid-1980s. It was one of the first workstations, combining synthesis, sampling and sequencing into a single unit. Although the Fairlight had many sampling and sequencing capabilities, Prince mostly stuck to the presets, using it as a keyboard and drum machine.
Prince first used a IIx model on the Parade album. The first four songs on the album, "Christoper Tracy's Parade", "New Position", "I Wonder U" and "Under The Cherry Moon", all feature woodwind, orchestral, vocal and handclap samples from the Fairlight.
The outtakes "Others Here With Us" and "Tibet" are also made predominantly from Fairlight samples.
The Fairlight became Prince's primary keyboard on the Sign O The Times album. Some songs, like "Sign O The Times" and "It"
feature Fairlight drum sounds. Wendy and Lisa also used the Fairlight to record the song "Strange Relationship", with sitar and wood flute sounds coming from the instrument. It can be heard on "Sign Of The Times", "Play In The Sunshine", "Housequake", "It", "Starfish and Coffee", "U Got The Look", "If I Was Your Girlfriend" and "Adore" from Sign O The Times, "Le Grind", "Bob George", "Rockhard In A Funky Place" from The Black Album, and "Joy In Repetition" from Graffiti Bridge.
Prince owned two IIx models. Prince also took the Fairlight on tour, with Lisa using a Fairlight on the Parade tour and Dr Fink using one on the Sign O The Times and Lovesexy tours. The Fairlight proved difficult to use live, so Dr Fink sampled Prince's favourite sounds into an E-mu Emax.
Prince continued using this sample set into the early 1990s. In 1996, Prince had his Fairlights repaired and its possible that they appear on Emancipation and New Power Soul.
The two Fairlights remain in the collection at Paisley Park.