Following his death, it was hard for some of us to remember Prince as he had managed to expunge so much of his music from online streaming and video services. One obvious result was that people went out and bought his music, giving his catalog a big boost. (I reacquired Dirty Mind to recall my first huge swoon over his awesome talents.)
The artist forever known as a true musical genius was also enigmatic and eccentric when it came to people covering his material. In some cases he wrote and gave songs to other artists, even helped one who plagiarized one of his melodies record the song she wrote to it (see below). In other cases he was unhappy. When he appeared on Lopez Tonight in 2011, he insisted that “covering the music means that your version doesn’t exist anymore.” We would beg to differ. These covers make us think of Prince.
10) “Manic Monday” by The Bangles
Prince originally wrote this song for his proteges Apollonia 6 and then later gave it to the Los Angeles-based all-woman rock band, credited to “Christopher,” one of his songwriting pseudonyms. It became a #2 U.S. pop hit for The Bangles (at the time Prince himself was at #1 with “Kiss”) and also a top hit in the U.K., Austria, Canada, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland.
9) “Purple Rain” by Eva Vergilova
This homemade clip of the Bulgarian guitarist wailing her way through the signature Prince song is a mind blower, and helped turn this talented young woman into something of an Internet sensation. Check out her Facebook page for more of her rock instrumental covers.
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8) “I Feel for You” by Chaka Khan
This song that was done by Prince on his second album was originally written as a demo to try to solicit a cover by Patrice Rushen. The Pointer Sisters recorded it on their 1982 album So Excited! But it was Chaka Khan who made it a million-selling #3 pop hit in late 1984 as a single from her album also titled I Feel for You. The song revived her career, and Khan and Prince performed it as a duet in concert when they toured together in 1998. Bonus points for the Stevie Wonder harmonica part.
7) “Stand Back” by Stevie Nicks
Strictly speaking, this isn’t a Prince cover. Nicks heard “Little Red Corvette” while cruising along the Pacific Coast Highway, and then wrote her own song to that melody. When she went into the studio to record the song, she called Prince to let him know that she had borrowed his tune. He obviously was OK with that, as he soon showed up and tracked synthesizer parts for the song.
6) “Darling Nikki” by Foo Fighters
The Foos like to record some covers whenever they finish an album, and at the end of cutting their 2002 release One By One, they tracked their take of Prince’s ode to a very sexual woman in drummer Taylor Holland’s garage. It came out as the B-side to their “Have It All” single in Australia and the band played the song as a set-ender on their 2004 tour. But the Purple One later told Entertainment Weekly he wasn’t happy about the cover and that the Foo Fighters should “write [their] own tunes.” Yet when Prince performed at the Super Bowl in 2007, he played the Foo Fighters song “Best of You.” Go figure…. The recording can be found Stateside on the band’s limited-edition 12-inch vinyl covers album Medium Rare that they put out for Record Store Day 2011.
5) “Jungle Love” by The Time
For a while in the 1980s it seemed like Prince was turning the Minneapolis R&B scene into his own Motown. And The Time looked to be the crown jewel among The Purple One’s proteges. The band’s singer Morris Day played Prince’s rival in the movie Purple Rain, and he and Time guitarist co-wrote this song with Prince (credited to his Jamie Starr pseudonym) that was featured in the film. It reached #20 on the Billboard pop charts.
4) “When Doves Cry” by Patti Smith
What makes for a great cover? Two things, certainly. First, an artist makes the song their own. Second, they enable you to hear a song in new and different ways. This cover does both. It was the only new studio track on Smith‘s 2002 compilation Land, which compiled her best moments from her years on Arista Records alongside rarities and live material, is almost worth the price of admission alone.
3) “When You Were Mine” by Cyndi Lauper
Lauper recorded this song from Dirty Mind for her 1983 debut album, She’s So Unusual. As the seventh single from an LP that spawned four Top 5 hits, it didn’t enjoy much chart success. But it’s still a gem. Fun fact: Prince wrote the song while listening to John Lennon.
2) “Kiss” by Art of Noise featuring Tom Jones
This song had a somewhat circuitous route to both its times as a chart hit. Prince first wrote it as a short blues-based demo for the Minneapolis band Mazarati. The band and their producer, Prince’s friend and associate David Z, presented their funkier version to Prince, and he took the song back and reworked it into his own take, which became his third U.S. #1 hit and won him a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. Two years later the English avant-garde music group Art of Noise recorded a version with Tom Jones on vocals. It became a #5 chart hit in the U.K., outperforming Prince’s original.
1) “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinéad O’Connor
The song first appeared on the 1985 debut album by The Family, one of the groups on Prince’s Paisley Park Records. But it was Irish singer Sinéad O’ Connor that turned it into a smash worldwide hit as the second single from her second album, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, in 1990. It topped the U.S. Hot 100 for four weeks and was the third best-selling single that year. Its iconic video won Video of the Year, Best Female Video and Best Post-Modern Video at MTV’s Video Music Awards.
Bonus Track: “Raspberry Beret” by Hindu Love Gods
We would have included this number on the list if we could have found a video with an embed code (you can listen to it here). After all, it’s one of our favorite Prince songs, sung by another departed artist we miss dearly, Warren Zevon, with R.E.M. members Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Bill Berry.