Thursday, April 21, 2016

9 Songs Written By Prince Covered By Other Artists


My biggest Prince memory is of a college friend that was madly in love with him. So much so, that she invited me and other friends to her dorm one evening to watch a Prince concert event on cable. It was the early '90s, and Prince's tour at that time had a Roman theme for the set, inspired by Caligula if I remember correctly. When he looked into the camera, made a "V" shape with two of his fingers and put his tongue in between them, my friend went nuts. I wanted to throw up.

Needless to say, Prince the man didn't do a darned thing for me sexually. To be honest, at the time I thought he was a little freaky and full of himself. When he changed his name to that of a symbol in the '90s, it solidified my personal opinion that he was a kind of a weirdo.

But...that doesn't mean I couldn't -- and can't -- appreciate him as a musical artist. (And after watching several interviews with him since his death, I can see now that he really wasn't a weirdo after all, but a very deep and creative individual.)

Not long ago here on Go Retro I lamented about how homogenized pop music has become...every song and performer sounds the same to me. Not so in the '80s, which was the decade that I received a personal stereo with earphones and truly discovered the world of music for the first time. And Prince's catalog definitely was a huge part of the quirkiness that often defined the '80s sound. I would guess that "1999" was the first song I remember hearing by him, followed by "Delirious" (one of my favorites), "Let's Go Crazy", "When Doves Cry", "Raspberry Beret", "I Would Die 4 U" (I guess Prince was texting in his song titles before texting was even invented) and of course, "Little Red Corvette." It wasn't until recently that I learned that Prince's debut album, For You, pretty much consisted of only one musician: himself. And he was just barely 20 years old at the time of its release. Somewhat of a child prodigy, Prince mastered several instruments and was writing music at a very young age.

Here's a list of the instruments that are credited to Prince on that first album: all vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, Orr bass, bass synth, singing bass, Fuzz bass, Fender Rhodes electric piano, acoustic piano, Mini-Moog, Poly-Moog, Arp String Ensemble, Arp Pro Soloist, Oberheim 4-voice, clavinet, drums, syndrums, water drums, slapsticks, bongos, congas, finger cymbals, wind chimes, orchestral bells, woodblocks, brush trap, tree bell, hand claps, and finger snaps.

Ah, yes. Can't forget the finger snaps.

Anyways, on the eve of his death the media has been reporting that he had a treasure trove of unreleased material tucked into his stark white mansion that has never reached the ears of the masses...hopefully in time that will be compiled and released. But something else we should remember about the prolific Prince is the enormous amount of material that he wrote that was recorded by other artists. So in honor of Prince Rogers Nelson, here's nine songs that he wrote for other performers....some of which became huge hits, as popular as if they had been recorded by Prince himself.

"Nasty Girl" by Vanity 6 (1982)

Prince seemed to take pleasure in creating musical groups long before Simon Cowell, and one of his pet projects was Vanity 6, a female trio that was originally going to be called (and probably rather appropriately) The Hookers. Sleezy, yes. Vapid, absolutely -- but I'd be lying if I said this song didn't have a spot somewhere on my list of favorite guilty pleasure tunes of the '80s. By the way, Vanity herself died earlier this year at the same age as Prince, 57. She had become a born-again Christian after Vanity 6 disbanded and quit drugs as well as the Hollywood lifestyle.



"When You Were Mine" by Cyndi Lauper (1983)

One of the tracks on Lauper's She's So Unusual album, it got overshadowed by her big hits from that record. Originally written and released in 1980, Prince was inspired by John Lennon when composing it, and it became part of his set list on many concert tours.



"Jungle Love" by Morris Day and The Time (1984)

Prince wrote several songs for Morris Day and The Time, which isn't surprising considering Day starred with him in Purple Rain and Graffiti Bridge (Prince also directed and starred in the now-forgotten Under the Cherry Moon, in which he played a gigolo hoping to swindle money from women.) The catchy song peaked at #20 on the Billboard chart, and Day would break up with The Time that same year to pursue a solo career.



"Sugar Walls" by Sheena Easton (1985)

(Note: Because of the controversial nature of this song and because it may violate my advertising terms, I am not linking to or posting a video.)

Prince didn't shy away from writing controversial, sexually charged lyrics; he has the honor of having two songs that he wrote listed on Tipper Gore's infamous "Filthy Fifteen" list of songs she deemed too violent or sexual for children to listen to: "Darling Nikki" (a song about a girl that loved to uh...grind) and "Sugar Walls", which was recorded by Sheila Easton. I think everyone knows by now what part of the female anatomy is being referred to in this delightful, dirty ditty. I have seen a lot of criticism about this song throughout the years -- one blogger said Prince's attitude towards sex was "juvenile" when he penned it -- but I have to beg to differ. If male singers can get away with referring to their private parts as "Mr. Jones", then why shouldn't a female singer have a euphemism for hers? Plus it's one of my most favorite sexy songs of all time.

"The Belle of St. Mark" by Shelia E. (1985)

Even before I knew who wrote it, I knew this song had Prince's mark all over it. He also wrote her big hit, "Glamorous Life" -- but there's something about the androgynous subject of the song that makes me wonder if Prince was secretly writing about himself.



"Manic Monday" by The Bangles (1986)

This is one song that still holds up today, especially when the Sunday night blues start coming on. Prince wrote it under the pseudonym "Christopher", and had originally intended it for another girl group he had pulled together, Apollonia 6.



"Love Song" by Madonna (1989)

Prince is among Madonna's rumored suitors from the '80s, so it's possible this song was inspired directly by their relationship.



"Nothing Compares 2 U" by Sinead O'Connor (1990)

This song has its origins in 1985, when Prince was working with a side project band called The Family -- but it was Sinead O'Connor that scored a hit with it in 1990. A good one to stay away from after a break-up.
 


"Love... Thy Will Be Done" by Martika (1991)

In the early '90s, singer Martika (mostly known by that point for her hit "Toy Soldiers") approached Prince with help recording some new material. One story says that Prince felt Martika as a singer should have been given stronger songs to work with. "Love... Thy Will Be Done" was actually written by Martika as a prayer, and then set to music by Prince. It was a top ten hit for Martika in the U.S., the UK, France, and Australia, and Prince would perform it on tours during the late '90s.

3 comments:

  1. The was one of my favorites: "Love, Thy Will be Done" by Martika Remember that one? RIP Prince.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=QCcgE6IJg8w

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    Replies
    1. Too lovely to leave out so I added it to the post -- thanks, Therese.

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  2. One of my favorite Prince songs (and I keep meaning to use it in the Battle of the Bands) is The Arms of Orion. I don't think it's been covered much,if at all. Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=paqdRqBe7J8

    Thanks, Pam - great post!
    Cherdo
    Cherdo on the Flipside
    "Favorite Characters, Favorite Lines" on the A-to-Z Challenge 2016

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