The Early Movies: Songs Prince Wrote But Others Made Famous

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(Note: due to technical problems last night, this post was delayed. This morning, I've got some Prince for U!)

Prince has written dozens of hits over his decades in the music business -- and many of his hits have been popularized by others. In many cases, Prince had a hit, then another artist covered his song and made it a hit again -- a good example is "Kiss," which was a #1 US hit for Prince in 1986 and a top-ten UK hit for Art of Noise (featuring Tom Jones) in 1989. In tonight's roundup, I've put together some of Prince's best material -- as performed by other artists, and (in most cases) the artist himself.

Nothing Compares 2 U

I had no idea that Prince wrote this song until 1998. I told a Prince-loving friend about it last night and he had no idea Sinéad O'Connor had even performed this song (although it was a #1 hit for her in 1990). I guess we all know our favorite versions best!

Interestingly, the song was originally written for The Family, a band largely powered by Prince and including various bandmembers who collaborated with him on other projects.

Sinéad O'Connor Version:

Prince Version (Live on Ellen):

Also check out The Family's version.

When You Were Mine

I know "When You Were Mine" best as a Cyndi Lauper song -- but it was written by Prince and released originally as a B-side for his single "Controversy" in 1981. For me, Prince's version is much better -- but I didn't hear it until a few years ago. I still think Lauper's version is good, but Prince's kicks ass. Check out both versions:

Cyndi Lauper Version (she really tears it up live):

Prince Version (audio only):

Manic Monday

I was a huge Bangles fan in elementary school. I totally listened to Different Light on repeat on my tape deck for years (hey, stop beating me up, bullies!!). It wasn't until a decade after I first heard it that I learned the hit single "Manic Monday" was written by Prince and originally intended for Apollonia 6. Interestingly, "Manic Monday" peaked at the #2 spot on the US charts -- while Prince's "Kiss" was #1.

Note that "Manic Monday" shares a vocal melody with Prince's "1999," which itself is loosely built around a riff from the Mamas and the Papas song "Monday, Monday." (Read more about the whole business here.)

Bangles version:

Bangles with Prince, live, 1986 (audio only):

For more on working with Prince, check out this clip and this one too. You can also watch Susanna Hoffs accept an award (a Grammy?) on Prince's behalf. There are many conflicting accounts about the nature of the Prince-Hoffs relationship; let's not get into that here.

How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore?

Written by Prince, this was originally released as the B-side to his song "1999" in 1982. It was later covered by various artists, with Alicia Keys's 2001 version peaking at #26 on the UK charts.

Alicia Keys version:

Prince version:

Sitte-Zoellner TRIO version (German trio, including a surprisingly good kid on drums -- a lovely live cover):

Watch Alicia Keys induct Prince into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Stand Back

This Stevie Nicks solo track was a top five hit, but was co-written by Prince -- he wrote the signature synthesizer parts. (And Nicks has reportedly said that the lyrics to "Stand Back" fit exactly into "Little Red Corvette" -- the songs are that similar!) Here's how Wikipedia describes the song's origins:

Nicks has often told the story of how she wrote the song. She wrote it shortly after she was married to Kim Anderson. The newlyweds were driving up to San Ysidro Ranch in Santa Barbara when Prince's song "Little Red Corvette" came on the radio. Nicks started humming along to the melody, especially inspired by the lush synthesizers of the song, and "Stand Back" was born. They stopped and got a tape recorder and she recorded the demo in the honeymoon suite that night. Later, when Nicks went into the studio to record the song, she called Prince and told him the story of how she wrote the song to his melody. He came to the studio that night and played synthesizers on it, although his contribution is uncredited on the album. Then, she says, "he just got up and left as if the whole thing happened in a dream." Prince is occasionally listed as the song's co-writer, especially on mainland European releases.

ASCAP credits "Nicks, Stephanie" and "Prince" as the writers of "Stand Back."

I Feel for You

Originally written and recorded by Prince, later covered The Pointer Sisters and Mary Wells, Chaka Khan's version featured a famous rap intro by Melle Mel and Stevie Wonder on harmonica. The song was a #3 hit for Khan.

Chaka Khan version (live at The Grammies, unfortunately without Stevie Wonder):

Prince version:

The Glamorous Life

Originally written by Prince for Apollonia 6 (like "Manic Monday"), this song was given to percussionist/singer Sheila E., who made it into a #1 dance hit in 1984.

Sheila E. version (live at the American Music Awards -- stick around for the killer drum solo):

Stevie Wonder/Lalah Hathaway version (a little rambling, but interesting):

If you liked that, you might enjoy Stevie Wonder, Sheila E., and Prince playing "Superstition" together.

Have I Left Any Out?

Got any favorite Prince-penned hits performed by other artists? Share them in the comments!

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April 28, 2011 - 7:33am
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