Happy Birthday: Prince
Today is Prince’s birthday, and it still doesn’t seem right that he’s not here to celebrate it with us. To celebrate, we recommend that you blast some of his best tunes in his honor…and also just because they’re awesome.
In addition to providing you with the below playlist, we’ve also compiled a six-pack of some of the earliest Prince covers ever released. You probably know the majority of the songs, but you might not know all of the versions, so here’s hoping you enjoy the opportunity to get a little bit of musical education.
Bette Bright, “When You Were Mine” (1981): Originally credited to “Bette Bright and the Illuminations” but ultimately reissued on Warner Brothers with the name of her backing group removed, Bright’s cover of this track from Prince’s 1980 album DIRTY MIND would seem to have been the first time that another artist took a stab at one of Prince’s compositions. It’s a fun new-wave take on the track, one which showed that his songs had hooks which were strong enough to make the jump from R&B to pop with little effort, and it’s arguable that it helped set the stage for Cyndi Lauper to put her own stamp on the song two years later for her debut solo album, SHE’S SO UNUSUAL.
Ren Woods, “I Don’t Wanna Stop” (1982): This track is notable for two reasons, the first being that it was the first time that Prince provided an artist with a song without actually participating in the subsequent recording of that song. The other reason it’s notable – which may or may not be related to the first reason (though you would be well within your rights to presume that it is) – is that, although it was originally the closing track on Woods’ 1982 album, AZZ IZZ, it was removed from later pressings of the album at Prince’s request.
The Pointer Sisters, “I Feel For You” (1982): Statistically speaking, most people know of this track because of Chaka Khan’s version, which turned into a smash single that raised her pop-chart profile higher than it had ever been before, but it’s all too rarely mentioned that Chaka was walking in the footsteps of The Pointer Sisters, who’d released a not-at-all-dissimilar arrangement of the song two years earlier.
Stephanie Mills, “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore?” (1983): First released by Prince as the B-side to “1999,” Mills was the first artist to cover the gospel-influenced ballad, which went on to become a hit single by Alicia Keys in 2002. There’s also a sad footnote to the song’s legacy: it was in Prince’s set list for his last proper concert, which took place at Atlanta’s Fox Theater on April 14, 2016.
Debra Hurd, “Gotta Broken Heart Again” (1983): Definitely the most obscure item on this list, Hurd released precisely one album in her career, but her self-titled Geffen debut / swan song featured this brilliantly Prince number, which originally appeared on his DIRTY MIND album. While this song didn’t find chart success, Hurd did score a hit with her single “Hug Me, Squeeze Me,” and she found further success when she joined forces with Damian Broadus to form the duo Damian Dane, who hit the Hot 100 with “Exclusivity” and “Right Down to It.” Sadly, Hurd was killed in a car accident in 1994. (Eerily, Broadus died exactly two years later, albeit of colon cancer.)
Mitch Ryder, “When You Were Mine” (1983): Although there was a temptation to avoid duplicating covers on this list, it’s just too hard to leave out Ryder’s version of “When You Were Mine,” since he was the first established rock artist to recognize the merit of Prince’s music enough to cover one of his songs. Indeed, Ryder’s cover actually got him back into the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time since 1967. Behold the power of Prince!