July 29, 2021

Ten great covers of Prince songs

After reviewing the previous week ten songs that Prince composed for other artists, Xavier Valiño selects this week ten of the most outstanding versions by others, from Tom Jones to Etta James or The Jesus & Mary Chain.

Selection and text: XAVIER VALIÑO.

It could have been many others. Prince has been covered by artists of many styles, from punk to folk. Among others they have done it Damien Rice, Phish, Foo Fighters, Stina Nordestam, Peter Murphy, Dayna Kurtz, Alicia Keys, Semisonic, Tina Turner, Incubus, Ice-T, Robyn, Arto Lindsay, George Clinton, Peaches, Corinne Bailey Rae, Refused … Here are ten outstanding versions, they are their respective alternatives and an extra theme that help us to keep in mind the genius of his legacy.

1. Mike Flowers Pop: ‘1999’ (“A groovy place”, 1996).

Mike Roberts enjoyed a few minutes of glory in 1995 when he released his easy listening version of Oasis’ ‘Wonderwall’ under the name Mike Flowers Pop. The following year he released a full album with lounge key versions of The ‘Light my fire’. Doors, ‘Venus as a boy’ by Björk, a medley by The Velvet Underground or ‘1999’ by Prince. As it arrived, it disappeared, leaving its more than interesting proposal to vanish without further ado.

Alternativa: Gary Numan: ‘1999’.

2. The Jesus & Mary Chain: ‘Alphabet St.’ (“Come on”, 1995).

On their 1994 EP “Come on” the Reid brothers, Jim and William, recovered the distortion and dirt of their early songs on their debut “Psychocandy” nine years ago to walk through murky and poisoned waters on ‘Alphabet St.’ of Prince, taking him to a field they know well and in which they are unique and very special.

Alternativa: Sufjan Stevens: ‘Alphabet St.’

3. Tom Jones & The Art of Noise: ‘Kiss’ (single, 1988).

The Art of Noise, a band that started recording for Trevor Horn’s (The Buggles) ZTT label making electronic pop, had its biggest success with its version of Prince’s ‘Kiss’, with the collaboration of Tom Jones on vocals. For the Welsh singer, the song revived his career at the end of the 80s. And no, it was not he who chose his versions of the most recent songs and collaborations with more recent artists to adapt to the new times, but his manager … his own child.

Alternative: Señor Coconut: ‘Kiss’.

4. Eels: ‘If I was your girlfriend’ (“Useless trinkets b-sides, soundtracks, rarities and unreleased 1996-2006”, 2008).

It was not the only time that Eels dared with a Prince song. On the 2008 rarity album “Useless trinkets b-sides, soundtracks, rarities and unreleased 1996-2006”, there was also ‘I could never take the place of your man’. Mark Everett likes Prince’s songs particularly well: it seems as if he lives them as a kindred spirit, a musical brother closer to rock.

Alternativa: TLC: ‘If I was your girlfriend’.

5. Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs: ‘I would die 4 U’ (“Under the covers Vol. 3”, 2003).

Three volumes so far have the power-pop champion Matthew Sweet and the former singer of The Bangles Susanna Hoffs doing versions of different decades: the 60s in the first, the 70s in the second and the 80s in the third. In the latter there were, among others, songs by REM, Elvis Costello, The Pretenders, Tom Petty, The Beat, Kirsty MacColl, The Smiths, Roxy Music, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Go-Go’s, The Clash and this one by Prince, perhaps the closest on this list to its original sound. It should be remembered that The Bangles had their first success with ‘Manic Monday’, a song that Prince gave to Susanna Hoffs when he was trying to win her over.

Alternativa: Mariachi el Bronx: ‘I would die 4 u’.

6. Etta James: ‘Purple rain’ (“All the way”, 2008).

On her penultimate album before passing away in 2012, the great blues, soul and gospel singer released an album of covers by artists such as Marvin Gaye, Simply Red, Bobby Womack, John Lennon, James Brown or Prince. Apparently, ‘Purple rain’ was a good choice even if his voice was not then what it had been at the time.

Alternativa: Ben Harper: ‘Purple rain’.

7. Hindu Love Gods: ‘Raspberry beret’ (“Hindu love gods”, 1990).

Hindu Love Gods debuted in 1984 as a side project for REM musicians to cover. At first they had a singer from Athens, Bryan Cook, although on other occasions Michael Stipe or Warren Zevon were their vocalists. One night, while Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Bill Berry were recording Warren Zevon’s album “Sentimental hygiene” (1987), the four of them recorded nine versions of blues in one fell swoop and somewhat drunk (Robert Johnson, Willie Dixon, Bo Diddley … ) and Prince’s song ‘Raspberry beret’ with no intention other than to have a good time. Three years later it was released as a single, while those ten songs appeared as part of the only Hindu Love Gods album.

Alternativa: Andy White: ‘Raspberry beret’.

8. Nina Simone: ‘Sign o’ the times’ (“A single woman”, 1993, in the 2008 reissue).

After seven years since her previous album, “Nina’s back” (1985), Nina Simone released a new album in 1993, which would ultimately be her last work before passing away ten years later. There were ten songs with his deep voice still moving wrapped in a string section. However, the version released in 1993 did not include his stimulating version of Prince’s’ Sign or ‘the times’, which could not be heard until the album was reissued 15 years later, with Nina now missing.

Alternativa: Simple Minds: ‘Sign o’ the times’.

9. The Twilight Singers: ‘When doves cry’ (“Spin presents purplish rain, 2009).

In 2009, Spin magazine published the album “Purplish rain”, in which various artists made different versions of Prince such as Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings (‘Take me with u’), Of Montreal (‘Computer blue’) , Lavender Diamond (‘Purple Rain’) or Chairlift (‘Darling Nikki’). Among all, the Twilight Singers review of ‘When doves cry’ stood out. There was no fault: Greg Dulli (also leader of the Afghan Whigs) suits that suit between soul and dark rock like no one else.

Alternativa: Patti Smith: ‘When doves cry’.

10. Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels: ‘When you were mine’ (“Never kick a sleeping dog groovy place”, 1996).

Legend of the Detroit rock scene, Mitch Ryder had several hits in the 60s with his band The Detroit Wheels and songs like ‘Jenny take a Ride’ or ‘Devil with a blue dress’. After a period away from the stage dedicated to painting and writing, in 1983 he released a new album with a multinational produced by John Mellencamp, from which his version of ‘When u were mine’ by Prince, adapted to his style, was published as a single. It had no major impact and Mitch Ryder would take 30 years to re-record an album.

Alternativa: Cindy Lauper: ‘When u were mine’.


Prince: ‘Creep’ (live, 2008).

Let’s turn the point around: a new list could be made with one of the many versions that Prince has made of others, especially live. Among the best is ‘Creep’ by Radiohead, performed at the Coachella Festival in 2008, banned until a few months ago all parties gave permission for us to enjoy it. Hard to believe, but Prince turns it into his own in eight hypnotic minutes with almost no mention of its chorus, something only a genius can do.