He was one of the most prolific and influential musicians of all time, but Prince was not only a master of his own songs. He also wrote and produced some of the biggest hits for other artists, often under different names or without any credit at all.
Here are some of the songs you may not have known were written by the Purple One, and the stories behind them.
– Nothing Compares 2 U by Sinead O’Connor. This heartbreaking ballad was originally recorded by Prince’s side project The Family in 1985, but it was O’Connor who made it a global smash in 1990 with her haunting rendition. Prince later said he was impressed by her version, but also admitted he regretted giving the song away. He said: ‘I love Sinead O’Connor’s version of that song. It’s just that she took it to a place that I couldn’t take it.’
– Manic Monday by The Bangles. Prince wrote this catchy pop tune for his musical trio Apollonia 6 in 1984, but decided to offer it to The Bangles instead. He used the pseudonym Christopher, and even played some of the instruments on the track. The song became The Bangles’ first hit, reaching number two in both the US and UK in 1986.
– I Feel For You by Chaka Khan. Prince originally recorded this funky song for his self-titled album in 1979, but it was Chaka Khan who turned it into a Grammy-winning hit in 1984. She added a rap by Melle Mel and a harmonica solo by Stevie Wonder, creating a modern R&B classic. Prince later said he was ‘very honored’ by her version, and praised her vocal skills.
– Stand Back by Stevie Nicks. This rock anthem was inspired by Prince’s song Little Red Corvette, which Nicks heard on the radio while driving to her honeymoon in 1983. She wrote Stand Back on the spot, and called Prince to ask him to play on it. He agreed, and showed up at the studio with his synthesizer. He played the distinctive riff that runs throughout the song, and then left without saying much. Nicks later said: ‘He was so uncanny, so wild, he spoiled me for every band I’ve ever had because nobody can exactly re-create – not even with two piano players – what Prince did all by his little self.’
– Jungle Love by The Time. This funky track was co-written and co-produced by Prince for his protégé band The Time in 1984. He also played most of the instruments on the song, which became a signature hit for The Time and featured in the movie Purple Rain. The song’s co-writer and The Time’s frontman Morris Day later said: ‘Prince and I had a very brotherly relationship. We had our ups and downs, but we always respected each other.’
These are just some of the examples of Prince’s genius and generosity as a songwriter. He also wrote songs for artists such as Madonna, Alicia Keys, Cyndi Lauper, Martika, Sheila E., and many more. He once said: ‘I like writing for other people. I’d rather do that than perform.’