Prince has left behind an exceptional legacy of music and innovation. He is an artist in every sense of the word, with songs that transcend generations and mxdwn has compiled a list of some of the most beloved, ground-breaking, controversial and simply amazing songs to celebrate the tremendous musical life of the incomparable legend, Prince.
“I Wanna Be Your Lover”
“I Wanna Be Your Lover” was Prince’s first hit single and first Top 40 song! Originally, written for and inspired by Jazz and R&B musician , Patrice Rushen (best known for her single “Forget Me Nots”), the song came back to Prince after Rushen rejected it for use on her own album.
“Do Me Baby”
“Do Me Baby, the last single off the 4th album, Controversy, was the first time Prince ever took total control over the production process of a song- singing all the vocals and playing all the instruments. But, sadly it never found its place on the charts… that is until R&B songstress Mel’isa Morgan covered it for her very own album and it was sampled by Tupac in “To Live & Die in LA”.
“Little Red Corvette”
Ironically the inspiration behind “Little Red Corvette” had nothing to do with a Corvette at all, in fact, it was came to life in a little pink Edsel. The Edsel was owned by Prince’s bandmate at the time, Lisa Coleman, and story goes that one night Prince fell asleep in it after a long night at the studio and awoke with the idea for the song on his mind and he continued the process of napping and writing until it was complete. Today, it is ranked 109 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Best Songs of All Time and is credited for having inspired Stevie Nicks’s “Stand Back,” which Prince played the keyboard on.
Stevie Nicks was actually asked by Prince to write the title track of the album written for the film, but after intimidation over the daunting task caused her to withdraw, the song writing naturally fell to Prince. And great it did because it is now considered one of his biggest hit. It drew attention to his undeniable guitar skills, topped Billboard Charts for 24 weeks and won him an Oscar for “Best Original Song Score” in 1984.
“When Doves Cry”
“When Doves Cry” was commissioned by the director of Purple Rain after all the other tracks were completed, to fit a scene of the film, was composed by Prince in a day, and was inspired by his relationship with his high school sweetheart, Vanity 6’s Susan Moonsie. It went on to become Prince’s first hit No.1 single, to rank 52 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of all time and was certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.
“Let’s Go Crazy”
Although it never topped the charts, the opening spoken lines of “Let’s Go Crazy” are possibly the most quoted of all his songs and are so aptly fitting for the past sorrowful days: “Dearly beloved / We are gathered here today / To get through this thing called life / Electric word life / It means forever and that’s a mighty long time / But I’m here to tell you / There’s something else / The after world.”
Written during the Cold War and with the bleak uncertainties of Y2K looming over him, Prince penned title track “1999” as a celebration of life and encouragement to seize the days before it’s “two thousand zero zero party over / Oops out of time.” 1999 was Prince’s first platinum album, but oddly enough, the title track only reached No. 44 on the charts in the US when it was first released and then was released for a second time after “Little Red Corvette” and made it to No. 12. The guest vocals that can be heard on the track belong to Lisa Coleman, Dez Dickerson and Jill Jones.
Among the many impressions Prince has left on the music industry, perhaps one of the most significant to business side involved “Darling Nikki.” Apparently, one day as Al and Tipper Gore were listening to the radio with their 11 year old daughter. “Darling Nikki” came on and Tipper Gore was so appalled by its sexual vulgarity that she gathered with other Washington wives and formed the Parents Music Resource Center that later led to the case that enforced the Parental Advisory warning on explicit records and the censorship of radio play.
Price wrote “Kiss” for Mazarati, the band formed by his former Revolution bassist, but after hearing how the group and producer had reworked and stripped it down, Prince decided it would be better represented with his falsetto as the lead vocal and reclaimed it as his own. It became his third No. 1 song of his career, simultaneously peaked at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100, Hot Dance Club Play and Hot R&B Hip Hop Songs charts and secured him his third Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal.
“I Would Die 4 U”
The fourth single from Purple Rain and Top 10 hit, “I Would Die 4 U,” like many of Prince’s songs, explores the realm of spirituality and centers on his belief in Jehovah (although popular early opinion didn’t realize it at the time). “I’m not your lover / I’m not your friend / I am something that you’ll never comprehend / No need to worry / No need to cry / I’m your messiah and you’re the reason why.”
The first single off of the 1985 album, Around the World in a Day, was the first song to truly venture from Princes previous work sonically and continued to showcase his genius versatility. With the goal of capturing sound, the song uses Middle Eastern cymbals, stringed instruments and a harmonica to create an irresistible pop jam.
“Sign o’ The Times”
A social and political narrative of the ‘80s, “Sign O’ The Times” was one of the earliest pop songs to address the controversial AIDS epidemic and heightening gang violence and drug abuse issues plaguing the United States. “In France, a skinny man died of a big disease with a little name / By chance his girlfriend came across a needle and soon she did the same / At home there are seventeen-year-old boys and their idea of fun / Is being in a gang called ‘The Disciples’ / High on crack and totin’ a machine gun.” A critic favorite, the song was covered by Muse in 2012.
“If I Was Your Girlfriend”
“If I Was Your Girlfriend” did not fare well among the public due its theme’s departure from the traditional social roles. The song is defined by androgynous vocals and a play on gender, as it was to be released under Prince’s female alter ego, Camille. Unfortunately, the Camille album was scrapped, but the song made it onto the Sign O’ The Times album as its second single and was covered by TLC in 1994.
Video and radio controversy arose for Prince with the release of soul/funk track “Sexy MF” off his fourteenth album, the Love Symbol Album. The name comes from the chorus “You sexy motherfucker” and called for the title to be censored to “Sexy Mutha” for the radio and the release of a clean version of the US album to avoid the sale restrictions of a Parental Advisory warning.
In between hits and misses, “7,” off the Love Symbol Album, became Prince’s last big hit peaking at No. 7 in 1992. The song features a sample of Otis Reddings and Carla Thomas’ “Tramp” and has an unknown religious theme that some believe is inspired by the 7 deadly sins or 7 major world religions.