8 Amazing Covers of Prince Songs by Everyone from Beyoncé to the Foo Fighters
Also starring one virtuoso Bulgarian guitarist
At this point, it’d be a challenge to find a musician who isn’t influenced by Prince in some way. His majestic voice, formidable guitar technique and songwriting sensibilities formed a repository of 20th century American music, and everyone from Patti Smith to Alicia Keys has seemingly acknowledged this influence with a cover. Let’s take a look at some of the best.
Alicia Keys, ‘How Come You Don’t Call Me’
Included as the non-album B-side to a little 1982 single you may know called “1999” and originally called “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore” per the Prince style guide, this song was a perfect showcase for Prince’s falsetto and piano playing. Alicia Keys altered the title slightly and released it as the third single from her debut album, Songs in A Minor.
Chris Cornell, ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’
Yes, this song largely belongs to Sinead O’Connor in the popular imagination, and with good reason: Her version is simply shattering. But Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell revealed a different side of his imperious wail for this stripped-down cover released last year that features his voice backed only by acoustic guitar and cello, and it’s quite moving.
Beyoncé, ‘The Beautiful Ones’
It’s Beyoncé covering Prince, and it’s exactly as beautiful as that sounds. What more do you want me to say? (Mariah Carey also turned in a version on Butterfly.)
Eva Vergilova, ‘Purple Rain’
The amazing thing about YouTube is that you can be combing through and suddenly find something like a beautiful Bulgarian guitarist absolutely shredding the crap out of “Purple Rain.” (Skip ahead to around :45 or so seconds in.) Vergilova deploys her considerable chops much as Prince would: Sparingly. Most of the solo is heavily bent and vibrato’d single notes, with only a few flourish-y runs. Prince would have been proud.
Patti Smith, ‘When Doves Cry’
Prince and Patti Smith have more in common than you’d think. Both were commanding performers and uniquely uncompromising when it came to their music. Smith’s version of “When Doves Cry” has a heaping dose of her characteristic theatricality, plus all the gravity a punk poetess with a half-century of experience can imbue.
D’Angelo, ‘She’s Always in My Hair’
Prince’s influence on D’Angelo is readily apparent, and his version of this great B-side naturally keeps the song’s heavy-as-rocks riff and feel but includes D’Angelo’s signature multi-tracked vocals and gospel-inspired keyboards. Weirdly, it was released on the Scream 2 soundtrack.
Goo Goo Dolls, ‘Never Take the Place of Your Man’
This is pre-fame Goo Goo Dolls, when they were deeply indebted to Midwestern rockers the Replacements, who, like Prince, hailed from Minneapolis. That’s maybe their reasoning for this respectably energetic cover of “Never Take the Place of Your Man,” on their third album, Hold Me Up. It features local Buffalo, New York, legend Lance Diamond on lead vocals. (Diamond met Goo Goo Dolls bassist Robby Takac when Takac moved into the apartment under him in Buffalo.)
Foo Fighters, ‘Darling Nikki’
The Foo Fighters aren’t an obvious choice for a Prince cover, but they imbue “Darling Nikki” (at 5:04 in the video above) with a suitably thrashing energy. Dave Grohl even attempts some Prince-style vocal acrobatics, which, well … he tried his best.