Prince Rogers Nelson, known worldwide simply as Prince, passed away on April 21, 2016, aged 57. A true musical icon, hailed as “one of the most unique and exciting artists of the last 30 years” by Mick Jagger, the Minneapolis musician would have celebrated his 65th birthday today, June 7.
As a tribute to his genius, here are six artists covering six of Prince’s most legendary songs.
Chris Cornell – Nothing Compares 2 U
Soundgarden’s frontman began performing Prince’s Nothing Compares 2 U – originally recorded by The Family on their self-titled 1985, but best known as a worldwide number one single in 1990 for Sinead O’Connor – during his 2015 acoustic tours: following Prince’s death, Cornell uploaded his version of the song to YouTube.
“Prince’s music is the soundtrack to the soulful and beautiful universe he created, and we have all been privileged to be part of that amazing world,” he stated. “I performed his song Nothing Compares 2 U for the first time a couple months ago. It has a timeless relevance for me and practically everyone I know. Sadly, now his own lyrics in this song could not be more relevant than at this moment, and I sing them now in reverence as I pay tribute to this unequaled [sic] artist who has given all of our lives so much inspiration and made the world so much more interesting. We will miss you Prince!!!”
Bruce Springsteen – Purple Rain
Prince’s Purple Rain album and Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The USA, respectively, were released just three weeks apart in June 1984. On April 23, 2016, bathed in purple light, Springsteen and the E Street Band opened their show at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center with an emotional performance of Purple Rain, The Boss signing off on the cover saying, “Prince forever. God bless.”
Speaking to Rolling Stone in October 2016, Springsteen described Prince’s death as “a great loss and a tragedy.”
“I felt a great kinship with Prince,” he continued. “And he was a guy, when I’d go to see him, I’d say, ‘Oh, man, OK, back to the drawing board.’ There was a film of him on the Arsenio Hall show, where he plays a series of songs in a row. It’s just some of the greatest showmanship I’ve ever seen… he’s one of the greatest showmen to come along. I studied that stuff a lot and put as much of it to use as I can with my talents. But he just took it to another level.”
Patti Smith – When Doves Cry
Patti Smith’s downbeat, melancholy version of When Doves Cry emerged on her 2002 compilation Land, and the New York punk poetess has covered the track a number of times in concert. On YouTube there’s footage of Smith performing a spontaneous cover of the song in Sydney, Australia in 2017 at the request of an audience member: admitting that she hasn’t practised the song at all, Smith tells the audience, “Even if we fuck it up, we’ll fuck it up with love.”
Foo Fighters – Darling Nikki
Dave Grohl tells an epic story about the time he jammed on Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love with Prince in an empty LA Forum, and his love for Prince’s work is clearly heartfelt and sincere. So when it was reported in a US magazine that Prince hated Foo Fighters’ cover of Darling Nikki, one could imagine how devastated Grohl would have felt. But it appears that The Purple One was misquoted, for last year, his former assistant Ruth Violette Arzate wrote an essay on Medium revealing that Prince was, in fact, a Foo’s fan.
“That band embodied the song in the way it was meant to be played,” Prince told her. “They are so good they could do a whole album of my rock songs.”
And in a moment that blew Dave Grohl’s mind, Prince actually covered the Foo’s Best Of You during his 2007 Super Bowl performance.
“When I heard he had passed, I sat in my car alone, crying, feeling both blessed to have shared these moments with him, and heartbroken that there would be no more,” Grohl wrote on Instagram in 2020. “There will never be another like him.”
Corey Taylor – Cream
“Guys, don’t get a boner,” Corey Taylor cautioned the gentlemen in his audience at The Roxy in Los Angeles on February 20, 2019, ahead of covering Cream.
Taylor was actually playing at First Avenue in Minneapolis on the evening that news of Prince’s death broke, and performed a stunning solo acoustic reading of Purple Rain in tribute. “It was heavy,” he later acknowledged in conversation with Loudwire. “For me, as a fan, there was no way that I was not going to show my respect for him… I wanted to walk out on that stage, no words, play the song, and have all of us kind of come together and share that moment, because I knew there were people in that audience hurting like I was.”
Tom Jones and David Gilmour – Purple Rain
“World-class singer, world-class guitarist, performing a song by a world-class songwriter. Absolutely no way this could fail.”
So reads the first comment beneath this [somewhat blurry] video of British music legends Tom Jones and David Gilmour performing Purple Rain in 1992 on his ITV series The Right Time. The show featured Jones tackling various music styles with special guests, and this performance was aired on the ‘Gospel Music’ episode, which also featured cameos from Mica Paris and Al Jarreau.
Following Prince’s death, during his Teenage Cancer Trust show at the Royal Albert Hall on April 24, David Gilmour paid his own understated tribute by incorporating phrases from Purple Rain into his guitar solo on Comfortably Numb, bathed in purple light.