(This list dates from sometime in 2015. I’d much rather repost it under more pleasant circumstances, but what can you do.)
One can sum up ’80s pop music with four artists: Bruce, Madonna, Michael, and Prince. In a way they were the last of the real superstars.The ’90s belonged to the anti-stars like Pearl Jam and Nirvana, and with the new millennium came the collapse of the traditional music industry.
I’m sure fans of Beyonce, Kanye West, Taylor Swift, and One Direction disagree, but the four names above were all-pervasive. Even little old ladies knew who Michael Jackson was, and Ronnie Reagan tried to adopt Bruce as his own. Sure, the new crowd is big, but that ’80s patch of superstars was huge.
And of the four, nobody made more music than Prince. He had his own band. He had bands under pseudonyms, like Madhouse. He had protegees and associated acts like The Time, The Family, Sheila E., Vanity 6 — that list goes on forever. But even beyond that, Prince wrote songs that became huge hits for other artists — songs that once you know are his you’ll say, “Oh yeah, I hear it now.”
Well, maybe not all of them. Anyway, here we go:
“I Feel For You,” Chaka Khan. A career-reviving hit for Chaka Khan, featuring Stevie Wonder on harmonica.
“Nothing Compares 2 U,” Sinead O’Connor. I’ve heard that Prince hates that people think this is a Sinead song; well, it is. Her version remains the definitive recording.
“Kiss,” Tom Jones featuring the Art of Noise. Prince had a hit with this, but Tom Jones and the Art of Noise took it around the block a second time with a completely different arrangement.
“Manic Monday,” The Bangles. One of two tracks we’ll see on this list from L.A.’s Paisley Underground.
“Sugar Walls,” Sheena Easton. Sheena was all “Morning Train” squeaky clean until Prince got hold of her. Your money’s on the dresser.
“You’re My Love,” Kenny Rogers. I’ll wait here while you try to envision a meeting with Prince and Kenny Rogers.
“Stand Back,” Stevie Nicks. Prince’s contributions here were the keyboard and synthesizer lines.
“Neon Telephone,” The Three O’Clock. And here’s your second Paisley Underground cut.
“Five Women,” Joe Cocker. Another shocker — Joe Cocker, really? I wonder if Prince made him pancakes.
“The Big Pump,” George Clinton. This one is no surprise. This is a funk summit that had to happen.