We read with interest this morning that Prince had pronounced – via Fox news, no less – that in his opinion, cover songs should be banned. Specifically, he railed at the fact that “there’s this thing called compulsory licensing law that allows artists through the record companies to take your music at will without your permission.” This is true, from what we can gather – provided that by “the record companies” he means the companies who hold publishing rights, which isn’t always the same thing – although the law does also specify that licensing fees must be paid to the songwriter. It’s an interesting point, as very few musicians own their own publishing rights. But equally, it’d be a shame if he’d had his way all along, because there have been some cracking Prince covers recorded over the years. Check out our favorites, and suggest yours, after the jump.
Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele – “When You Were Mine”
The idea of a skinny white dude with a ukulele covering Prince sounds like a trip to novelty song hell, but Dent May pulls it off surprisingly well, reinventing the original as a geekified lament of unrequited love. If nothing else, it shows what a diversity of interpretations Prince’s tunes can support.
Patti Smith – “When Doves Cry”
…as, indeed, does this somber version of Prince’s 1984 portrait of abusive relationships and broken families. Patti Smith has always had a knack for covers, and this is a latter-day classic.
Of Montreal – “Computer Blue”
It shouldn’t come as any sort of surprise that Kevin Barnes is a Prince fan – the androgyny, the falsetto, the purple boots. Of Montreal contributed a cover of this song to Spin’s Purplish Rain compilation a couple of years back and have also slotted it into their live set from time to time.
George Clinton – “Erotic City”
Seriously, how awesome is this? Dream combinations like George Clinton and a Prince song often turn out to be less than the sum of their parts, but this is everything you could hope for, a gloriously funkified version of a song that was pretty damn funky already.
Sinéad O’Connor – “Nothing Compares 2 U”
The classic – no roundup of Prince covers is complete without perhaps the best-known interpretation of one of his tunes. O’Connor’s is certainly the definitive version of this song – if she’d never covered it, it would have forever remained as an obscure tune by one of Prince’s many side projects (specifically, short-lived band The Family).