5 Songs You Didn’t Know Prince Wrote That Were Made Famous by Other Artists

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Never short of hits, Prince broke the No. 1 spot 19 times with his songs and slipped into the Billboard Hot 100 list 47 times. Though, there were some songs the bonafide hitmaker initially wrote and released that didn’t have the same spark as when they were covered by other artists, while others took on an entirely new life (i.e. Tom Jones, circa 1988).

Then, there were some songs that reached new heights—Chaka Khan’s R&B and funked up “I Feel For You,” Sinead O’Connor’s rawer rendition of “Nothing Compares 2 U”—when someone else took over the wheel of the Prince’s lyrics.

Here are songs Prince initially recorded himself that were later made famous by other artists.

“When You Were Mine,” Cyndi Lauper (1983)
Written by Prince

Off Prince’s 1980 album Dirty Mind, ”When You Were Mine” was never released as a single by the artist but instead went out as an promotional 12″ with the songs “Gotta Broken Heart Again” and “Uptown,” and later as a B-Side for Prince’s “Controversy” in 1981. Inspired to write the song while he was listening to John Lennon, Prince’s version of “When You Were Mine” took a new shape when Cyndi Lauper covered the song on her 1983 debut She’s So Unusual. The song never hit big in the U.S. for either artist but did get some traction in Japan and Canada for Lauper, who also performed it at the American Music Awards in 1985.

“I Feel For You,” Chaka Khan (1984)
Written by Prince

Appearing on Prince’s 1979 self-titled album, “I Feel For You” was allegedly a song he wrote for a crush, musician Patrice Rushen. Though The Pointer Sisters recorded the song in 1982 for their So Excited! album, the song didn’t soar up the charts until Chaka Khan took it on in 1984. Along with producer Arif Martin, Chaka Khan transformed the song into the biggest hit of her solo career, picking up a Grammy for Best R&B Song in 1985. In 2019, the Prince Estate released a previously unheard demo of the song featuring Prince singing and playing acoustic guitar.

“Kiss,” Tom Jones with the Art of Noise (1988)
Written by Prince

Nothing will ever compare to Prince’s No. 1 version of “Kiss,” released off Prince and the Revolution’s eighth studio album, Parade, in 1986, but when Tom Jones took it on just two years later, it brought a different audience to the single—and Jones’ career. Joined by the British electro-pop group Art of Noise, Jones offered up his own slinky rendition of the kissable classic, which also earned him some MTV airtime for the first time in his career. The song reached the Top 10 in several countries and No. 18 on the U.S. dance chart for Jones, who released another version of “Kiss” on his album Reloaded: Greatest Hits in 2003.

“Nothing Compares 2 U” (1990)
Written by Prince

First released in 1985 by Prince’s funk side project on their self-title The Family, “Nothing Compares 2 U” was never released as a single. When Sinead O’Connor covered the song in 1990, the Irish artist completely transformed the feeling of the song into one of immense loss and grief. Dedicated to her mother Marie who died in a car accident when O’ Connor was 19 in 1986, her more visceral version—even down to the stark video, directed by John Maybury and shot around Paris—sent a ripple through the charts. “I love it, it’s great,” said Prince of O’Connor’s cover. “I look for cosmic meaning in everything. I think we just took that song as far as we could, then someone else was supposed to come along and pick it up.”

“How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore,” Alicia Keys (2001)
Written by Prince

Alicia Keys knew just how to interpret Prince. Originally released as a B-Side for Prince’s 1982 hit “1999,” Keys later sang through the harsh breakup song “How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore” on her 2001 debut Songs in A Minor. Just 19 at the time, Keys represented an entirely new generation of Prince fans at the turn of the 21st-century singing I keep your picture beside my bed / And I still remember everything you said / I always thought our love was so right / I guess I was wrong. Keys later became friends with Prince and was even asked to induct him into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. “There are many kings, but there is only one Prince,” said Keys during her induction speech. “[He wrote] songs that made me look at songwriting as stories that are untold passions dying to be heard.” Though Prince’s original version didn’t get much movement on the charts, Key’s rendition did hit the Hot R&B and Hip-Hop Songs charts. 

Photo: Nancy Bundt / The Prince Estate

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