Prince Rogers Nelson would have turned 62 today. A few years ago, I wrote about what Purple Rain meant within the formulation of my life outlook when I first saw it in 1984. In the wake of his recent passing, many of us took to our own personal reflections and letters of thanks.
As we continue to celebrate his legacy during Black Music Month, we’ve chosen to look at some of the greatest songs that he’s written for others. Because in addition to being an extraordinary bandleader, singer, dancer, and musician, he was one of the most prolific, gifted and accomplished songwriters of our time.
5. MANIC MONDAY, The Bangles
The song is simply about somebody who’s not feeling having to go back into work after the weekend, which is kind of funny since Prince never had a 9-to-5 job. He’d originally written it for Apollonia 6 in 1984 but held it in the chamber for a couple of years.
It became the first huge hit for The Bangles, and was popular in the U.S., Austria, Canada, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland. It’s a quintessential ’80s cut that not many knew was written by the Little Purple Fella.
4. NASTY GIRL, VANITY 6
Written and produced by Prince, is it any wonder that homegirl is looking for a man to love her, like she’s never been loved before? That she’s looking for a man that will do it anywhere, even on a limousine floor!
In the fall of 1982, Nasty Girl hit the #1 spot on the American R&B charts, only to be knocked off its perch by….you guessed it, Prince himself with 1999. The jam banged everywhere, from block parties in New York to club dance floors to the stripper pole.
3.JUNGLE LOVE, The Time
Did you know that other than Jesse Johnson playing the guitar on the recording that every other musical instrument on the record was played by Prince? This dude right here! This dude right here!!! This is a cut that sliced through musical partitions because it was just too damn funky for anyone not to feel that fire.
And my man is talking about some extreme freaky deaky-ness, locking shorty up in a cage and only bringing her water. And to smooth out the edges of what he’s asking for, he reminds her that he has a bearskin rug. And a fireplace too!
2. A LOVE BIZARRE, Sheila E.
The album version of the song, which was co-written by Prince and Sheile E., rocks out for over 12 minutes. Beside The Glamorous Life, A Love Bizarre, which was featured in the movie Krush Groove, was her signature hit.
The piece has Prince’s fingerprints all over it. We learn as soon as the song opens, that this wild couple is bucket-nekkit in the back of a limousine enacting out the stuff of their wildest dreams.
1. I Feel For You, Chaka Khan
Most people don’t know that Prince performed this piece on his eponymous 1979 album. But the Chaka Khan version in 1984 was groundbreaking in its fusion of the emerging elements of Hip Hop with the very best portions of R&B and Electro-funk.
The song was originally written in the late ’70s for the woman that he had an intense crush on, the brilliant Patrice Rushen.
Chaka was embraced by a new, younger audience, who danced along with Shabba Doo and Bugaloo Shrimp and rapped along with the legendary Melle Mel. And to top it all of, Stevie Wonder tears it down with the harmonica.
This cornucopia of black musical elements, merged with Chaka’s vocal energy and power, resurrected her career. She earned a Grammy in 1985 for it and, in terms of box office and global appeal, remains the most significant accomplishment of her solo career.