Prince Rogers Nelson was arguably the most musically gifted artist in history (and by “arguably” I mean “definitely,” and I will fight anyone who says otherwise).
Luckily for us and the music industry, he was willing to share those musical gifts with a wide range of artists. From helping to launch the careers of Sheila E., Vanity, Apollonia 6 and the Time to serving as an inspiration to generations of artists—including the Weeknd, D’Angelo, Frank Ocean, Beyoncé, Pharrell, etc., etc., etc.—Prince left an indelible mark on music that will probably never be equaled (and by “probably” I mean “definitely,” which, again, if you disagree, be prepared to catch these hands).
Because his genius was so far-reaching, here are eight songs you probably didn’t know were influenced, written by or just blessed by Prince’s mere presence.
The way Stevie Nicks tells it, she began writing “Stand Back” after hearing “Little Red Corvette” while on her honeymoon. She spent most of the night penning the song while humming the greatest single ever about a one-night stand. Later, Nicks called Prince because she wanted to confess to him that she had “kinda ripped off his song.” Prince being Prince, he showed up at her place, sprinkled his purple magic all over her synthesizers for about 25 minutes and then left.
“He spoiled me for every band I’ve ever had because nobody can exactly re-create—not even with two piano players—what Prince did all by his little self,” Nicks told music journalist Timothy White in 1991. Prince’s contribution is uncredited, but the two superstars did agree to split the royalties 50-50, because even musical geniuses can’t live off of high praise and thank-you notes.
Like a Prayer, the album, actually features a duet between the Queen of Pop and the Purple One called “Love Song.” But Prince also laid down some guitar tracks while in the studio. According to Madonna producer Patrick Leonard, the guitar distortions heard at the beginning of an extended version of “Like a Prayer” were played by Prince. That version isn’t heard on the album, but it can be heard in the controversial video that got Pepsi in a lot of trouble, and which shows that the soda giant has been making bad choices involving privileged white women for quite some time now.
Prince wrote songs for many artists across all genres, and since country music is black music—despite what fans of the Country Music Awards might think—it isn’t too surprising that he wrote a track for country superstar Kenny Rogers. Using the pen name “Joey Coco,” Prince wrote the 1986 ballad after Rogers contacted him through a mutual friend about getting Prince to write him a song.
Prince did love him some pen names, and this hit single was credited to “Christopher,” as in Christopher Tracy, his character from Under a Cherry Moon. The track was initially intended for Apollonia 6, but Prince sent the song to the Bangles, reportedly because he had a thing for Bangles guitarist-vocalist Susanna Hoffs. It would become the band’s first big hit.
Before Prince got ahold of her, Sheena Easton was singing sugary pop tunes about morning trains and being a modern girl. After Prince, she was singing a different tune —specifically, the sexually suggestive “Sugar Walls,” which ended up being listed on the “Filthy 15”—the songs with the raunchiest, most violent or drug-fueled lyrics, according to Tipper Gore’s Parents Music Resource Center, the force behind the “parental advisory” sticker. The Filthy 15 also featured another sexually explicit song by Prince that drove Gore to create the PMRC in the first place. Easton would later join Prince on another track, “U Got the Look,” from 1987’s Sign o’ the Times.
Prince wrote this classic R&B hit for Patrice Rushen, who rejected the track along with “I Wanna Be Your Lover” (I wonder how Rushen, who had a decent career, feels now about not jumping on the Prince bandwagon when she had the chance?), so he included the song on his 1979 self-titled album. In 1984, Chaka Khan released an album of the same name and, in a rare feat, produced a song that outshone the origin. Of course, Chaka did have a little help from legendary rapper Melle Mel, who dropped that catchy little verse on the opening of the track, which perfectly took advantage of the growing rise of hip-hop.
Here again is another example of a female singer taking a Prince tune and turning it into a hit (of course, the most famous example of this is Sinead O’Connor’s cover of “Nothing Compares 2 U”). Based on Prince’s “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore?,” which first appeared on a compilation album in 1993, Key’s single appeared on her debut album, Songs in A Minor, in 2001.
This Prince-penned song appeared on Lauper’s debut album, 1983’s She So Unusual. Lauper, who, like Prince, had a unique musical persona that confounded and defied expectations, was a longtime friend of the Royal One, who gave her business advice back in the day when they were stars coming up in the ’80s; he even secretly attended her concerts.