Friday 28 October 2016

The stories behind the songs...

Published 22/04/2016 | 00:06

Pop superstar Prince who has died at the age of 57.
Pop superstar Prince who has died at the age of 57.

With a back catalogue running into the hundreds, Prince fans could summon a song to fit any mood.

  • Go To

Here, the Press Association looks at the stories behind the songs that cemented the superstar's place alongside the musical greats.

:: Purple Rain

Where Michael Jackson had Thriller, Prince had Purple Rain. Both were the stand-out tracks on albums of the same name, coming at what critics considered to be the peak of the respective artists' careers.

Purple Rain the single was actually the final track on the 1984 album. Weighing in at nearly nine minutes, its haunting opening chord sequence became familiar to generations of fans.

Today, its legacy lives on partly in karaoke bars and television talent shows for ambitious vocalists. Frequently covered, but never outdone.

:: Raspberry Beret

Responsible for a surge in the sale of brightly coloured headwear in 1985, the single told the story of blossoming yet unlikely romance between the lowly protagonist and his intended paramour.

For Prince, the up-beat number carried none of the overt sexual imagery present in much of his other work.

That said, though the playful line about the love interest walking "in through the 'out' door" hinted at a risque streak.

:: Darling Nikki

Where Raspberry Beret was about love and desire, Darling Nikki screamed pure sex. And self-pleasure.

Lines about the title character "masturbating with a magazine" before taking the singer to her hotel room for casual sex prompted fury among a public uncomfortable with such imagery.

The song directly led to the foundation of the Parents Music Resource Centre which pressed for music labels to put Parental Advisory stickers on their releases. Bizarrely, its ending is characterised by a backwards vocal stating "the Lord is coming".

:: When Doves Cry

Another signature Prince tune, it was rumoured to have been written to fit the film Purple Rain.

Famously, the track featured no bassline - something that was considered pioneering at the time.

Coinciding with a section of the partly autobiographical film about domestic abuse, Prince sang about screaming "at each other", and not wanting to be like his abusive father.

:: I Would Die 4U

Throughout Prince's career, and many monikers, the multi-instrumentalist has relied heavily on the use of phonetics and symbols.

I Would Die 4 U - the up-beat dance track from the Purple Rain album - was undoubtedly among his better-known hits to deploy this technique.

Weighing in at less than three minutes, it was also one of his shortest.

:: Sign O' The Times

The lead single from the 1987 album of the same name saw Prince take on social-political commentary.

The track itself was rooted in blues and funk, yet the dark and prophetic lyrics identified America's problems with gang violence, Aids and drug abuse.

Sign O' The Times has been parodied repeatedly - for causes both serious and light-hearted - as a vehicle for identifying societal concern.

:: Little Red Corvette

Simply, a song using cars as a metaphor for sex.

For it, Prince was cast as the narrator of a one-night stand with an experienced woman, during which he compared intercourse to riding in a limousine.

A much longer cut of the song featured extra verses and screeching vocals over an electronic drum beat.

:: The Most Beautiful Girl In The World

Prince's only UK number one, the 1994 release is considered by many critics to be his last great song.

The slow-tempo ballad was a serenade to a mystery woman - believed to be either then fiance Mayte Garcia, or actress Vanessa Marcil.

The song featured Prince demonstrating his full vocal range, building to an eye-watering falsetto.

:: Nothing Compares 2 U

An internet search will associate this 1990 chart-topper with Irish songstress Sinead O'Connor, but it was in fact written by Prince.

The American's version never made it onto a studio album, though a rather different rendition - largely in major chords - was included on a live album.

It also ranks as one of his most-performed songs in concert.

:: 1999

Like computers, banking systems and security networks the world over, this song did not die when the clock struck midnight to mark the start of a new millennium.

Written 17 years before the number in its title, it was one of the stand-out tracks from the album of the same name.

Today, it acts as a sonic tool for reminiscing.

:: Kiss

Simply, one of the greatest party tracks of all time.

The tight guitar and "kiss" sound effects have held the power to coax even the most conservative of movers to the dance floor since its release in 1986.

It is among his most covered songs.

Press Association

Read More

Promoted articles

Editors Choice

Also in Entertainment