Single Stories: Prince, “Nothing Compares 2 U”

Wednesday, February 14, 2018
Single Stories: Prince, “Nothing Compares 2 U”

28 years ago this week, Sinead O’Connor’s cover of “Nothing Compares 2 U” was sitting at #1 on the UK Singles chart in the midst of a chart-topping run which had started on January 28, 1990 and ultimately continued through to February 24. It was an impressive commercial performance, to be sure, but it’s especially so when one considers that the previous recording of the song hadn’t even warranted release as a single.

Written by Prince and first recorded by the man himself on July 15, 1984 at the Flying Cloud Drive Warehouse in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, “Nothing Compares 2 U” first saw the light of day not as a Prince song but as a track on the self-titled debut album by The Family, a band featuring a few members of The Time (Jerome Benton, Jellybean Johnson, and Paul Peterson), Susannah Melvoin (sister of Wendy Melvoin of Wendy & Lisa), and Eric Leeds. Although it wasn’t selected for release as a single from THE FAMILY, “Nothing Compares 2 U” was introduced to Sinead O’Connor by her then-manager, Fatchna O’Ceallaigh, which resulted in her recording the song for her 1990 album, I DO NOT WANT WHAT I HAVEN’T GOT.

As history reveals, O’Connor’s version of “Nothing Compares 2 U” was a stone cold smash, so much so that Prince ended up reviving the song for his own sets and recording a live version – a duet with Rosie Gaines – that has subsequently turned up on his various best-of collections and was even released as a single in 2004. (It hit #62 on the Billboard R&B Singles chart.) In addition, he also recorded a solo version for his concert film, Rave Un2 the Year 2000 and his 2002 live album ONE NITE ALONE… LIVE!

Most recently, however, Prince’s version of the song served as a musical epitaph for the singer: after his death, the song was simulcast on US radio stations at exactly “seven hours and 13 days” after he died.

If it wasn’t for such a sad reason, that might be one of the most awesome things ever. (As it is, though, it’s still pretty damned cool.)

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