It wasn’t until after Prince’s death that we learned that he had largely concocted his egomaniac image where he wouldn’t listen to other people’s music or collaborate.
He was picky beyond measure and if you were selected to be a Prince protégé, you had been anointed. With the exception of the hilarious refusal to perform a duet with Michael Jackson on the Bad album in which he told Chris Rock it was because he wasn’t going to let a man tell him: “Your butt is mine,” he gave in ways that we are still finding out about.
He would pay the rent and mortgage of aging musicians and donate to countless charities including BLM, and all of it done anonymously. He did the same with his music, often collaborating or contributing under pseudonyms that ranged from a symbol to Christopher, Alexander Nevermind, Jamie Starr, Joey Coco, and The Purple One. It was a rare moment when he would agree to be a guest on other people’s songs and be credited for it using his name “Prince.”
Here are some of the best.
Janelle Monae (featuring Prince) Givin Em What They Love
Album: Electric Lady
Prince: co-lead vocals, guitar and bass guitar, co-writer
There's no disputing Prince's affection for Janelle Monae and her gifts. As a result, he lets her shine as he sings background as the voice of a chain gang laborer. They sound like siblings in their melodic harmony.
Their music is a true partnership. It's rock star fabulousness with soul from two petite stars with immeasurable musical talents. Its equal parts gospel with organ riffs, funk, with a steady bass, and a lesson on black joy by any means necessary.
Kate Bush: Why Should I Love You
Album: The Red Shoes
Prince on guitar, keyboards, bass guitar and background vocals
There’s a slow buildup until Prince comes in, his guitar raining like an anvil. Several riffs later, suddenly it feels the British pop singer is making a cameo on a Prince song.
As the story goes, Kate Bush, who Prince had long admired musically and they had promised to work together, asked him to contribute to the song. He wasn’t able to meet her in person, so she sent him the master tapes with notes. It was rare for him to contribute to a song already written for someone else. There was only one other artist he did that for and that was Stevie Nicks.
For comparison here is Kate’s demo track before Prince worked on it. Did you wake up yet?
Stevie Wonder: So What the Fuss
Album: A Time to Love
Featuring Prince and En Vogue
Prince on guitar
Stevie gives a shout out to Prince mid-way through the song and Prince heeds the call, coming in master blastin' on his guitar. En Vogue also appears on the track, reunited after a seven-year hiatus. Even with all of these genius ingredients and that good, good collared green funk this song comes off a little corny for a Stevie/Prince collaboration. Still, it gets you on the dance floor, and I sure would have loved to have been in on the studio sessions.
Sheila E.: A Love Bizarre
Album: Romance 1600
Prince: co-producer, writer, arranger, vocalist
This is one of my favorite Prince and Sheila E. collaborations. She plays percussion and, besides the saxophone played by Eddie M., Prince plays all of the other instruments. To see them perform this live is like a diabetic in a candy factory - deliciously deadly.
Stevie Nicks: Stand Back
Album: The Wild Heart
Prince on keyboards, drum programming and credited as a co-writer
Stevie Nick’s version of the story is on her wedding night, she heard “Little Red Corvette” for the first time and became inspired. So much so, that the song she created used the main keyboard line from “Little Red Corvette.”
More than likely, she realized that wasn’t too cool to steal from a prince, so she called him up and asked if he could add his black man magic to it. And that he did.
She told music journalist Timothy White that he, "...walked over to the synthesizers that were set up, was absolutely brilliant for about 25 minutes and then left."
I believe she possibly added, “Just like a mutherf**ing black unicorn.”
Bonus Track - Love Sign: Nona Gaye
Prince: co-writer, vocalist, producer and playing most of the instruments
This song doesn't technically count as one where Prince was a guest, it's actually a duet. Nona was one of the many beautiful women that prince dated and they recorded many songs together that went unreleased.
But I'm counting it as a guest because the song is infectious and he was going by the symbol name at this point, so technically his name isn’t on it. The music video was shot by Ice Cube.