This weekend, Prince‘s “Welcome 2 America” tour took over the L.A. Forum for the first full weekend of the artist’s planned 21 night residency. The kickoff show, which was held back on April 14, wasn’t exactly hailed by the LA Times as quite the barnstorming success of his New York stint, but entertaining, nonetheless. Recently, he stopped by Lopez Tonight for an entertaining (and somewhat revealing) interview which was notable for one particularly weird request from the purple one to the world at large: Don’t cover his songs.
Classic rock stalwarts really ought to embrace Prince, because he is the most outspoken (not to mention sexiest) voice of a past generation’s ideals of authenticity. “We take this for granted,” he told George Lopez, “but I am here today because of the golden age of the sixties, seventies, and eighties of music…artists played their own instruments; they wrote their own songs. They had to perform next to people like Ike and Tina Turner, Wilson Pickett, James Brown. You had to have your act together.”
Granted, Prince has been a bit of a codger going on 25 years now—remember his anti-rap comments around the time he released Sign ‘O’ the Times, featuring “Housequake”?—but his nostalgia for an imagined past (say, one in which [the admittedly wildly talented] Pickett had a writing credit on more than two of his five R&B #1 hits) reached a bit too far later in the interview:
I don’t mind fans singing the songs. My problem is when the industry covers the music. See, covering music means that your version doesn’t exist anymore. A lot of times, people think I’m doing Sinéad O’Connor‘s song ["Nothing Compares 2 U"] and Chaka Khan‘s song ["I Feel for You"], when in fact I wrote those songs.
Obviously Prince feels strongly about this, because as songwriter he’s entitled to part of the revenues of any cover of his song (which could come in handy if he faces any future financial trouble like his recent mortage default. And it’s hard to be harsh on the guy—especially when he’s busy championing both the showmanship and the low ticket pricing that made the concert industry what it was. That said, his attempts to legislate covers of his work out of existence is, frankly, unreasonable. Imagine if the two covers he mentioned had never been recorded!
Prince did end the interview with one thing everyone can agree on. Lopez asked whether Prince’s use of abbreviations in song titles like “I Would Die 4 U” were the progenitor of online chat abbreviations. His reply? “There’s so much craziness on the internet now. I don’t want to take no credit for none of it.” Amen.