25 Essential Prince Songs

The best of the Purple One's world-changing, genre-defying hits

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"When You Were Mine" (1980)

According to legend, the greatest New Wave song ever written about a bisexual love triangle came to Prince at a Florida hotel room after he'd declined a band Disney World excursion. Or, according to another story, it came to him in a Birmingham, Alabama hotel room while listening to John Lennon. Either way, the second track on 1980's Dirty Mind, is a tense and tight New-Wave-funk masterpiece that's as much Blondie as James Brown. Cyndi Lauper covered it three years later on her breakthrough album She's So Unusual, and would say she "loved the way the story in the song read, and the sound was that synthesizer sound with the stick-drum on one-three – it was a different herky-jerky sound." Mitch Ryder and Crooked Fingers delivered stripped-down rock and folk versions, but nobody captured the spirit of Prince's original, which has the feel of a Roman Bacchanal taking place at CBGB's.

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