There are few more transcendent in pop culture than the late, great Prince, who died today at 57. Not only was he a master performer, songwriter, singer and guitar player, he was also a massive music fan who lent his genius to all genres, including country. He often enjoyed working under a pseudonym: Prince had many in his too-short life, from “Jamie Starr” to “Camille” to “Alexander Nevermind” and, of course, the infamous symbol once entirely substituted for his name.
It was as “Joey Coco” where Prince collided with his country side, writing the song “You’re My Love” that was recorded by Kenny Rogers for his 1986 album They Don’t Make Them Like They Used To. [Hear Rogers sing the tune in the clip above]. The Gambler had always been friendly to Prince’s hometown of Minneapolis, making it a tour stop early on when few included it on their creative radar, and Rogers was a fan of Prince: he admitted years after the release of “You’re My Love” that Prince was one of two artists he’d yet to see live but wanted to (Garth Brooks was the other).
Prince wrote songs for everyone from Paula Abdul to Sheena Easton — sometimes under his own name, sometimes not, using the pseudonyms to play masterfully with his own identity and our cultural associations. He didn’t want any notion of what he was “supposed” to sound like or produce precede his art, or, maybe worse, dictate it. As Joey Coco, he wrote several tracks with two recorded by country artists: “Telepathy,” by Deborah Allen, and “You’re My Love” by Rogers. Many others are only available on bootlegs or locked away in Prince’s massive archives. Certainly Prince’s overtly sexual persona didn’t mix well with Music Row’s prudish leanings at the time, though his music begged to differ: take his 1980 single “Still Waiting,” which, though absent of twang, is nearly evocative of a country song, or his penchant to write about both God and faith, which sometimes rung as downright gospel.
A slick Eighties power ballad, “You’re My Love” at first listen doesn’t boast many similarities to Prince himself — though there are licks of the heartfelt love odes he was indeed so capable of. The song features vocals from El DeBarge, which, according to Prince lore, are the only thing that remained from his own personal recording of the track.
Rogers himself backs up the story. “Back in the Eighties, I had contacted [Prince] through a mutual friend to ask if he would write me a song. . . and he did,” Rogers wrote on Facebook. “When he sent the song to me, if I remember right, it was him playing all of the instruments on it and he had his background vocals on it. Unfortunately on the finished record, somehow my producer didn’t end up using the music or vocals (the song was re-cut). It was such an incredible thing that Prince took the time to do that for me. He was a brilliant guy and a gifted musician with a lot of feelings, and you could tell his feelings went far deeper than what was written on his face.”
The same year Rogers released “You’re My Love,” Prince offered his own LP, the wildly excellent Parade that concluded with a ballad, “Sometimes It Snows in April.” And now, with his death on April 21st, he proved to be right.
“Sometimes I wish that life was never ending,” he sang. “And all good things, they say, never last.”