This is the third song this week off of Prince’s eponymous 1979 album. Back-to-back days. Siri needs to mix it up. At least I’m getting the hits. Makes it easy. Plus it’s a good excuse to post lots of pictures of his dope hair and album cover. “I Feel For You” is relatively well known, but not necessarily because of Prince. The Prince version of the song quietly came and went with the album. “I Wanna Be Your Lover” was the hit from this album.
In 1982 the Pointer Sisters released a version of the song to little fanfare. In 1984 Rebbie Jackson did the same. Three versions of the same song in less than five years did little to capture the public’s attention. Undeterred, Chaka Khan decided it was her turn. I guess the fourth time was the charm because Chaka’s version took off like a rocket. With an assist from Stevie Wonder on harmonica and Grandmaster Melle Mel on vocals, this version hit #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and won two Grammys, including Best R&B Song awarded to the songwriter, Prince. I can’t think of another song with that kind of history. Four different versions in five years?!?
Fast forward 35 years to October of 2019. The Prince Estate threw Prince heads an unexpected curve ball and released an acoustic demo version of “I Feel For You” on streaming and limited edition 7″ single, which I purchased immediately (of course). The demo features Prince on acoustic guitar. The tape is left unedited so you can hear him starting and stopping the recorder. The lyrics to the song are incomplete, but his precocious talent on guitar is already evident in the demo, even if he wouldn’t really demonstrate it on an album until later. His chord changes are jarring and amazing if you’re already familiar with the studio version of the song. Needless to say, I hope there are more of these in the vault that we’ll get the opportunity to enjoy.
People may remember the Chaka Khan version, but I’ll take Prince’s version instead (surprise!). The Chaka version was recorded five years later yet somehow sounds more dated than Prince’s original. The Melle Mel stuff and 1984 drums sound corny compared to Prince’s more timeless version. If you truly want timeless, go with the acoustic version. You can never go wrong with a singer and a guitar. Never gets old. I’ll score this song a 3.5 out of 5 based on Prince’s original version that appears on the 1979 album.