Prince was a one-of-a-kind artist and as such fanboying is the last thing that you’d expect from him. Of course, he had his influences and heroes, but he was an artist in a rarefied realm whereby penning fan mail seems an action out of the question, such was his unique brilliance it would seem like an ostrich asking for Usain Bolt’s autograph. However, his adoration of folk phenom Joni Mitchell knew no bounds and continued throughout his career.
As Joni recalled to New York Magazine, “Prince attended one of my concerts in Minnesota. I remember seeing him sitting in the front row when he was very young. He must have been about 15.”
Mitchell explained, “He was in an aisle seat and he had unusually big eyes. He watched the whole show with his collar up, looking side to side. You couldn’t miss him—he was a little Prince-ling.”
Thereafter, Prince’s love remained and never abated over the years. Even when he was chart-topping himself, he continued to pen her fan mail. “Prince used to write me fan mail with all of the U’s and hearts that way that he writes,” Mitchell added. “And the office took it as mail from the lunatic fringe and just tossed it!”
Even in 1985, Prince told Rolling Stone Magazine, that he had not fallen in love with a record for ten years since he found Joni Mitchell’s The Hissing of Summer Lawns from 1975, which he described as being “the last album I loved all the way through.”
However, there was one Joni Mitchell song in particular that captured Prince’s heart as it did with it a legion of other fans. ‘A Case of You’ towers above heart-torn imitators by means of sheer sincerity. As Mitchell once told Mojo Magazine: “I think men write very dishonestly about breakups. I wanted to be capable of being responsible for my own errors. If there was friction between me and another person, I wanted to be able to see my participation in it so I could see what could be changed and what could not. That is part of the pursuit of happiness. You have to pull the weeds in your soul when you are young, when they are sprouting, otherwise they will choke you.”
This abating of stiff-upper-lip masculinity in favour of a candid poetic outpouring of emotion was Prince’s modus operandi throughout his career. As Frank Ocean said in praise of Prince, “He made me feel comfortable with how I identify sexually simply by his display of freedom from and irreverence for the archaic idea of gender conformity.”
The legendary guitarist was so enamoured with the song since the very first day that he heard it that he went on to cover it in his stylised ‘A Case of U’ on his 2002 album One Nite Alone, and a great many times live from 1983 all the way up until his penultimate concert in 2016.
It is a song of profound beauty that illustrates the need to take dominion over life’s unfurling circumstances and their effects on us as people, which clearly resonated with Prince on both an artistic and personal level.
You can catch his iconic live cover form 1983, below.