We thought we’d choose today to put two ends of the musical spectrum together as we look back at Prince’s delicious cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘A Case Of You’ as part of a now-iconic 1983 performance. A rarely seen video never stays on the internet for long if Prince’s estate has anything to do with it. So, with past experience noted, we suggest you listen to his cover of Mitchell’s love song from Prince’s iconic ‘Purple Rain’ show from 1983 through this vintage video as soon as you can.
Joni Mitchell is rightly revered as one of the finest artists of her generation. The singer took her folk stylings across the globe before finally kicking into gear and providing us all with a folk hero to fall for. Mitchell’s confessional songwriting has often seen her heralded as one of the pioneers of modern pop and her authenticity is what has cemented her position as a musical legend. If there’s one song which allows this style to be seen most clearly it has to be ‘A Case of You’.
Prince doesn’t cover many artists, there’s the Sheryl Crow number, a particularly wonderful cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’, and the unforgettable Coachella moment when Prince took on Radiohead’s loner anthem, ‘Creep’. Given the somewhat exclusive nature, when Prince takes on a cover rendition two things need to be in place. Firstly, the artist he’s covering needs to be of a certain calibre and secondly, it has to be a song he can believe in. In this instance, we have two big ticks right away.
Prince never shies away from pushing himself artistically and the same can be said for this beautiful cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘A Case Of You’ from her seminal album Blue. One difference is, while the aforementioned covers were from Prince’s later career, this version of Mitchell’s track comes from his fiery beginnings. It’s a testament to the pedestal upon which Prince put Mitchell’s talent.
Though the artist would go on to cover the song in his stylised ‘A Case of U’ on his 2002 album One Nite Alone, it was at this iconic concert that he would first take on the achingly beautiful song with such verve. In 1983, with ‘1999’ having made a dent in the charts, Prince was looking to kick things up a notch.
While performing for Minnesota’s Dance Theatre charity show, the singer decided that this performance would be the night to debut some of his soon-to-be most legendary material. He provided fans with future muso-collateral by performing for the first time some of the jewels in his musical crown — songs like ‘Let’s Go Crazy’, ‘I Would Die 4 U’, ‘Baby, I’m A Star’ and, of course, what would become the title track from his next LP, as well as the title of his first motion picture, ‘Purple Rain’. It is at this legendary evening that he would also pay homage to one of the greatest songwriters in the world.
The singer was a long time Joni Mitchell fan, even attending her shows in his younger days. Wonderfully, Mitchell is a fan of the singer too, often saying he is her favourite artist to ever call her an influence, telling 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. He was in an aisle seat and he had unusually big eyes,” she said.
Adding: “He watched the whole show with his collar up, looking side to side. You couldn’t miss him—he was a little Prince-ling. Prince used to write me fan mail with all of the U’s and hearts that way that he writes. And the office took it as mail from the lunatic fringe and just tossed it!”
With that long-running adoration of the folk singer with long blonde hair burning away, Prince chose to honour the singer with this beautiful cover of one of her most famous songs. So archetypal is Prince’s swirling guitar licks and sultry, sexualised performance of the track that you’d be forgiven for expecting it to appear on Purple Rain. Instead, it was left as a memento for the audience in the room for two decades.
Now, we can look back at this gorgeous performance of Joni Mitchell’s ‘A Case Of You’ at a small gig in Minnesota from none other than Prince.