It is not controversial to say that Prince and Kate Bush are cut from two extremely different cloths. Not a single person would have expected the two musicians to have ever worked together, citing their contrasting sounds and polar opposite approaches to the music industry. Take their outlook on life, for example, The Purple One was the definition of an extrovert. Bush, meanwhile, has always felt more comfortable keeping herself to herself, hidden away from glamorous headlines and public attention.
Of course, their approach to music was another huge difference between the two. Prince was tirelessly prolific, relentlessly slaving away in the studio or, if not, he was out on tour with the band. Bush, however, famously works at her own pace and is more than happy to take her time making sure her creations are perfect before letting out into the universe. Due to the contrasting working methods, when Kate Bush and Prince did end up working together in 1991, the chances of the collaboration ending in success felt relatively slim. The result of their time together was the track ‘Why Should I Love You’ which, depending on who you speak to, is either the definition of mercurial artistry or a song that you try your hardest to forget in order to retain your love for Prince and Kate Bush. To say the material splits the audience is an understatement.
On reflection, Bush certainly stepped more into the world of Prince more than he entered hers. Prince had been an ardent admirer of the work of Kate Bush for years but the two had never crossed paths before 1990, a time when he was in London Town to takeover Wembley Arena and two of music’s truest artists would finally meet backstage. After blowing the roof off the arena, Bush and Prince bonded over a mutual respect for one another’s music and the meeting went so well that Bush asked him to collaborate almost instantaneously. Putting her pitch forward, all she requested was for Prince to provide a few backing vocals to a song she had already created. Bush had, at the time, recently recorded the track in full at Abbey Road Studios and hoped Prince could add that special touch to take it up a notch.
However, Prince had other ideas. Having not even glanced at the instructions Bush had told him to follow, rather than simply delivering backing vocals, The Purple One completely reimagined the song. Not stopping at the requested vocals, he added keys, guitar solos and bass. Bush and her producer Del Palmer were apparently left bereft by the results, unsure of what step to take next. While it was clear that they couldn’t throw it away, Bush felt as though the material was no longer the song that they spent tirelessly creating. Knowing the snail’s pace that Bush works at, she undoubtedly poured weeks agonising over every detail of ‘Why Should I Love You’ and Prince just filed it through the shredder.
It took the singer two years to fine-tune the song in order to make it sound more like Kate Bush but, even after 24-months of altering, ‘Why Should I Love You’ still sounds like a Prince cut featuring Kate Bush rather than vice versa. While it may not have transpired as she may have hoped, the collaboration was the start of a beautiful friendship between the two which led to them collaborating once more in 1996 on ‘My Computer’.
Following his tragic death in 2016, Bush was left devastated and painfully wrote: “He was the most incredibly talented artist. A man in complete control of his work from writer and musician to producer and director. He was such an inspiration. Playful and mind-blowingly gifted. He was the most inventive and extraordinary live act I’ve seen. The world has lost someone truly magical. Goodnight dear Prince.”
She later opened up further to BBC 6 Music’s Matt Everitt, saying: “He was really playful and really sweet. What a talented man, what an artist. I think it’s a terrible loss that he should go at such a young age, it’s incredibly sad. He was so prolific, he used to make me laugh because whilst I was working on an album, he would have done 2 world tours, a couple of albums and a film.”
Dream collaborations such as Prince and Kate Bush, on paper sounds, like a recipe for either disaster or delight, thankfully ‘Why Should I Love You’ falls into the latter category. Although plenty of people are critical of the track, it’s hard to comprehend exactly why. These are two of the greatest artists of all time and the combination of Prince’s slick guitar with Kate Bush’s heavenly voice is a perfect match.