When we found out Dwight Yoakam recorded a Prince cover for his upcoming album, we were excited. In fact, his whole Swimming Pools, Movie Stars… project sounded phenomenal.
Essentially, Yoakam decided to put a bluegrass twist on some of his biggest songs instead of doing a conventional “greatest hits” record. Many fans were surprised to see Prince’s classic hit “Purple Rain” show up on the track list.
As an artist, Prince crossed the boundary from musical legend to cultural icon. Just about every artist paid tribute to Prince after the late singer’s untimely passing, which led to some great covers.
You’ll be happy to hear Dwight Yoakam’s take on “Purple Rain” is an incredible tribute that captures what Yoakam does best. It’s a testament to Prince’s songwriting, as Yoakam’s style sounds at home on the cover, which is vastly different from the original.
After all, great songs tend to transcend their original version and sound great a lot of different ways.
Yoakam enlisted some of the world’s finest bluegrass musicians for his album. They were in the studio recording when news of Prince’s death hit the airwaves. In an interview with People, Yoakam says, “It was the day that Prince died [and] the third day we were tracking the record…I went to the studio, and everyone was kind of experiencing a bewildered sort of shock about it, and I felt deeply saddened.”
Yoakam says the cover came about spur-of-the-moment. In a lot of ways, it was just a cathartic process, so they left it alone and didn’t listen back for several weeks. One day, Yoakam’s normal band dropped by and asked to hear the recording.
“We were all kind of taken with the rawness of the emotion of the moment that the bluegrass band and I had played it with,” Yoakam says. “I still wasn’t absolutely certain I should add it to the album.”
Yoakam then played it for Lenny Waronker, who signed Prince to a record deal at age 18. Waronker also executive produced a few of Yoakam’s albums.
“As the track played through and finished, there was a flood of emotion in his telling about having decided that Prince should be allowed to produce himself,” Yoakam explained. They kept Yoakam’s scratch vocal and just about everything from the rough mix the day they recorded the song in Nashville.
“Lenny said to leave that vocal alone, just use that scratch that I just played from the session, but sing a harmony because, ‘that melody doesn’t want to be alone, it wants a harmony,'” Yoakam says.
The result, as you’ll hear for yourself, is astoundingly raw and emotionally beautiful. Yoakam’s new album Swimming Pools, Movie Stars… comes out Sept. 23.