When Kate Bush and Prince formed an unlikely musical partnership

A curious coming together of contemporary music’s greatest minds.

Kate Bush. Prince. Both mercurial artists have made an indelible contribution to contemporary music production and performance in their own imitable way.

But they were from entirely opposite worlds. An unlikely combination of musical talent. Which is why a collaboration between the two was so unexpected. Yet, it happened on ‘Why Should I Love You?’ from Bush’s 1993 album, The Red Shoes.

Whilst Bush burst into the charts as a theatrical avant-pop star at the beginning of her career, she would later retire from the spotlight, taking an enigmatic approach to music-making, instead hunkering down at home, wiling away the hours experimenting at her own meandering pace.

On the other hand, Prince was industriously prolific, extroverted, flamboyant, and consistently outspoken regarding his output. 

The two artists’ contrasting worlds collided strangely enough when Kate was invited to meet The Purple One after his Wembley Arena concert in 1990 after he’d revealed he was an ardent admirer of hers. Voicing mutual respect for each individual’s talents, a collaboration was mooted despite it being nearly impossible to get into the same room.

Kate Bush
Credit: Getty Images

So Kate sent Prince a demo she recorded at Abbey Road Studios. However, he altered it almost completely, ignoring the notes Kate made about contributing a particular vocal part. Seemingly, he wanted Kate to bend into his style, and whilst she leaned in, she asserted her creative autonomy over the song.

Her engineer, bassist and former partner Del Palmer told FutureMusic in 1993: “Unable to physically get together in the same room, they swapped multi-track tapes, with a slave reel returning from Prince’s Paisley Park studio covered in vocals, guitar solos and keyboards.

He hadn’t added one of the vocal parts which would have been particularly good for him, so it basically took two years to put it back together.” 

Evidently, Kate wasn’t overly enamoured with the disco-indebted licks and flashy guitar solos Prince added, deconstructing the demo to fit her initial vision, later recruiting comedian Lenny Henry to sing the vocal part she’d written for Prince. Prince’s own engineer, Michael Koppelman, was also fairly ruthless in his appraisals of his employer’s contributions. 

Prince, Brabanthallen, Den Bosch 1995
Prince, Brabanthallen, Den Bosch 1995 (Credit: Getty Images)

“It is one million times better than the lame disco Prince put on it. There was, of course, no disco on it before Prince got his hands on it,” Koppelman wrote on his personal blog in 2005. “So Prince comes in and listens to it. And the brutality began.” 

Despite Prince’s claim that Kate “liked” Prince’s takes, Koppelman remained dubious about whether or not it’d be scrapped. “She said it sounded very American. So at that point I wasn’t sure if she was even going to use it,” which is understandable, given that Kate’s oeuvre feels quintessentially British in its quirks. 

‘Why Should I Love You?’ did make the final cut for The Red Shoes, however, and remains a curious coming together of contemporary music’s greatest minds. Especially when you consider how it differed from the original demo, which was leaked decades later – Kate also contributed backing vocals to Prince’s ‘My Computer’ from 1996 album Emancipation.

They’ve remained tight-lipped about their mysterious working relationship, though Kate was gushing about his talents on the rare occasions she’s talked about him after his tragic death, telling BBC 6 Music’s Matt Everitt in 2016: “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 two world tours, a couple of albums and a film.”

Immediately after his death was announced, Bush was devastated by his loss and wrote on her own website: “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.”

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