Paying tribute to the master on her debut album, Alicia Keys recorded her own version of Prince’s non-album B-side to the smash single, “1999.” Though more bombastic than Stephanie Mills’ 1983 cover of the same torch song, it may not be AK’s greatest tribute to Prince. The breathless “Like You’ll Never See Me Again” from her third album, As I Am, is strikingly similar to Prince compositions like “Adore” and “Purple Rain”—from the vocal performance to the arrangement and chord structure—that it goes a step beyond being merely derivative. Neither a cover nor a jack move, the homage is politely referred to as a “distant cousin” to “Purple Rain.”
Alicia Keys provides the perfect point to pivot from songs that Prince actually wrote to songs—and artists—who simply would not exist without Prince’s inspiration to light their way forward. Some of these names may surprise you, but dig if you will the picture of a world without.