The late ‘Purple Rain’ musician Prince could be a prickly character at the best of times. One thing that tended to irk him more than most was when other artists attempted to cover his songs, as Foo Fighters discovered in the early 2000s. However, his apparent disdain would ultimately produce a cover that Foos drummer Taylor Hawkins would describe as “better than” the original, with both parties patching things up and coming together, as fans hoped.
It all started in 2003 when Dave Grohl and his band sent a request to Prince for permission to release a cover of ‘Darling Nikki’ in the US, which had already arrived in Australia as the B-side to the single ‘Have It All’. At the time, the 1984 classic was also a feature of the Foo Fighters’ setlist. When asked in 2004 by Entertainment Weekly if he liked the band’s version, Prince replied: “No! I don’t like anyone covering my work. Write your own tunes!”
However, in a 2022 essay by Prince’s assistant, Ruth Violette Arzate, this didn’t fully represent how he truly felt. “Firstly, don’t believe everything you read,” Arzate claimed he told her at the time. “That statement was taken out of context. Secondly, that band embodied the song in the way it was meant to be played. They are so good they could do a whole album of my rock songs.”
Fast forward to Prince’s iconic halftime performance at the Super Bowl in 2007, a time when he incorporated Foo Fighters’ hit ‘Best of You’ into his set. At the time, the band thought he might be hitting back at them for covering ‘Darling Nikki’. “The thought went through my head that maybe he was doing it as a sort of ‘fuck you’ to us,” Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins explained to MTV that year.
Regardless of Prince’s intentions, the band were still blown away that he covered one of their songs, with Hawkins asserting that he did it “better than we did”. The drummer said: “Either way, it was pretty amazing to have a guy like Prince covering one of our songs — and actually doing it better than we did.”
In her account, Arzate says that not long after Prince’s Super Bowl performance, she received a music-licensing request from the Foos as they wanted to perform ‘Darling Nikki’ at that year’s MTV VMAs. The night before the show, the Minneapolis native agreed. “They did a good job,” he somewhat surprisingly noted later. “I do like the way Dave [Grohl] keeps the integrity of the song in his performance.” As a side note, Foo Fighters’ rendition that night was with CeeLo Green, a ubiquitous musician at the time. It seems like a strange pairing now. It could only have happened in the 2000s.
Watch Prince take on ‘Best of You’ below.