Prince witnessed Alicia Keys cover his song “How Come You Don’t Call Me” before just about anyone else.
Keys recently caught up with Malcolm Gladwell’s “Broken Record” podcast. The Grammy darling revealed the length she went through to clear the cover for her debut studio album Songs in A Minor. Keys, who was 18 or 19 at the time, was advised to phone Prince.
“I hadn’t spoken to people that I adored like him ever before that phone call,” she said via Rolling Stone. “That was not a normal occurrence — even today if he were still alive, and I was calling him, I would still feel nervous about calling him.”
Keys had heard stories of Prince turning down covers “time and time again… so that’s what I was up against.”
“I start talking to him, and he was super friendly and encouraging, saying he heard what I’d been working on and that he knows I’m writing and producing my stuff. He said to keep that up,” Keys continued. “He said, ‘Why don’t you come to Paisley Park and play it for me?’”
“He was definitely observing what I was doing, and he was so veraciously a music lover and really excited about new music, all the time,” she said of the audition. “I never met anybody like that, who just knew the pulse of new music so well. That was him.”
The audition must have gone well because “How Come You Don’t Call Me” appeared as track number three on Songs in A Minor.