Prince and Joe Cocker Deliver Three Versions of ‘5 Women’
Short of both being inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and an encyclopedic knowledge of African American music, it’s hard to imagine what Prince and Joe Cocker had in common. But an attraction to actress Kim Basinger, however, served as the muse for a song that connects the two artists.
Written and recorded during a stop on 1990’s Nude tour, “5 Women” is a spiritual counterpart to the unreleased gem, “Blues in C (If I Had a Harem).” A mid-tempo blues number, “5 Women” finds Prince lamenting the number of months, and women, it took to forget the woman who captured his heart, only to discover: "... it just took 5 minutes when I saw your face again / To fall in love all over, I guess with you I’ll never win."
Joe Cocker Performs "Five Women"
Joe Cocker’s take on the tune was released on his 1992 record, Night Calls. Produced by ELO’s Jeff Lynne, and featuring the Heartbreakers’ Mike Campbell on guitar, Cocker’s version is delivered in his uniquely soulful manner. Unfortunately, the performance is relatively lifeless until Campbell is unleashed to deliver a solo that lifts the entire track, giving Cocker the much-needed foil to work up to in the second half.
No stranger to interpreting other artists' material, Cocker’s version is missing something in the groove; something that might have been avoided had he used Prince’s tracks. That is not to say that the original demo version is without fault, mind you. Prince’s relationship with the traditional blues forms—with a few exceptions—often feels self-conscious, and “5 Women” suffers here.
Prince, "5 Women" - Demo Version
Prince himself felt the need to tinker with the track, adding horns to the mix at a later date. This version is the one included on 1999's The Vault... Old Friends 4 Sale, the final record delivered as part of his contested Warner Bros. contract. A compilation of songs that were (largely) written for films (Girl 6, I’ll Do Anything), or other artists, the record featured some interesting jazz-tinged experiments, but ultimately felt more like an afterthought than a proper release.
Much as he did with 1996's similarly contractually-obligated Chaos and Disorder, Prince took pains to distinguish The Vault... Old Friends 4 Sale as something other than a "proper" studio effort with his liner notes: "The enclosed material was written during the period beginning 1/23/1985 and ending 6/18/1994 and was originally intended 4 private use only."
Oh, and regarding that connection to Miss Basinger? Prince rarely used names, but this line seems pretty straightforward: "May was her name, she was jumpin’ / Jumpin’ from plane to plane / Actress or model or somethin’ / I can’t even remember her first name..."
Prince, "5 Women" - 'Old Friends 4 Sale' Version