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Prince, With Just A Piano And A Sniffle, Interprets 'Mary Don't You Weep'

Prince, backstage during his 1999 tour.
Prince, backstage during his 1999 tour.

Today, what would have been his 60th birthday, the people in charge of Prince's storied vault of unreleased recordings have announced a forthcoming album taken from a cassette he recorded at his home studio (Paisley Park did not yet exist), simply titled Piano & A Microphone 1983. The record includes a cover of Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You" and prototype sessions of "Purple Rain" and "Strange Relationship."

Also on Piano & A Microphone is a recording of Prince skeletally, beautifully interpreting the spiritual "Mary Don't You Weep." Over tumbling blues piano, Prince, veering from his crystalline falsetto to that always-surprising baritone, breaks away from the original.

Maybe it's sacrilegious to suggest, but Prince's interpretation here seems fueled, in part, by his sadness over contracting a mid-winter cold. Hear the pronounced sniffles at the 3:29 mark, or his pronouncing of "moan" as "boan" throughout.

"Guess you know me well / I don't like no snow / No winter / No cold / But Mary! Girl you know I like your — ssh!"

As well, the memory of Martha — probably the same female totem as from "Insatiable" — and her comfort eggs, a dietary staple of the famously picky eater:

"Martha / Girl / You cook the greatest omelettes in the world."

Try to imagine anyone else recording alone in a cold and bright white Minnesota winter, sniffling — and producing this.

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