Even at his friendliest, the late artist Prince was capable of being a prickly personality. As the Foo Fighters learned in the early 2000s, one thing that tended to irritate him more than anything was when other musicians tried to copy his songs. However, despite his apparent scorn, the two sides eventually patched things up and came together, as fans had anticipated, to create a version that Foos drummer Taylor Hawkins would characterize as “better than” the original.
‘Darling Nikki’ was already available in Australia as the B-side of the single ‘Have It All,’ when Dave Grohl and his band asked Prince for permission to cover the song and distribute it in the US. The Foo Fighters’ repertoire at the time included the iconic song from 1984. Prince responded in 2004 when asked by Entertainment Weekly if he liked the group’s rendition: “No! I don’t like anyone covering my work. Write your own tunes!”
This didn’t, however, accurately convey how Prince felt, according to an article written in 2022 by his aide Ruth Violette Arzate. Arzate claimed he told, “Firstly, don’t believe everything you read, 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 legendary halftime show at the 2007 Super Bowl, during which he included the Foo Fighters’ popular song “Best of You” in his performance. The band initially believed he was retaliating against them for covering “Darling Nikki” at the time. Taylor Hawkins, the drummer for Foo Fighters, stated to MTV that year, “The thought went through my head that maybe he was doing it as a sort of ‘fuck you’ to us.”
Regardless of Prince’s motivations, the band was nonetheless in awe of him for covering one of their songs; Hawkins claimed that he performed it “better than we did”. The musician 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.”
According to Arzate’s story, the Foos requested a music license shortly after Prince’s Super Bowl performance because they intended to play “Darling Nikki” at the MTV VMAs that year. The native of Minneapolis agreed the evening before the performance. He subsequently said, rather shockingly, “They did a good job.”
As an aside, CeeLo Green, a well-known performer at the time, joined the Foo Fighters for their performance that night. Currently, the combination appears odd. Only the 2000s could have seen it happen.
Watch Prince perform ‘Best of You’ below.