To celebrate the incredibly prolific, influential and diverse body of work left behind by Prince, we will be exploring a different song of his each day for an entire year with the series 365 Prince Songs in a Year.

Prince’s “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” is many things, including the first single he released outside of a major label, his first No. 1 single in the U.K., and his last Top 10 hit in the U.S.

To this day, it is widely assumed the subject of the song is Mayte Garcia, as she was Prince’s girlfriend at the time and would eventually become his wife. The theory is reinforced by the fact Garcia named her 2017 memoir The Most Beautiful: My Life With Prince. Inside the book, she sets the record straight. “I know of three women, besides me, who believe it was written specifically for them,” Garcia writes, “I hope every woman who hears it thinks it was written specifically for her. Because it was.”

Garcia introduces the song’s official music video as Exhibit A in her defense: “Take a look at the music video. You won’t see me in it. You’ll see a collage of girls and women of every age, race and body type. This was his love song for all of us.”

Perhaps the only people not in love with the song were record executives at Warner Bros. At the time of its recording, tensions with the superstar were at an all-time high. In Prince: The Man and His Music, author Matt Thorne discusses the single’s release with Chris Poole who was Prince’s U.K. publicist at the time. “I think what happened was that Warners thought, ‘Oh well, we’ll show him. We’ll let him release his own record and then he’ll realize how difficult it is,’” Poole recounted to Thorne, “Whoops, first number-one single he’d ever had in the U.K.” The single also reached No. 3 in the U.S.

In Thorne’s book, Poole explains his role in the single’s success, “I found the distributor, found the pluggers, I did everything.” Steve Parke, Prince’s long-time photographer and designer at the time, told Thorne the D.I.Y. nature of the project extended to the video shoot, “I think everybody in the building was responsible for melting some of those candles.”

The Warners deal was limited to one song, so Prince was unable to tack any b-sides onto the release. A remix-filled seven-track EP, The Beautiful Experience, and a two-track CD single were released to retail under the NPG Records imprint in partnership with Germany-based Edel Music; the discs were marketed and distributed by Bellmark Records. These records were the first to use Prince’s signature “Love Symbol” in lieu of the name “Prince." On both discs, the small print clearly says, “(Symbol) appears courtesy of Warner Brothers Records."

“With the successful release of the single, (Prince) had proven that it was possible and important for an artist to take ownership of his or her work, creatively and commercially,” said Garcia in her book. She would record her own version of the song, “The Most Beautiful Boy in the World,” for her debut album, Child of the Sun. A Spanish version, “¿Quieres Ser El Mas Bello De Este Mundo?”, remains unreleased. The Norwegian ensemble Björnstjærne & Johnny Hazard feat. the Gin and Tonic Youth recorded a charming indie rock cover of the song for the compilation: Shockadelica: A 50th Anniversary Tribute to The Artist Known as Prince. 5,000 copies made it into circulation before Prince sued to have all copies destroyed. Prince would eventually return to Warner Bros., releasing two more albums on the label before his death in 2016.

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