I Need A Man is a track released posthumously as the sixth track of Vault Tracks part 3, one of the discs with previously unreleased tracks included with the Sign O’ The Times Super Deluxe Edition. A week earlier, it was released as the album’s sixth and final pre-release download.
While the released version is from 1987, the song was originally recorded in August 1981 (likely around the same time as Drive Me Wild, Jealous Girl, Pizza, Make-Up and Wet Dream) at Prince’s Kiowa Trail Home Studio in Chanhassen, Minnesota. The track contained lead vocals by Jamie Shoop, and was intended for an album by The Hookers, but was abandoned when The Hookers developed into Vanity 6. While reflecting about this project’s history in an interview in 2023, Susan Moonsie stated that I Need A Man was the first song recorded for the band.
The track was then re-recorded on 22 January 1987 at the Washington Avenue Warehouse in Edina, Minnesota, when it was revamped to be offered to American blues singer-songwriter Bonnie Raitt. The track was worked on further in 1987 with horn overdubs by Eric Leeds and Atlanta Bliss recorded on 22 January 1987 at Prince’s Galpin Blvd Home Studio in Chanhassen, Minnesota. Prince approached her about recording some songs together and signing to his Paisley Park Records label in December 1986 after seeing her perform at The Beverly Theater, Los Angeles, CA, USA. He offered four songs to work on (I Need A Man, Jealous Girl, Promise To Be True and There’s Something I Like About Being Your Fool). Raitt recorded her vocals on only two of them (I Need A Man and There’s Something I Like About Being Your Fool).
No further work was done as Prince was busy preparing for his next tour (Sign O’ The Times Tour). Bonnie Raitt commented on the tracks by saying "I appreciated the enthusiasm, but they were not in my key. The topics were not things I was comfortable singing.". Raitt also wanted to cut tie with Warner Bros. after the failure of her 1986 album Nine Lives. None of the songs offered by Prince ended up on her 1989 acclaimed album Nick Of Time, released on Capitol Records. Prince would later cover I Can’t Make U Love Me (from Raitt’s 1991 album Luck Of The Draw).
Prince worked on the track again on 31 May 1988, at Paisley Park Studios in Chanhassen, Minnesota. the resulting version after those overdubs remains unreleased