Now, there’s a good argument to suggest that guitar solos only serve the person playing them. After all, the pivotal role of most lead guitarists is to shine a spotlight on their performance, and a searing solo is a fantastic way to ensure that all eyes are on you. One man who incorporated this effortless charisma without the need for such superfluous stage experiences was Prince. But that didn’t mean His Royal Badness wasn’t capable of shredding with the best of them.
We’ve already explained why Prince is the greatest guitarist of all time, but a large part of our argument was a truly remarkable performance he gave when celebrating the life of The Beatles own George Harrison. Surrounded by some of the finest guitarists of all time, Prince stepped up to the solo on the Beatles song ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ and melted the minds of all who witnessed it. Now, a new ‘director’s cut’ of the show has been released, and it contains even more Prince.
The clip is taken from a 2004 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame show in which Tom Petty and Dhani Harrison gathered the great and the good of guitar playing to pay tribute to Harrison with a rousing rendition of one of his most beloved Beatles tunes. Ever since that moment, the video has been making its way around YouTube and gathering up admirers of Prince’s masterful connection to the guitar.
“17 years after this stunning performance by Prince,” read the caption from Joel Gallen. “I finally had the chance to go in and re-edit it slightly — since there were several shots that were bothering me. I got rid of all the dissolves and made them all cuts, and added lots more close-ups of Prince during his solo. I think it’s better now. Let me know what you think. Joel.”
It’s much better. Largely because it has far more of the Purple One doing what he does best — putting on a show. Remembering the moment a few years later, the late Tom Petty once explained: “Olivia Harrison [George’s widow] asked me if I would come along and induct George. I was told, ‘Well, Prince is going to play too,’ and I was like, ‘Wow, that’s fantastic’.” If there was a chance of Petty feeling upstaged (and if you’ve watched the footage you’ll know that’s quite likely) he wasn’t going to spoil the evening and show it.
Then the news broke that Prince, a massive Beatles fan, was also in discussions to make an appearance, Petty explained: “Look, we got Prince here willing to play lead guitar. Why should we give him an eight-bar solo? Over a solo that — the Beatles solo, everyone knows it by heart and would be disappointed if you didn’t play that particular solo there.”
Explaining how the makeshift band knew that The Purple One was destined to nail the solo, Petty continued: “Prince was a great fan of George’s and the Beatles in general, but I think he particularly admired George.” He added, somewhat modestly, “I think George would have liked it a lot.” It’s a performance that can guarantee goosebumps like no other.
The new edit also confirms one rumour that had circulated the performance ever since. The legend was that Prince, after delivering quite possibly the greatest guitar solo of all time, declined the applause of his audience and left the stage before the song had finished, allowing Jeff Lyne, Steve Winwood, Petty and Harrison to gather the applause.
You can watch the brand new edit of Prince performing the solo from The Beatles song ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ back in 2004.