Although he may have been diminutive in stature, Prince is one of the most iconic musicians of all time. A boundary-pushing and eternally fluid artist, he pushed pop music to its limits and challenged us as consumers in the process. In many ways, you could argue that it was Prince who dragged popular music into the future, an iconoclast who railed against longstanding, bigoted social mores and instead forged his own path. It’s no coincidence that scores of subsequent musicians cite him as a huge inspiration.
One of these artists who cites Minneapolis’ favourite son as having a defining impact on her artistic development is Sasha Fierce herself, Beyoncé Knowles. In 2004, as Knowles’ solo career was starting to hit stratospheric levels, she was lucky enough to perform with Prince at the 2004 Grammy Awards, which is seen as a key turning point in her career.
As Beyoncé swept up a host of awards that year, she and Prince stole the show when they performed a medley of hits, utilising different instruments as they went. This was a musical collaboration that contained a power that the world had never seen before.
This was only a sign of things to come for Beyoncé, who had toppled Madonna by the end of the decade and assumed her rightful place as the Queen of Pop. A stellar performance, the collaboration between one of the newest inductees into pop’s hall of fame and one of the eminent old guards, remains one of the most breathtaking performances the Grammy’s has ever seen.
However, it wasn’t all straightforward. Unsurprisingly, Beyoncé was incredibly nervous in rehearsals. Luckily for her though, Prince, who was known for his often spiky remarks, gave her some advice that helped see her through and take her career to the next level.
Speaking to Giant Magazine in 2010, Beyoncé recalled her performance with Prince. She explained how nervous she was in rehearsals because of her longstanding affinity for Prince’s lauded back catalogue. “Walking into rehearsals, I was just so overwhelmed and nervous and starstruck,” she revealed.
Given that the stakes were so high, the pair rehearsed for an hour a day for a week, but this did nothing to alleviate Beyoncé’s nerves. “I was so scared and in my shell in rehearsals,” she continued. But Prince comforted her, saying, “Don’t be scared. Come on, belt it out.” She explained: “He could see that I was holding back in rehearsals, but I let it out when it was time”.
It seems as if Prince knew that Beyoncé was the real deal, and was pleasantly surprised to find out just how much she knows about the technicalities of music. “I was really curious as to how much she knew musically,” he recalled in an interview. “I was really pleased to find out that she knew a lot about scales — Mixolydian scales and Egyptian styles.”
In one of the most candid moments in Prince’s career, he was also kind enough to show the music’s hottest prospect some tricks on the piano and noted that the instrument helped augment the artistry of Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin.
It’s safe to say that the performance between Prince and Beyoncé really helped to take her level of fame to the next level and cultivate the tremendous respect that she still commands today. We’re sure that Prince’s sage advice still helps her to this day.
Watch the pair’s stellar performance below.