“Music is music, ultimately. If it makes you feel good, cool.”—Prince.
If there’s one thing that can be said about the music of Prince and how he performed his art, it is that he made people feel good—and it was, of course, very cool indeed. One perfect performance of The Beatles classic ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ in tribute to George Harrison proves that.
On March 15, 2004, taking to the stage alongside the great Tom Petty, Steve Winwood, Jeff Lynne, Dhani Harrison among many others, Prince was preparing something typically unique. The occasion was a celebration of former Beatles member George Harrison who was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—so it needed to be special.
The all-star band, performing ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ which is quite possibly remembered as Harrison’s most-beloved Beatles song, included members of the Heartbreakers and had pre-planned a moment for Prince to take the lead, a moment of majesty, a moment of sheer rock and roll brilliance. A moment only Prince could pull off.
Remembering the moment on reflection, 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.”
Prince was determined to make the most of a moment to pay tribute to Harrison and he began to wield his axe with powerful uncompromising confidence, with a style that ultimately defines his nickname as ‘His Royal Badness’ and unleashed a relentless three-minute guitar solo that had his new bandmates smiling from ear-to-ear, gasping at its splendour and making sure George had a fitting tribute.
As if the moment wasn’t magical enough, Prince had one more trick up his sleeve—albeit accidentally. Tossing his guitar up to the heavens, the instrument appears to vanish in thin air, never to be seen again, just the ringing of reverb in the venue left behind.
See the clip, below.