We’ve probably all come to expect a measure of hyperbolic rhetoric after a person’s death, especially when that person was a chart-topping celebrity. And the news of Prince’s passing has been no different. Social media, the internet more generally and all other media platforms have seen a barrage of all things Prince since reps for his estate confirmed his passing on Thursday, 21 April, 2016, with words like ‘legendary’, ‘iconic’ and ‘genius’ often used as descriptors for the musician. Except in Prince’s case, this speak is no empty hyperbole, but a reflection of the reality of the icon’s life.
For us here at The Blues Project, the theme that resonated with us in conversations on Prince’s life and career was ‘transcendant’. Prince transcended several planes and boundaries of existence. He clearly transcended race, definitions of masculinity, musical genre and classification and even boundaries of style and fashion. He was a prolific songwriter, writing a swathe of hits for himself and other musicians from all genres and walks of life. His talent transcended the dimensions of R&B, Soul, Jazz, Funk and Rock & Roll, with his guitar-playing (one of several instruments he played), transcending his time and peers. There has been much written in the past few days about his incredible career and unrivalled status in the unique lane he carved out for himself (if the fact that he can’t be boxed into a lane, is considered a lane of its own). Some of our favourites are these pieces by Billboard and The Verge.
Prince’s brilliance really defies description by words, so we decided that the best tribute we can offer to the great musician that he was, is to present a collection of his greatest moments. There is tonnes of content floating around of this icon and it can get overwhelming, but we’ve always got your backs, so we’ve scoured the depths of the worldwide web and come up with our list of his greatest (public) moments. For us, putting this list together really brought home the fact that we’ve lost one of the most extraordinary performers of all time.
1. Prince is inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
In 2004, Prince was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Alicia Keys, an outstanding talent herself, that has clearly been inspired by his work. Like Prince, Alicia is a true musician, able to command the stage and a range of musical instruments. Below is her emotional speech and Prince’s performance afterwards, where he delivered a spell-binding 2-minute guitar solo at the end of a performance with Tom Petty, Steve Winwood, Jeff Lynne and George Harrison’s son, Dhani, on a version of The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”.
2. A legendary Super Bowl performance of ‘Purple Rain’
2007, Prince was billed to headline the Super Bowl halftime show and a rainstorm hit Miami that morning. When Prince got a call from the show’s producer to check he was fine to perform in spite of the rain, Prince reportedly asked “Can you make it rain harder?”. He proved to be the ultimate showman, delivering an incredible performance in the midst of a downpour that made it seem like the rainstorm was an orchestrated part of the performance. The show did not feature the usual Super Bowl halftime show over-produced spectacle, simply the man, his guitar and a few back-up dancers, a mark of his brilliance on stage. It is his most iconic performance of ‘Purple Rain’.
3. Prince, James Brown and Michael Jackson make history on stage
On 20 August 1983, 3 of music’s most outstanding performers were in the same room. The occasion was a James Brown concert at Hollywood’s Beverly Theater and Brown invited first, Michael Jackson and then, Prince on stage for what was nothing short of a monumental moment in music history. Jackson and Prince were famed rivals and James Brown had said some less than flattering things about Prince’s performances which he believed copied his own. In any event, the trio made magic on stage, with some saying Prince stole the show. You be the judge.
4. Sign O’ The Times concert film
Released 31 March 1987 and named after his latest double album, Sign O’ The Times was one of Prince’s few forays into the world of film. The movie showcases the performance of 11 songs from the album and is an invaluable record of the great artist’s showmanship.
5. The Prince and the Queen dazzle together
Queen Bey and Prince hit the stage together at the 2007 Grammys.
6. Stevie Wonder, Prince and Chaka Khan hit the stage for a Chaka Tribute
At the 2006 BET awards, Chaka Khan was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Prince led the tribute with his incredible guitar work throughout the set, joined by Stevie Wonder on the piano, vocals from Yolanda Adams and India Arie. They were all later joined by the legend herself.
7. Stunning Coachella performance
2 weeks before Coachella 2008, the organisers announced that the mega star would be joining the line-up. The legend exceeded all expectations with a stunning performance that is incredibly difficult to find footage of, as Prince and his team had all footage taken down from YouTube (Prince wasn’t the biggest fan of the internet, once declaring it was “over”. So yeah, we guess trend analyst isn’t something we can add to his accolades). One gem from the night was a cover of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ that the group asked be placed back on YouTube. Thanks Radiohead!
Audio clips of the entire set have also been recently uploaded on SoundCloud. We’re not sure about how long these will be around before being taken down, but enjoy now while they’re up. The set is in 2 parts.
8. Guitar magic with Lenny Kravitz
In this clip from 1999, Prince and Lenny Kravitz hit the stage and delivered an out-of-this-world guitar experience. This is one for the ladies.
9. Mind-blowing Brit Awards Set
At the 2006 Brit Awards, Prince slayed the stage and all in the building with this performance.
10. SNL after-party performance
In a more intimate, but still spectacular moment, Prince rocked the SNL after-party at The Plaza hotel in New York. The footage taken by SNL alumnus, Tim Kazurinsky, shows Prince jamming with cast and guests at SNL, including Maya Rudolph, Jimmy Fallon, Cuba Gooding Jr., Bill Murray, Emma Stone and Chris Rock. Prince’s sparkly personality shines through in this one.
11. Iconic final performance in Atlanta
Footage has emerged of the star’s final show at The Fox Theatre in Atlanta on April 14, 2016. In what is a poignant moment, the video shows Prince on stage lit by candles playing a grand piano as he performs ‘Purple Rain’. Audio footage of the full show has also been posted on SoundCloud.
The show has been described as ‘enchanting’ receiving rave reviews in the days following the performance. The world really has lost a rare gem. Rest in Purple Peace, great one.