Some people have called Prince's guitar solo at the 2004 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony the greatest guitar solo of all time
Prince, the massively influential and superlatively talented musician and personality, has died at 57. As complicated and strange as mourning a celebrity’s death has become in 2016, it’s especially fraught in the case of Prince, who for years fought a strangely noble (and incredibly dedicated) war to keep his music offline.
Not long ago, Prince removed all of his music from dominant streaming services like Pandora and Spotify, electing only to have his music hosted at artist-owned Tidal. Unless you’re in the comparably small group of people with a Tidal account, you’re out of luck – in terms of streaming. His music is available for purchase on iTunes, Google and Amazon music (no streaming though), or, with a library card, sign up for Hoopla, which has access to some of his albums. SiriusXM has created a limited-run channel that will be playing his music through April 29, but that’s a temporary fix. The videos below represent a small portion of the stuff Prince’s team of lawyers haven’t been able to scrub from YouTube, and apparently they’re still at it: Bootlegs of recent live appearances have been disappearing in the past 24 hours. So this is by no means a complete list of the Purple One’s iconic performances, it’s just the best ones that you can find. Scroll on through and marvel at the singular talent the world is now sadly lacking.
‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’
If you’re going to watch one video on this list, make it this one. During the 2004 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, an all-star band was assembled to pay tribute to George Harrison via a performance of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Prince, standing far stage right, shrouded in darkness for most of the performance, steps into the spotlight at around 3:28 – watch Dhani Harrison’s excited grin as he sees what’s about to happen. In a word, it’s breathtaking. Prince’s solo is, as most Prince solos were, a mix of wailing bends, fast-paced shredding and pure theatricality: He falls backwards onto a handler in the front row at one point, who shoves him back onstage, and ends the performance by simply throwing his guitar up in the air and walking offstage.
Super Bowl XLI
The Super Bowl was probably the only venue actually large enough for Prince, and he didn’t disappoint, turning in a medley of hits and covers that culminated with a rainswept performance of “Purple Rain.” Whether or not Mother Nature intended to make Prince’s appearance better, she certainly did, as Prince manages to somehow bend a torrential rainstorm to his will and deliver a typically mind-blowing performance.
As we discussed earlier last year, Prince turned in a fantastic cover of Radiohead’s anthem of self-loathing, “Creep” at Coachella 2008, and promptly sic’ed his lawyers on whoever tried to upload this footage of it. Radiohead’s Thom Yorke reportedly said, “Tell him to put it back up – it’s our song,” and in December, that’s just what Prince did.
This is a song by the Time, and it’s worth watching for any number of reasons, not limited to but including: Prince’s insane dance moves, his air-bass playing and it being a rare example of him performing without a guitar.
From his Rave Un2 the Year 2000 concert video taped in 1999, though this clip largely stars Lenny Kravitz, it also features typically blistering guitar work from Prince, some of his amazing falsetto harmonies and awesome horn work courtesy of funk legends like Maceo Parker.
‘She’s Always in My Hair’
Prince re-emerged in recent years with 3RDEYEGIRL, a typically virtuosic and incredibly stylish all-female group of musicians, and he turned in some of his most fiery television performances in front of the group, from The Arsenio Hall Show to Saturday Night Live. Here they perform Prince’s B-side, “She’s Always in My Hair,” wherein Prince nobly cedes the first solo to his guitarist before delivering a casually incendiary one of his own.
Early Prince footage is always a treat, if only because it seems to show how he emerged almost completely fully-formed as an artist. Everything you love about Prince, from the lasciviousness to the dancing to the hair, is all fully present in this early clip. And he was just 24.