When Prince died in 2016 one performance more than any other was shared online, and surprisingly it wasn’t one of Prince’s own songs.
In 2004 Prince joined Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and Dahni Harrison in a once in a lifetime performance of While My Guitar Gently Weeps, to commemorate George Harrison’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Prince nearly didn’t play as Harrison’s widow Olivia originally wanted only performers that had known George to perform. Olivia was convinced by Tom Petty to let Prince play and boy did Prince play, transforming the song completely and wonderfully.
I love this performance, and I love it even more now having stumbled across the comment below on YouTube, which explains exactly why Prince stole the show in the way only Prince could.
A good friend of mine was P’s Guitar Tech for some years around this time and was working this very show. He was told that when he caught the guitar at the end, he was to give it to Oprah Winfrey. (In the original broadcast it cut to her looking bemused and astounded.) It DID come back down people…LOL
There was just one rehearsal the night before the show proper, and Marc Mann basically ran riot over the two spots Prince was originally asked to take (middle and end solos). Despite concerns and apologies from the Production team, he was nothing but gracious about it, and told them not to worry and it would all work out fine. As we know, it did – and then some.
As for talk of Petty being pissed at him, not true. Yes, there’s one camera shot that seems like Petty looks annoyed, but not so. Watch closely, and in the next few bars they’re both smiling and nodding at each other, knowing this is “a moment” that should be relished as they were all in the zone doing George’s song such beautiful justice.
Finally, regarding the “showboating” that some people talk of, Prince was actually a major practical joker. Earlier that night, he noticed Dhani seemed in a somber mood – whether it was the occasion, thinking of his Father or both, Prince told him that he was going to make it his mission to put a smile on his face by the end of the evening. So when you see Prince fall backwards off the stage into the brace of his bodyguard, if you watch, you’ll see Dhani burst out laughing. That moment was for him. Nobody else.
Amongst everything else going on that evening, and during the middle of a performance like that, Prince wanted to lift someone up. THAT’S what that whole thing is about.