Some have issued statements on social media (“Prince was one of the most unique and exciting artists of the last 30 years,” Mick Jagger stated on Twitter). Some have dedicated songs to him during concert performances (Elton John hailed the 57-year-old as “a purple warrior” during his show at Las Vegas’ Caesar Palace on April 23, before playing I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues in front of a slideshow of Prince photographs). And some have paid musical tribute with their own cover versions. Here are nine of the finest salutes to the man and his music.
Singular talents both, Prince and Bruce Springsteen truly exploded into global consciousness in the mid ‘80s, with the release of Purple Rain and Born In The USA, respectively, released just three weeks apart in June 1984. On April 23, bathed in purple light, Springsteen and the E Street Band opened their show at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center with an emotional performance of Purple Rain, The Boss signing off by saying “Prince forever. God bless.” The song is now available as a free download.
Currently on a solo acoustic US tour, Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor was booked into Minneapolis’ First Avenue nightclub, the setting for the live scenes from the Purple Rain movie, on the day Prince passed. A long-time fan, who confesses that he “bawled my eyes out” upon hearing the news, Taylor chose to open his show that evening with his take on Purple Rain. “Growing up as a massive Prince fan, there was no way that I was not gonna show respect to that man,” Taylor said afterwards. “It was intense.”
On the evening that news of Prince’s death broke, Porcupine Tree frontman Steven Wilson closed out his performance at the Gasometer in Vienna, Austria with an encore featuring David Bowie’s Space Oddity and a striking, powerful performance of Sign O’ The Times, the title track from Prince’s 1987 album. Wilson actually recorded a version of the song in 2008, as part of a series of seven inch singles (which also featured tracks by The Cure, Abba and Alanis Morissette) later compiled on his 2014 collection Cover Version.
Texan country music trio the Dixie Chicks paid their respects with a stark, stripped-back and utterly beautiful version of Nothing Compares 2 U, written by Prince, originally recorded by Prince-affiliated Minneapolis funk band The Family and later made famous by Sinead O’Connor, during their April 22 concert in Horsens, Denmark. Dixie Chicks have kept the song in their live set at subsequent shows this week.
Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell began covering Nothing Compares 2 U during his autumn 2015 acoustic tour: on April 21 he elected to upload a version of the song on his YouTube channel.
“Prince’s music is the soundtrack to the soulful and beautiful universe he created, and we have all been privileged to be part of that amazing world,” Cornell stated. “I performed his song Nothing Compares 2 U for the first time a couple months ago. It has a timeless relevance for me and practically everyone I know. Sadly, now his own lyrics in this song could not be more relevant than at this moment, and I sing them now in reverence as I pay tribute to this unequaled [sic] artist who has given all of our lives so much inspiration and made the world so much more interesting. We will miss you Prince!!!”
Billy Corgan has a direct connection to Prince, as Smashing Pumpkins one-time keyboard player Jonathan Melvoin (who died of a heroin overdose in July 1996) was the brother of Prince’s collaborators Wendy and Susannah Melvoin. On April 22, during a VIP acoustic set backstage on their In Plainsong tour, Corgan and singer Sierra Swan swapped vocals on a low-key reading of The Cross from Prince’s 1987 album Sign o’ the Times.
One of the most understated, tasteful and beautiful tributes to Prince this weekend came courtesy of David Gilmour, as the Pink Floyd man incorporated musical phrases from Purple Rain into his guitar solo on Comfortably Numb during his Teenage Cancer Trust show at the Royal Albert Hall on April 24, bathed in purple light. Classy.
In a similar vein, Pearl Jam elected to close out their April 21 performance at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, South Carolina with guitarist Mike McCready incorporating ‘licks’ from Purple Rain in his solo on final encore Yellow Ledbetter. Earlier in the evening, following a performance of Even Flow, a song Prince himself had covered, frontman Eddie Vedder addressed Prince’s death, saying “The shocking news of the day was losing an incredible musician. All of us on this stage can tell you: that guy loved music so damn much. He never stopped playing, never stopped writing, never stopped recording, never stopped creating. He was dripping with songs. They’d go into the shower after he took a shower and there’d be three songs laying there.” Describing Prince as “an intense cat”, Vedder closed his tribute by saying “Prince was probably the greatest guitar player we’ve ever seen.”
A fellow Minneapolis musical legend, Bob Mould penned a touching tribute to Prince in the hours after news of his death was confirmed. “Make no mistake: Prince was the brightest star in these Northern skies,” wrote Mould, who also shared memories of recording his debut solo album, 1989’s Workbook, at Prince’s Paisley Park studio. “Prince was an artist through and through,” Mould stated, “always pushing himself to new levels, often creating controversy through his actions and words, and ultimately creating a lifetime of wonderful memories for the world with his incredible volumes of published (and unheard) works.” Booked to play the First Avenue nightclub on April 22 and 23, Mould teamed up with his support band, local heroes Suicide Commandos, for a cover of When You Were Mine, from 1980’s Dirty Mind album. The performance featured lead vocals from Mould’s tour manager, Che Arthur.