Anyone who knows me, knows how I feel about Prince. He has always been the consummate entertainer for me. It was never a contest. And what I love and admire about him is that he only became greater with time. As I grew older. As I gained the ability to poke more and more holes in everyone else’s perfection, and as I became more and more perforated and imperfect myself. Prince … stayed perfect.
So much has been said about his music and his influence. All of it does justice to who he was. To minorities. To women. To musicians. To independent thinkers. To honest people. To those who fight everyday to make the alternative the mainstream. And ultimately, to those who just don’t give a damn.
He’s so much more than Purple Rain. It’s not even my favorite Prince song. But I felt compelled to capture all the tributes to Purple Rain in one place. Here. Now. If for no other reason than to have it for myself.
These are not ranked. They can’t be. Try and rank them yourself. You’ll succeed. Until you go back and listen to them over again and re-rank everything.
Adam Levine – Purple Rain (for Howard Stern) – Calm down. Maroon 5 was special about 15 years ago (even a little prior.) Adam Levine has a unique voice, has some guitar skills. And if you leave this tribute not a fan, watch it again. Until you do. The fact that he did this several years ago is, IMHO, the ultimate tribute. It wasn’t a eulogy. It was a living tribute to a living legend. No nostalgia, just a superstar showing fandom for one of the greatest.
Bruce Springsteen – Purple Rain (Barclay’s Center) – It’s outstanding to see this respect reciprocated. Prince considered Bruce to be one of the greatest stage leaders and frontmen ever. An individual with an amazing command of the audience and his band, who was able to evolve sets on stage with the wave of a hand and eye contact. Hearing The Boss pay his respects was beautiful because of the level of appreciation between the two of them, one that most probably never knew existed. I love Bruce’s voice at the most energetic moments of this song too. Chilling.
Damien Escobar – Purple Rain (Violin Cover) – Prince, more than any other musician around, spoke through his performances. His songs told amazing stories. His outfits told amazing stories. But most powerfully, his instruments (every single one he played) spoke to you. That’s what makes this song so powerful. That’s what makes Purple Rain so powerful. Try and separate the words from the music in your head. It’s hard. Which is why Damien Escobar’s inversion, applying the violin to Prince’s vocals, is so beautiful.
The Color Purple Cast – Purple Rain (Broadway) – Thank you Jennfer Hudson for making this happen. Thank you more for stepping back from the opening and turning it over to Cynthia Erivo. Jennifer Hudson oversings early, but she then closes strong. When you think about the timing of the book itself (The Color Purple came on the scene as Prince came into his own, timed perfectly in the early 80’s) and the message behind the book (few books took on sexism and racism as powerfully and vocally — and explicitly as The Color Purple), it makes sense that this cast did this legend justice. Because few musicians did more to combat racism and sexism with their actions, than the Purple One.
Kelly Clarkson – Purple Rain (Fan Request) – Wow. I forget how talented American Idol singers used to be. 🙂 This is beautiful and shows how diverse Prince’s reach is, and it shows how many options there are to make a song work across genres. It’s also a testament to Prince that the greatest song of the 80’s is androgynous, asexual, and pan-racial in its own right. Just like he. Is.
Jimmy Buffet – Purple Rain – Why? Because it’s Jimmy Buffet. The Guardian said it best: “Buffet is famed in the US for purveying the “island escapist” lifestyle to baby boomers. And for owning two restaurant chains named after his songs – Cheeseburger in Paradise and Margaritaville. A peformance of Purple Rain was probably the last thing his fans expected.”
The Waterboys – Purple Rain (largely, beautifully, acoustic) – Perhaps the most unique version of this song I’ve heard. I learned early on that the power of a song shone through when you stripped it of its production, simplified the arrangement, and sand the heck out of it. This is, that version. Touches me as much as when I heard Springsteen do Born in the USA, acoustic, solo, under a spotlight, at MSG. Mostly because I never thought of this song as being sung this way.
I couldn’t embed the video so this is 2 for 1; click on the link above for a great in studio version, or the one below for an Opera House extended play version. I prefer the one above.
David Gilmour – Purple Rain (with Comfortably Numb) (<<CLICK LINK TO WATCH VIDEO) – Maybe I love the idea of Pink Floyd and Purple Rain because, as a color blind man, I have no idea if they match. But I grew up listening to Pink Floyd. When one of my uncles got his brand new Bose speakers — think of the old school 301’s – we broke them in by laying down on the floor, staring up at the ceiling, and listening to ALL of The Wall. All of it. So when I caught wind of this, union of two songs with choruses that force me to sing at the top of my lungs (even when I’m not singing out loud, you’ll see my eye balls roll up into my head) I had to listen. And … it’s all I expected it to be. The transition in at the 4:30 mark is so subtle it shows you how well, well composed songs can be melded by beautiful musicians.
<No video embed. Please click on the link above.>