Prince Plays a Mind-Blowing Guitar Solo On “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”

Amidst all its oth­er unset­tling excess­es, 2016 has become a year of col­lec­tive mourn­ing as musi­cal icon after musi­cal icon pass­es away. The names begin to sound like a list of bat­tle­field casu­al­ties. Our lat­est loss was much more than a leader among men: he was roy­al­ty.

Prince’s death strikes me as a tragedy for so many rea­sons: he was too young, only 57. He was—as for near­ly every­one of my generation—a fix­ture of my child­hood, a fig­ure of impos­si­ble cool; his loss feels deeply per­son­al. Last­ly, Prince seemed so above it all—above all of the ugly, pet­ty crap the rest of us slog through every day, includ­ing death.

All pop stars seem like that to their fans.

But when it comes to Prince, it wasn’t just his for­ev­er young sex­u­al­i­ty that made me think he’d nev­er die, but the fact that he could do any­thing, and I mean any­thing at all as a musi­cian. He seemed to have no lim­i­ta­tions. Unlike many of this year’s lost stars, I was lucky enough to see him play. That show became the high water­mark by which I’ve unfair­ly mea­sured every oth­er per­former.

He played for three hours, then held an after­par­ty and played for two more. He tore through his cat­a­log, then played every­one else. Mem­bers of his band left the stage one by one, and Prince con­tin­ued, pick­ing up instru­ment after instru­ment. The huge­ness of the sound didn’t seem dimin­ished one bit when he remained on stage alone with his gui­tar at three o’clock in the morn­ing.

And that gui­tar, man.… Whether his trade­mark but­ter­scotch Tele­cast­er or series of unique, sig­na­ture instruments—he played like no one else: he made the gui­tar cry, sing, howl, wail, and launch into out­er space hys­ter­ics. His pow­er and con­trol were unmatched. Eric Clap­ton, when asked what it felt like to be the world’s great­est gui­tarist, sup­pos­ed­ly said, “ask Prince.” Apoc­ryphal or not, it’s believ­able. No gui­tarist can be any­thing but blown away by Prince’s prowess. Wit­ness his solo at the end of the 2004 all-star Rock and Roll Hall of Fame George Har­ri­son trib­ute per­for­mance of “While My Gui­tar Gen­tly Weeps” (top), wide­ly cit­ed as one one of the best gui­tar moments caught on tape, and as evi­dence for why Prince belongs in the top ten of world’s great­est play­ers. He’s accom­pa­nied on the stage by Tom Pet­ty (RIP), Steve Win­wood, Jeff Lynne and Dhani Har­ri­son.

I don’t think there’s any hyper­bole in say­ing that Prince may have been the great­est stage per­former of the past forty years, as a total pack­age: show­man, song­writer, and musi­cian. And though he dom­i­nat­ed cen­ter stage, he wasn’t too proud to play the side­man. Check him out above, for exam­ple, back­ing Lenny Kravitz on “Amer­i­can Woman.” But when it came time for Prince to take a solo (see him tear it up at around 4:50), it was like every­one else had left the stage.

Rest In Peace, Prince. As a gui­tarist, singer, and gen­er­al explo­sion of pur­ple amaz­ing­ness, he was in a class all his own.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Prince (RIP) Per­forms Ear­ly Hits in a 1982 Con­cert: “Con­tro­ver­sy,” “I Wan­na Be Your Lover” & More      

David Bowie (RIP) Sings “Changes” in His Last Live Per­for­mance, 2006

The Memo­r­i­al Ser­vice & Cel­e­bra­tion of “Lem­my” Kilmis­ter, Motör­head Front­man, is Now Stream­ing Live

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (7)
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  • Mike says:

    Love this arti­cle and the video. His ver­sion of this song is one of my favorites. Iron­i­cal­ly, Eric Clap­ton played gui­tar on the album ver­sion of this Bea­t­les song (writ­ten by his friend George Har­ri­son).

    As for the Prince/Eric Clap­ton quote, that quote has been attrib­uted to Eric, Jimi Hen­drix, Prince, Phil Keagy, Eddie Van Halen, etc.. It’s a great quote, but not entire­ly truth­ful (since it most like­ly did­n’t hap­pen.

    With that said, I’ve always thought of Prince as a supreme­ly tal­ent­ed and under appre­ci­at­ed gui­tar play­er.

  • AprilSage says:

    Nev­er saw either of these. The utter mas­tery on the George Har­ri­son song is unre­al.
    The lead with Lenny in the sec­ond video, if I saw that live.…

    Man, just an insane tal­ent. Wow. RIP my man.

  • Rho says:

    WTF..??? WHERE did his Tele’ go when he threw it..? Some­one HAD to have “caught” it…, right..?? Jeeez Loooeez..!!

  • Mercedes59 says:

    This has got to be his great­est solo on gui­tar ever ‚insane!

  • Andrew Larson says:

    I’ll say that Prince was a great funk/R&B rhythm gui­tar play­er but as a lead play­er I feel he was very lim­it­ed. I don’t think was a very good soloist and in par­tic­u­lar I feel the solo on While My Gui­tar Gen­tly Weeps was not only slop­py wail­ing in my opin­ion, but also EXTREMELY dis­re­spect­ful to George Har­ri­son by try­ing to be the cen­ter of atten­tion.

  • Sepianne says:

    It was Prince’s RnR HoF induc­tion, too, you know. It was a great per­for­mance.

  • Paul says:

    It’s OK, but not a patch on Gary Moore play­ing it with George Har­ri­son — now THAT’s a gui­tar solo, just look at George’s face while Gary nails it!

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