For his outstanding achievements in his solo career, George Harrison was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. His fellow Traveling Wilburys bandmates Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne initiated him. In Petty’s speech, he mentioned that George has never pursued a solo career. He just liked making music with his friends.
So if George had been there for his introduction, he would have told all the other inductees to come up on stage to perform with him. Even Prince, who stole the show during George’s introductory performance. However, the rest of the musicians on stage were tense because His Purple Badness would join them.
George Harrison’s son Dhani said Prince caused tension on stage
George’s widow, Olivia Harrison, and the couple’s only son, Dhani, accepted the award from George. Then Petty, Lynne, Dhani, Steve Winwood and Prince took the stage to perform one of George’s most popular Beatles hits, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”.
Prince was also a fellow inductee that year, but no one knew he would actually take the stage between George’s friends and son. The last minute decision made things a little tense, especially for Dhani, the “buffer zone” between the Purple One and the rest of the Wilburys/Heartbreakers.
“It was a funny old night. Since they were the youngest Wilbury, they put me in between them and Prince to be sort of a buffer zone,” Dhani told Esquire. “We weren’t told he was playing and then suddenly the promoter said, ‘He’s playing with you, and that’s final.’ So there was a lot of tension, like what is this?“
During rehearsals, Dhani had a feeling that Prince would unleash a powerful guitar solo at some point during the actual performance. He tried to warn Petty, but the musician didn’t care.
“He showed up at the sound check and he was really nice, very shy, but I was the only one talking to him, and I got the feeling he was holding back, he wouldn’t play like that in the real thing,” Dhani said. “I said to Tom, ‘He’s acting really nice, but he’ll come blow us off the stage later.’ And they said: whatever it’s gonna be great, whatever he does it’s gonna be brilliant– it’s Prince, so of course we’re not going to stop him.’
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Prince unleashed an unexpected, powerful guitar solo that no one saw coming
When the performance started, Dhani was nervous about what was going to happen. For most of the song, Prince mysteriously lingered on the side of the stage. But, low and lo, he emerged a liberated dove when it was time for his solo at the end. The three-minute solo is now one of the most famous moments in the history of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
“When he opened at the beginning, I imagined what Tom Petty was thinking, and I started laughing nervously. Then his solo was so incendiary that I really started laughing and enjoying it. But because she put me in the middle of the On stage, I’m right behind Prince in every shot, and it seems like I’m laughing hysterically as I try to play the end of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and sing the backing vocals.
“Yesterday I was on the phone with El-P from Run the Jewels and he said, ‘Dude, were you just sitting there laughing at Prince?’ No, I was nervous laughing because it was so great and yet it wasn’t what we were supposed to do.”
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Tom Petty thinks George Harrison would have liked Prince’s solo
Despite Petty’s stern-looking face during the performance, he was actually quite happy with Prince’s solo. He didn’t feel like the singer was taking over the performance in any way and thinks George would have loved it.
“Olivia Harrison [George’s widow] asked me to come by and introduce George,” Petty told the New York Times. “I was told, ‘Well, Prince is going to play too,’ and I was like, ‘Wow, that’s fantastic.’
“Look, we’ve got Prince here ready to play lead guitar. Why should we give him an eight-bar solo? About a solo die – the Beatles solo, everyone knows it by heart and would be disappointed if you didn’t play that particular solo there. And Prince was a big fan of George and the Beatles in general, but I think he especially admired George. I think George would have really enjoyed it.”
At the end of his solo, Prince threw his guitar into the crowd. To this day, many of the people who stood on that podium don’t know where it landed. That’s the mystery of Prince, and George would have gotten a kick out of it.