In 2004, during George Harrison‘s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction, George’s son, Dhani, found himself in an interesting situation. Prince, a fellow inductee that year, materialized on stage as Dhani and George’s best friends, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne, performed George’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
Suddenly, Dhani found himself as the buffer between Petty and Prince, who no one expected to appear on stage. It was a night full of surprises and mystery. After an unexpected, face-melting solo, Prince threw his guitar out into the crowd. It seemed to disappear into the ether.
Still, Prince’s performances that night have gone down as some of the musician’s best. However, there’s one thing Dhani thinks Prince would have regretted about them. He couldn’t delete them off the internet.
Nobody, even George Harrison’s son, Dhani, expected Prince to appear during ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’
The producer and director of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Joel Gallen, wanted Prince to perform with everyone during George’s induction.
Gallen told the New York Times that he wrote to Prince, asking if he’d join. During the meeting, Prince told Gallen, “You know, I got your letter, I liked the idea, I’m going to listen to the song a few times, and I’ll get back to you.”
Prince agreed to perform, but he was concerned about who would “own the performance.” Gallen said, “He wanted to make sure that his performance was not exploited without his knowledge.”
The Purple One hardly rehearsed with Petty and the rest. He stood idly by and let another guitarist take all the guitar solos, worrying Gallen. He wanted Prince to do the solos. Prince just told Gallen not to worry about it.
Gallen didn’t need to worry. Prince told a friend later on that he “half-gased” it during rehearsals to surprise everyone when he came out to do his 3-minute solo. Dhani noticed.
“He turned up at soundcheck and he was really nice, very shy, but I was the only one that was talking to him, and I got the sense that he was holding back, he wasn’t gonna play like that in the real thing,” Dhani told Esquire.
“I said to Tom, ‘He’s being really nice, but he’s gonna come and blow us offstage later.’ And they said whatever, it’s gonna be great, whatever he does is going to be brilliant—it’s Prince, so obviously we’re not going to stop him.
“It was a funny ol’ night. Being the youngest Wilbury, they stuck me in between them and Prince to kind of be the buffer zone. We hadn’t been told that 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?“
Dhani thinks Prince was mad that he couldn’t delete his Rock & Roll Hall of Fame performances off the internet
After Prince died in 2016, his performances during 2004’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductions, especially his unexpected solo during “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” went viral for more reasons than one. No one can argue that the performances are some of Prince’s best. So, naturally, everyone watched them as they grieved the musician.
However, Prince’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame performances mostly trended because they were virtually the only videos of Prince on the internet. Prince was famous for taking down all traces of his music, interviews, etc. Dhani realized that Prince must have been upset he couldn’t take down his Rock & Roll Hall of Fame performances because he didn’t own them.
“I think it was the only bit of Prince that wasn’t deleted off the internet,” Dhani told Yahoo! “I think [Prince] would sit up late at night — no, seriously, I think he actually would — and delete stuff! But because that was owned by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, that piece of footage, he couldn’t delete it. It ended up being the only bit of Prince on the internet, and it’s like 60 million, 70 million views.”
“That was a hysterical afternoon; wasn’t expecting that when I woke up, let’s just say that,” Dhani continued. “I’m just laughing, because I can see what’s about to happen. I’m watching the Wilburys-Heartbreakers combination… knowing that Prince is about to blow the roof off the building!
“I wasn’t quite sure what the reaction was going to be from Tom, because we’d been practicing, and he just joined us. And of course, it was the same [reaction] as me, which was we both all started laughing — because [Prince] was so serious, and he’s doing backbends and throwing the guitar and stuff. It was very funny.”
Prince kept careful watch over his music
Considering Prince’s lengthy battle with his record company over the ownership of his music, it wasn’t surprising that Prince took his music off the internet, at least while he was alive.
Prince liked to keep a careful eye on his music. A year before he died, Prince whipped all of his music off the internet except for the streaming service, Tidal.
“Prince’s publisher has asked all streaming services to remove his catalog,” Spotify posted on its Prince page (per the Guardian). “We have cooperated with the request, and hope to bring his music back as soon as possible.”
For a while, Prince’s watchdogs scrubbed the internet of any traces of his songs. If you made a YouTube video and had a Prince song playing in the background, they removed it. He even deleted videos of his Coachella performance where he covered Radiohead’s “Creep.” That angered the band because they liked his cover.
“We made money [online] before piracy was real crazy,” Prince told the Guardian in 2011. “Nobody’s making money now except phone companies, Apple and Google… It’s like the gold rush out there. Or a carjacking. There’s no boundaries.”
So, Dhani is probably right. Prince more than likely seethed every time he saw the only two videos he couldn’t remove. It’s not an issue anymore, though. Shortly after Prince died, his estate unleashed all of his music back into the world.