The 10 best moments from the Grammys Salute to Prince
Sheila E., Maya Rudolph, and Susanna Hoffs all paid tribute to the Purple One.
In February, the Recording Academy held its annual post-Grammys tribute show, which each year honors a selected artist and their contribution to the world of music. The focus for 2020? The late, great Prince, whose songs and style continue to reverberate across our culture. Joined by a who's who of Prince collaborators and admirers — Sheila E., Gary Clark Jr., Miguel, John Legend, Morris Day and the Time, Beck, Maya Rudolph, and many more — the event gave viewers an overview of why the Purple One still means so much to so many.
Below, we run down the show's best moments.
“Delirious” — Princess and the Revolution
As a vocal and enthusiastic Prince fan for decades — including her turns as “Beyonce” on “The Prince Show” sketches on SNL — Maya Rudolph was the perfect host for this special. So it’s wonderful that the whole country had a chance to see her dynamite tribute act Princess get down with the Revolution on one of Prince’s twistiest jams, and to watch her go from sober host to giddy performer. Although this single from 1999 made it all the way to No. 8, its slinky synths and unabashed innuendo still feel undersung in Prince’s repertoire. Rudolph and Gretchen Lieberum’s loose-limbed performance helped bump its visibility back up. —Sarah Rodman
“The Beautiful Ones” — H.E.R. featuring Misty Copeland
This performance not only featured a killer vocal from the multi-Grammy winning multi-instrumentalist but a dance accompaniment from ballerina Misty Copeland — who also danced with the man himself over the course of several years. H.E.R. honored the original plush-to-pleading arrangement, murdering the high notes on the Purple Rain classic, as Copeland combined elegance and passion moving across the stage. She also spoke movingly of him as “one of my closest friends and someone who just really showed me what it was to be a unique individual and to own that power.” —SR
Sheila E. — "America" / "The Glamorous Life"
No one had a better night than musical director and frequent Prince collaborator Sheila E., who spent the evening out-playing, out-dancing, and out-singing almost everybody on stage. Her big highlight came during this two-song medley, which saw Sheila singing Prince's cynical funk-rock track "America," along with her best-known solo hit "The Glamorous Life," which Prince wrote and co-produced with Sheila herself (the song peaked at No. 7 on the Hot 100 in 1984). She capped it all off by tossing her cymbal to the ground. —Alex Suskind
“Manic Monday” — Susanna Hoffs and Chris Martin
This was the night’s tenderest moment and certainly one of the most still, particularly in a catalog full of uptempo delights. The two lead singers shed their bands — Coldplay and the Bangles, respectively — to perform a simple piano-and-voice duet of the tune that Prince wrote for that vibrant ‘80s pop-rock quartet, under the pseudonym Christopher. The song reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 on the strength of its Paisley sparkle and the band’s pristine harmonies. Hoffs and Martin intertwined their voices, stripping the sweet lament to a gorgeously elegiac place. —SR
Miguel — "I Would Die 4 U"
No need to worry, no need to cry, because Miguel brought the heat for Prince’s ode to deathly romantic devotion. He even dipped into some Prince-inspired attire for the set, rocking a dove-white see-through shirt, lacy gloves, and boots. Between his falsetto runs and extended drum solos from Sheila E., Miguel strutted and did the splits across the stage. An impressive and worthy performance for one of Prince's best songs. —AS
“Darling Nikki” — Foo Fighters
This wasn’t the rock band’s first crack at performing this cathartic track about a particularly free spirit and magazine enthusiast. The group recorded a version back in 2003 — Prince was reportedly not a fan but, clearly, he forgave them since he covered their “Best of You” during his Super Bowl halftime show — and hadn’t played it in years according to frontman Dave Grohl. No rust here though as they powered through the seesawing jam with Grohl giving his all to the climactic shredding screams and guitarist Chris Shifflet showing off some fast fingers. It was a bracing and welcome shot of rock. —SR
"Jungle Love" / "Cool" / "The Bird" — The Time
Prince may have formed this flashy funk band almost 40 years ago, but they sound like they haven’t aged a day. This performance from the reunited group featured a mash-up of their songs “Jungle Love,” “Cool,” and “The Bird" (they sadly skipped out on their only top 10 hit, "Jerk Out"), along with singer Morris Day’s signature onstage mirror strut. —AS
Beck — "Raspberry Beret"
Beck has a history with “Beret,” having covered it both in concert and on his 2019 EP The Paisley Park Sessions (recorded at, you guessed it, Prince’s Paisley Park studios). His Grammys tribute version was an unfussy but entertaining rendition of the 1985 cut, with Beck — who has borrowed more than a few sonic cues from the Purple One — leading the crowd in a sing-along at the end. The only thing missing from this was Prince’s famous cloud suit (Beck opted for a cream-colored number instead). —AS
"The Cross" — Gary Clark, Jr.
The blues guitarist went to a truly divine place for this deep cut from one of Prince's best albums, 1987's Sign o' the Times. With Sheila E. pounding out the beat behind him, Clark fully surrendered to the churning, devotional ballad, a cri de coeur about the ills of the world. Timely, poignant, hopeful, and a face-melting solo that likely would've drawn a sly smile from the Purple One. —SR
Mavis Staples — "Purple Rain"
If you hold a nationally televised Prince tribute there's going to be some “Purple Rain.” For the show’s penultimate performance, legendary soul singer (and one of the Purple One’s all-time favorite artists) Mavis Staples came out for a haunting, heartbreaking version of Prince's hit ballad. Few singers have the skill to pull off this song’s vocal theatrics, and Staples — who was accompanied on stage by members of Prince's Revolution band — is one of them. “I only want to see you bathing in the purple rain,” she sang in her trademark guttural voice, before hitting the climactic falsetto. It was hard not to get goosebumps watching it. —AS