I love George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” According to the stories, Harrison having Clapton do the solo had the added benefit that his presence would put the other Beatles on their best behavior, and I love stories about the writing and recording of songs. While his comments about rap music and his refusal to ever allow his music to be sampled (while claiming to have only unconsciously cribbed off The Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine” when he wrote “My Sweet Lord“) make me suspicious of this Beatle, but I like his music nonetheless.
Be that as it may, I am glad that this version is “officially” up on You Tube. It’s from the 2004 Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, when George Harrison was inducted posthumously. His son is on stage with one of the fourteen million guitars on this number, scary how much he looks like his dad. For years some fan would put this video up and then You Tube would take it down for rights, blah, blah, blah. . . Now I know it is always there.
What this version is known for is how Prince steals the show with his solo. And I will say it straight, Prince schools these boys with his guitar playing. I don’t know why I get a special thrill from watching Prince show them how a guitar can weep like a mourner—probably because its stage full of white guys (at least standing in front)., and I can’t help put things in the context of rock history and also, you know, history. Prince attacks those runs gliding over the masterfully plodding rhythm of the song, the bass and piano carrying most of that weight. Prince’s guitar is a gospel choir harmonizing with a joyous noise over a funeral dirge. All the other guitars become superfluous.
I am not saying that Prince is the only good thing about this performance. I think the whole performance is perfect. Jeff Lynne’s subdued vocals are particularly poignant, I think. But damn, Prince kills it. Just kills it.