Shock doesn’t begin to describe it. Prince wasn’t fading away before our eyes like so many legends. He was in full bloom forever. He was continuing to astonish, push, create, and defy. There are so many things to talk about: The songs, the performances, the films, the fashion, the business, the jaw-dropping stories that must have been true because they couldn’t have possibly been true unless Prince was involved. So how to remember him? Well, dig, if you will, this picture of Prince. Here he is at the 2004 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ceremony, sharing the stage with Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Steve Winwood, and Dhani Harrison during an all-star tribute to the latter’s late father, George. Prince spends the first half of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” keeping to himself—that is, until he steps forward, at 3:28, and brings it on home by unleashing an effortless, Hendrix-worthy guitar solo for the ages. For those few minutes, our brains pixilate the illustrious company he’s keeping out of the picture, and if you do look around (to paraphrase Hendrix, himself), you will see some minds being blown, symbolized best by the ear-to-ear grin that adorns George Harrison’s look-a-like son’s face.
Gone are the ’80s-era gimmicks and stage props, leaving nothing but the funk/rock throwdown of your dreams. Even setting aside his genre-defying, game-changing singles and albums, his unearthly performing chops—whether he’s guitar shredding or gettin’ his James Brown on with dazzling footwork—Prince just made most of peers and followers shrink before him. In essence, so many of us who were born too late to witness the greats of the past in real time didn’t realize that we were witnessing a force just as mighty in the present. Prince will be missed. We’re lucky to have been on Earth when he strutted across it.