Prince’s breathtaking guitar solo at the end of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” could be the single greatest musical moment at any Rock Hall induction ceremony in its history. It almost didn’t happen: George Harrison’s widow, Olivia, wanted the performance of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” to be limited to people who knew George — unlike Prince, who later claimed he had never even heard the song before it was sent to him to learn for the performance.
Organizers persuaded Olivia to let Prince play. For Prince, the initial attraction was the chance to share a stage with Tom Petty. “It was an honor to play with him,” Prince said later. “‘Free Fallin” is one of my favorite songs.”
The delighted look on George’s son Dhani Harrison’s face said it all when Prince stepped to the center of the stage and delivered a two-minute solo complete with fluttering high notes and ringing harmonics. Prince took over completely, leaning backward off the front of the stage so that a handler had to hold him up, and strutting offstage before the song had faded, tossing his guitar high in the air. (“I want to be friends with him,” Dhani said backstage. “We’re the same height.”) “
They rehearsed it a bunch of times, and every time you could see this was going to tear the roof off the place,” says Paul Shaffer, who led the band that night. “But Prince kept a little something in reserve for the actual performance itself. He really did show what a great guitarist he was. He just killed it that night.”