Prince Honors a Musical Hero with ‘Santana Medley’
Prince was always utterly, defiantly in his own league as an artist. But like anyone, he stood on the shoulders of giants to scale the creative heights he ultimately reached — and he paid tribute to one of those influences with his "Santana Medley."
Added to Prince's setlist in 1994, the medley mashed up four Santana tracks: "Jungle Strut," "Batuka," and "Toussaint L'Overture" — all from the band's 1971 Santana III album — with "Soul Sacrifice," a cut from their 1969 self-titled debut, sandwiched in between "Batuka" and "Toussaint." Tellingly, despite the mountains of his own material Prince had to choose from, the medley remained a fixture in his live performances for years, appearing regularly throughout the '90s and beyond.
Naturally, as much as he may have wanted to pay homage to Carlos Santana's work, he wasn't interested in slavishly imitating his style or sound. On the other hand, he freely admitted taking inspiration from Santana, even pointing to the guitarist as a more sensible alternative to the constant Jimi Hendrix comparisons he suffered.
"It's only because he's black. That's really the only thing we have in common," he insisted during a 1985 Rolling Stone interview. "He plays different guitar than I do. If they really listened to my stuff, they'd hear more of a Santana influence than Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix played more blues; Santana played prettier. You can't compare people, you really can't – unless someone is blatantly trying to rip somebody off."
Prince retired his Santana medley from the setlist in 2011 — the same year he shared a stage with Santana — but his fondness for the music remained. In fact, as reported by SFGate, Santana's reunion record with his band's classic lineup was one of the last albums Prince purchased before his death. It was a bond felt on both sides, as Santana demonstrated after hearing word of his guitar disciple's passing.
"We thank you for sharing your luminous, brilliant spirit with us all, uplifting and healing," Santana wrote in a post credited to himself and his wife Cindy. "I will always cherish and honor our oneness and we will both always cherish our moments with you. We keep playing over and over, our favorite song 'The Last December' and we feel your presence deeply."
Of course, it wasn't just "Last December" Santana played. On tour at the time, he also took to the stage to share his own rendition of "Purple Rain" on April 21, 2016 — the same day news of Prince's death broke — bringing that mutual appreciation society poignantly full circle.