The 20 Biggest Prince Stories of 2020
There are many reasons to erase 2020 from our collective memory. But in Prince world, it was a memorable year from start to finish.
There were musical tributes, both minor (Coldplay covering "1999" with a choir) and massive (a full televised tribute show featuring bandleader Sheila E.). There was a Grammy nomination. There were notable business ventures and auctions and legal updates.
And fans savored every second of the Sign O' the Times Super Deluxe Edition, which fleshed out the story of that double-LP by collecting 45 previously unreleased studio tracks.
Check out our round-up of the year's 20 Biggest Prince Stories below.
Usher, Sheila E. Stage Prince Grammy Tribute
As an appetizer to a separate TV special, Sheila E. and Usher staged a musical tribute to Prince during the 2020 Grammy Awards. The duo's sleek medley teased three of the artist's most famous tracks: "Little Red Corvette," "When Doves Cry" (backed by a pole dancer) and "Kiss."
Read More: Usher and Sheila E. Perform Prince Medley at the Grammys
Prince Wrongful Death Case Dismissed
A wrongful death lawsuit brought on by Prince family members against multiple defendants was dismissed across several months, reports revealed in January. Claims against Walgreens, which filled prescriptions for Prince, and Trinity Medical Center, where he was treated for an opioid overdose a week before his death, were dismissed in August. Claims against Dr. Michael Shulenberg, who treated Prince in the weeks preceding his death, were dismissed in November.
Read More: Prince Wrongful Death Case Dismissed
Coldplay and Choir Cover "1999"
Two Coldplay members, singer Chris Martin and guitarist Jonny Buckland, recruited a choir and tackled "1999" midway through their March slot on NPR's Tiny Desk Concert. That same month, Martin teamed with the Bangles' Susanna Hoffs to perform the Prince-penned hit "Manic Monday" at an all-star Grammy tribute show.
Read More: Watch Coldplay and Choir Cover Prince's '1999'
Unheard Prince Hits SiriusXM
A previously unheard, two-hour radio program helmed by Prince in 2005 was revived for a new SiriusXM station devoted to the Purple One's music. The "conceptual" show, originally created for a proposed Sirius channel, features Prince playing his own music and favorites from others, along with interviews and a "peek into his legendary vault of unreleased studio and live recordings."
Read More: New SiriusXM Prince Radio Channel to Share His Unaired 2005 Radio Show
Grammy Prince Tribute Unites Musical Giants
Chris Martin and Susanna Hoffs weren't the only giants to appear on Let's Go Crazy: The Grammy Salute to Prince. Foo Fighters, Beck, Mavis Staples, St. Vincent, Earth, Wind and Fire and bandleader Sheila E. also performed at the event, which was filmed in January and aired as a two-hour CBS special.
Read More: 'Let's Go Crazy: The Grammy Salute to Prince': Photos, Set List
'One Night Alone,' 'Rainbow Children' Reissues Arrive, Despite COVID Delay
The COVID-19 pandemic pushed back two Prince reissues, The Rainbow Children and the One Nite Alone… series by over a month. But both packages, which revisit the singer's 2001-2002 period, were finally released on May 29.
Read More: Prince 'One Night Alone,' 'Rainbow Children' Reissues Pushed Back
Prince's Cloud 2 'Blue Angel' Guitar Sold at Auction
The Cloud 2 "Blue Angel" — one of four custom Cloud guitars built for Prince between 1983 and 1985 — was sold by Julien's Auctions in June. The instrument, first used on the Purple Rain tour, brought a whopping $563,000.
Read More: Prince's Famous Cloud 2 'Blue Angel' Guitar Is For Sale
Maceo Parker Covers Prince's 'The Other Side of the Pillow'
Legendary saxophonist Maceo Parker, widely known for his collaborations with James Brown and George Clinton, as well as a stint in Prince's band, covered Prince's "The Other Side of the Pillow" in June. "I recorded this song back in 2002 with Prince but we never got to finish it," Parker said of the track, which appeared on his first record in eight years, Soul Food: Cooking With Maceo.
Read More: Listen to Maceo Parker Cover Prince's 'The Other Side of the Pillow': Premiere
'Sign O' the Times' Box Set Closes Chapter on Prince Classic
Prince's 1987 double LP, Sign O' the Times, was reissued in multiple formats in September — including the Super Deluxe Edition, which contains 45 previously unreleased studio tracks recorded between May 1979 and July 1987. “The prevailing wisdom was to basically look at the final iteration of what Dream Factory would entail and that was around mid-July 1986,” archivist Michael Howe noted. “So we basically encompassed everything that would have been, or could have been, on that release and on Camille and the unredacted Sign O’ The Times – basically, Crystal Ball."
Read More: Prince 'Sign O' the Times' Box Set Announced
Prince Music Hits TikTok
The estate also made a bold business move in June, bringing the late musician's full catalog to TikTok. The deal allows the app's users to create short-form videos using Prince songs, potentially bringing his music to a younger generation. (Based on the numerous popular videos that emerged within a few days, it's already working.)
Read More: Prince's Music, Paisley Park Virtual Tour Headed to TikTok
Unreleased Musical Version of 'I'll Do Anything' Almost Premieres Online
The film lovers behind cinephobe.tv website faced legal threats after attempting to live-stream the unreleased version of James L. Brooks' 1994 film I'll Do Anything featuring eight Prince songs performed by the cast. (After a disastrous test screening, the musical was reworked into a traditional dramedy. The original cut is now a sought-after rarity among Prince fans.)
Read More: Online Debut of Prince-Soundtracked 'I'll Do Anything' Scrapped
Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris Digs Prince
In August, now-president-elect Joe Biden selected Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate — the first step in bringing a noted Prince die-hard into the White House. Harris' Purple One resumé includes performing Prince songs as part of a high school dance troupe, selecting "Purple Rain" as her favorite song from a movie and selecting "Kiss" as part of her presidential campaign playlist.
Read More: Vice Presidential Nominee Kamala Harris Is a Prince Fan
H.E.R. Covers 'Nothing Compares 2 U' at Emmys
The award show love continued into September, as R&B artist H.E.R. performed "Nothing Compares 2 U" during the Emmys' annual In Memoriam segment. (H.E.R. also participated in the Let's Go Crazy tribute, playing the titular tune with Gary Clark Jr. and tackling "The Beautiful Ones" by herself.)
Read More: Watch H.E.R. Sing Prince's 'Nothing Compares 2 U' at the Emmys
Long-Sought 1977 Song Hits YouTube
A song listed as "Prince, Neurotic Lover's Bedroom, Unreleased Studio 1977" was uploaded to YouTube on Sept. 15. And while no official confirmation followed, Prince reportedly did record a song with a very similar title, "Neurotic Lover's Baby's Bedroom," at his then-manager's rehearsal studio that same year.
Read More: Has Prince's 'Neurotic Lover's Baby's Bedroom' Finally Leaked?
Tommy Lee Covers Prince's 'When You Were Mine'
The parade of Prince covers continued in October with Tommy Lee's take on "When You Were Mine." The booming, synth-drenched rendition appeared on the Motley Crue drummer's solo LP Andro.
Read More: Hear Tommy Lee's Slow, 'Sexy' Take on Prince's 'When You Were Mine'
Stevie Nicks Admits She Talks to Prince Before Big Shows
In an October interview, Steve Nicks admitted that she often "[calls] in her spirits," including rock legends like Prince and Tom Petty, before a "really big, important show." She added, "I say, Tom, stand behind me. Prince, stand with me. I ask for their help because I know they're up there."
Read More: Stevie Nicks Says She Still Speaks to Prince Before Big Shows
Prince's '1999' Reissue Nominated for Best Historical Album Grammy
The Super Deluxe Edition of Prince's 1999, issued in September 2019, was nominated for Best Historical Album at the 2021 Grammys. That recognition for the 5-CD/1-DVD set marked Prince's 39th nomination and the album's fourth.
Read More: Prince Grammy History: Wins, Nominations, Performances + Tributes
Rock Fans Hear Prince Covers From Neal Schon and Chris Cornell
Two classic rock giants — one living, one late — officially released Prince covers in December. Journey's Neal Schon included a version of "Purple Rain" on his ninth solo LP, Universe, and the Chris Cornell estate featured the Soundgarden frontman's take on "Nothing Compares 2 U" on the surprise covers record No One Sings Like You Anymore.
Read More: Neal Schon's New 'Universe' Album Is Now Available
Read More: Hear Chris Cornell Cover John Lennon, Guns N' Roses and More on New LP
'Ready Player Two' Book Filled With Major Prince Nods
Ernest Cline went beyond mere Prince homage in his November-issued sci-fi novel, Ready Player Two: In one stretch of the book, a sequel to the 2011 best-seller Ready Player One, the main characters venture to the "Afterworld," an entire planet filled with nods to the Purple One (including an actual "Little Red Corvette"). There, they have to square off against seven versions of the musician, including Purple Rain Prince, Cloud Suit Prince and Gett Off Prince. While a film version of Ready Player Two is already in development, incorporating virtual versions of the Artist would clash with Prince's views on the similar technology. In a 1998 Guitar World interview, Prince said he would never consider utilizing digital editing to "jam" with an artist from the past. "That's the most demonic thing imaginable," he said. "That whole virtual reality thing…it really is demonic. And I am not a demon."
Prince Earns Shout-Out in Pixar Movie
Prince even earned a shout-out in the Disney / Pixar movie Soul. We'll avoid spoiling the whole plot for you, but "Prince Rogers Nelson" is listed alongside the monikers of other music icons — between Aretha Franklin and Johnny Cash — in a trophy wall of name tags.
Read More: Prince Gets a Shout-Out in Pixar's New 'Soul' Movie (Spoiler)