Sheila E. Leads An All-Star Prince Tribute Fit For A King (Video)
How do you say goodbye to a legend as beloved as Prince? For months since his shocking death on April 21, family, friends and fans worldwide have been trying to answer that question. There have been vigils, thousands of articles and countless tributes that reflect just how deeply he penetrated the psyche of pop culture when he walked the face of this earth. Yet, unlike the 3-hour extravaganza recently held for the similarly fallen Muhammad Ali, there has been no epic sendoff for Prince Rogers Nelson to fully close the gaping wound that was left on that fateful Thursday, and begin the healing process. That changed tonight when Sheila E., The Roots, Stevie Wonder, Maxwell, Janelle Monae, Erykah Badu, Bilal, Jennifer Hudson, Tori Kelly and more led an all out celebration fit for a king, at the 2016 BET Awards.
The expectations were already high for the Awards show, given their high profile tribute to Michael Jackson in 2009, who died just 3 days before its live broadcast on June 28. Seen as the arbiter of Black entertainment culture, particularly music culture, many look to BET to recognize Black icons, living or dead, in a way that general market networks either aren’t able or choose not. Having honored Prince in 2010 with a Lifetime Achievement Award, an honor the notoriously humble and private Prince accepted, perhaps, in part, because of Jackson’s unexpected death, further set the table for what audiences expected from the network, in a posthumous tribute. BET raised the stakes for itself even more, however, when after a Madonna-led Prince tribute at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards, they wryly tweeted “Yeah, we saw that. Don’t worry. We Got You.”
Rather than have one long, continuous tribute, BET effectively dedicated the entire show to Prince, much like they did for MJ, by celebrating him throughout the telecast. Beginning with Erykah Badu and Bilal they launched into a medley of “The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker” and “The Beautiful Ones.” That was followed by Wonder and Kelly performing “Take Me With U,” and a rousing rendition of “Purple Rain” by Jennifer Hudson. After performing his single, “Lake By The Ocean,” Maxwell did his part with a spirited performance of “Nothing Compares 2 U.” Next up, came Monae with an energetic trio of “Kiss,” “Pop Life” and “I Would Die 4 U,” dressed in all white and assless pass, in dedication to Prince’s infamous yellow outfit at the 1991 VMAs.
The peak of the tribute came when Sheila E took the stage. Collaborators for 30 years, Prince had immeasurable impact on the career of Sheila E., and she greatly influenced him, as well. Starting behind the drums, she rocked “Housequake,” from Sign O’ The Times, before stepping out in front of the kit to tear down bits and pieces of “Erotic City,” “Let’s Work,” “U Got The Look,” “A Love Bizarre,” “America,” “Baby I’m A Star” and, of course, “The Glamorous Life.” It was literally a show-stopper.