The video of Prince unleashing a solo for the ages on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” at the 2004 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony is arguably one of the most famous live music clips on the internet. To date, it has been viewed nearly one hundred million times on the Rock Hall’s YouTube channel.
The video, which features since-departed legends like Prince and Tom Petty sharing the stage with fellow giants like Jeff Lynne and Steve Winwood in tribute to the late George Harrison—with George’s son, Dhani, joining in—feels like a snapshot of a historic moment. With so much talent on that stage, however, the video inevitably leaves plenty to the imagination. After all, you can’t focus on the big star the whole time when the big star is everyone. We’re just thankful we have any video—and a good one, at that.
But what if we told you there’s more? Last week, something exciting happened: Joel Gallen (Tenth Planet Productions), the director of the widely-viewed Rock Hall clip, decided that he had some updates to make and uploaded a new director’s cut of the video. As he explained in the new video’s caption,
17 years after this stunning performance by Prince, I finally had the chance to go in and re-edit it slightly – since there were several shots that were bothering me. I got rid of all the dissolves and made them all cuts, and added lots more close ups of Prince during his solo. I think it’s better now. Let me know what you think. Joel.
The re-edited clip delivers on that promise with what feels at times like a whole new performance—a brand-new vantage point from which to view something we only remember through a single lens. In the director’s cut, we get the glint of the lights off of Prince’s guitar as his left hand works. We get more of his peacocking facial expressions, his backward trust fall into the photo pit, the glint in his eyes as he reminds everyone onstage that he’s on another level, the swagger in his step as he struts offstage in his red and black without looking back.
That onscreen magic is even more remarkable when you consider the collaboration’s spontaneous nature. As Gallen told The New York Times about the performance following Prince’s passing in 2016, the number didn’t quite click during its sole pre-show run-through. After Jeff Lynne’s guitarist stepped in and played both of the guitar solos slated for Prince—as Prince quietly strummed along to the changes—Gallen was distraught (“This cannot be happening”), but Prince wasn’t worried.
“So I talk to Prince about it,” Gallen told the Times, “I sort of pull him aside and had a private conversation with him, and he was like: ‘Look, let this guy do what he does, and I’ll just step in at the end. For the end solo, forget the middle solo.’ And he goes, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ And then he leaves. They never rehearsed it, really. Never really showed us what he was going to do, and he left, basically telling me, the producer of the show, not to worry. And the rest is history. It became one of the most satisfying musical moments in my history of watching and producing live music.”
It’s not often that you get to take in a new perspective on history, and this one is worth experiencing. Spoiler alert: Even in the director’s cut, the mysterious case of what happened to Prince’s guitar after he tossed it remains unsolved. We like to think it’s still floating up there somewhere.
Below, watch the director’s cut of the famous “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” moment as well as the original cut for comparison.
Prince Gently Weeping – Director’s Cut
Prince, Tom Petty, Steve Winwood, Jeff Lynne, More – 2004 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductions – “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” – Original Cut
[Video: Rock & Roll Hall of Fame]