Last Thursday, Shonda Rhimes paid tribute to Prince, one of her all-time heroes, by including one of his songs on back-to-back episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. “For me, this iconic spirit was so special, and I was truly shocked at how viscerally and emotional I felt when he died,” Rhimes tells Rolling Stone. “I literally was grieving; it felt really, really personal. Yes, I’d met him, gone to concerts, seen him play at the White House, but this was really intense for me, like I’d spent too many hours with this person in my head. So using him in the show was an imperative. I’ve only ever used Seventies music in Scandal. He sort of bordered on Seventies and Eighties, but I felt like, I kind of didn’t care. I wanted to use it anyway.”
According to Rhimes and her music supervisor, Alex Patsavas, it’s an arduous process to get a Prince song cleared for use — but they managed to get two of them to use two of them in a couple days. “We were unable to predict what was going to happen,” Patsavas says. “But we got clearance in record time.” That meant “Delirious” was featured in its entirety in the episode of Scandal titled “Trump Card,” and the Grey’s episode “Mama Tried” included Prince & the New Power Generation’s version of “Nothing Compares 2 U.”
Rhimes says she was in the process of choosing songs for the episode of her long-running medical drama when she decided to try Prince after she was rocked by his sudden death at the age of 57 on April 21st.
“They are two of my absolute favorite songs,” Rhimes explains. “We all are absolutely addicted to ‘Purple Rain’ and ‘When Doves Cry’ and ‘1999’ — but there are a lot of people who didn’t know Prince wrote ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ and didn’t have the version that he sings, which I absolutely love. And ‘Delirious’ is one of those songs that a lot of people know but they don’t know the words to. So I wanted to pick songs that felt familiar but felt specifically Prince to me and [that] people wouldn’t be busy singing along to. You have to pick something that matches the show yet also gives you the essence of who he was.”
Rhimes has been a longtime fan since her older siblings would play his music for her. “I sort of grew up with him,” she says. “When his first album came out, I was maybe nine years old, and you know, it was this black guy with the feathered hair, which we’d never really seen before. I have been in love with him ever since.”