It’s hard to imagine a group better suited to honor Prince than the Time. They were close collaborators in the 1980s, with Prince writing and producing much of the music on the Time’s early, classic trio of albums: The Time, What Time Is It?, and Ice Cream Castle. Members of the Time also appeared opposite Prince in the 1984 movie Purple Rain.
The Time kicked off the tribute with “Jungle Love” from 1984’s Ice Cream Castle. It’s a perfect distillation of the Prince funk sound: screaming guitars, popping bass and stabbing synthesizers all uniting in merciless groove. “You have about 10 seconds to get up off of your asses,” lead singer Morris Day shouted. Later, during “The Bird,” Day executed a smooth slide across the stage.
After the Time, Mars took over for a rendition of Prince’s full-tilt rave-up “Let’s Go Crazy.” As the famous Prince symbol glowed in the background, Mars stood center stage in a snug purple suit with ruffles at the neck, a crisp white guitar and even a touch of eyeliner – the spitting image of Purple Rain-era Prince. Mars erupted into a smoldering guitar solo without missing a beat, and his band ended the tribute presenting a united front, with guitarists and horn players vamping in a single line.
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Prince died last April at the age of 57. The Grammy tribute segment was announced – along with a similar one honoring George Michael – earlier this week. “While the primary focus of the Grammy Awards is to celebrate and honor the year’s best in music, we consider it our responsibility to tell music’s broader story by honoring its legends lost,” Ken Ehrlich, Executive Producer of the event, said in a statement.
“While it’s nearly impossible to convey the full depth of an artist’s cultural impact in a single performance,” he added, “it’s that very challenge that has led us to some of our most memorable Grammy moments.”
Prince has already been the subject of multiple tributes from friends, collaborators and younger artists that he influenced. Madonna and Stevie Wonder honored Prince at the Billboard Music Awards last May; the next month, Erykah Badu, Bilal, Maxwell, Janelle Monae and more paid tribute at the BET Awards. Prince’s old band, the Revolution, held a concert in his honor in September, with Wonder and Chaka Khan headlining another sprawling tribute concert in October.
On Sunday, a majority of Prince’s catalog returned to most streaming services after over 18 months as an exclusive to Tidal. Earlier this week, the singer’s estate announced an agreement with Universal Music Group to release his music recorded after 1995 alongside music from his vault, including outtakes, demos and live recordings.