When authorities confirmed Prince’s death Thursday afternoon, most late-night shows learned the sad news during filming. Stephen Colbert devoted a Late Show segment to the music legend, as he and bandleader Jon Batiste shared reflections of the innovative artist whose death has rattled the cultural world.
“I have been a fan since I was in high school,” Colbert said. “I remember a guy in my choir, Skipper Graham, brought the very first Prince album into our choir room. There were so many things to love about it. One, obviously the music was so powerful. We had to wear headphones so the adults couldn’t hear the lyrics to any of the songs.”
“He had a huge aura. His energy and presence in a room just filled everybody’s hearts,” recalled Batiste, who joined Prince on a 2010 American tour. “He had a certain way of being aware of what was going on. I remember one time we were backstage, and I was talking to him. And without even looking in the direction, just pointing his finger, he says, ‘Courtesy.’ And you look over there, there’s five people over there. And there’s a cat with his phone filming our conversation. And he figured out, through all that was going on backstage – musicians playing, everything happening – ‘courtesy, put the phone away.’ Then he said, ‘Down.’ Cat put it down. ‘In your pocket.’ Put it in his pocket. ‘Thank you very much. So Jon, how are you?'”
Colbert ended with a visual tribute. “Besides being a beautiful artist, not many people are as influential enough to be known by one name, let alone color,” he said, as the lights shifted to a Prince-like purple.
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James Corden also honored the late musician with a poignant intro filmed after their original taping and added to the episode. “I don’t even know where to start when I talk about Prince as an artist because to be unique in this world is impossible,” he said, gushing about the excitement of seeing him in concert. “Almost all art is taken or borrowed from somewhere else. And an artist like Prince stands alone. He was completely original.
“At times like this, it’s easy to feel incredibly sad. But I feel like today is about celebrating the incredible life that he led and the brilliant songs that he gave us,” he continued. “I’m going to miss not being able to hear his new music, and I will miss not being able to see him live again. But I will always cherish the fact that I got to be in his audience, just to be in his orbit, for just those few nights. What a thing to have been alive when Prince was making music. We are all incredibly lucky. We will miss you, Prince. You are truly one of a kind. Sometimes I wish life was never-ending. And all good things, they say, never last.”
Watch Stevie Wonder open up about his friend Prince’s vast influence in the wake of the icon’s untimely death.