Let’s acknowledge the truth. Prince’s Super Bowl Halftime Show was the best ever. Happy Prince Day!

Born Prince Rogers Nelson, he was one of the most prolific artists of the 1980s, writing and producing an obscene string of hit records under his own name—often playing all the instruments himself—and writing and producing other artists, such as the Time, Vanity 6, and Sheila E. 

“As a performer, he challenged the limits of sexuality,” rock historian John Covach told Rochester News Center, following Prince’s death on Apr. 21, 2016. 

“In addition to Michael Jackson and Madonna, Minneapolis-based Prince deserves credit for asserting racial difference and sexuality in the MTV lineup during the mid-1980s. Prince’s video for “1999” actually predated “Billie Jean,” and his practice of using blatant sexual images, both in his songs and live performance, goes back to the late 1970s when Madonna was still in college,” Covach and coauthor Andrew Flory wrote in their textbook, What’s That Sound? An Introduction to Rock and its History.

I could go on and on about his numerous awards—Academy, ASCAP, BET, Golden Globe, Grammys, NAACP, MTV, to name a few—or his 27 albums between 1978 and 2015—or his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

But now let’s talk about his Super Bowl Halftime performance in 2007. 

It was Super Bowl XLI between the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears at Miami’s Dolphin Stadium on Feb. 4, 2007, and as his royal purple greatness strutted out on the stage, he proceeded to give what is widely regarded as one of the greater shows in NFL history. 

“It was one of those instances where you dread something might happen and then when it does,” Executive Producer Don Mischer told The Ringer in 2020, adding, “suddenly it turns around and almost becomes a blessing.”

Prince’s set included a medley of his most beloved songs and four cover songs, including one by the Foo Fighters and another by Jimi Hendrix. 

“When we started looking at the songs on the setlist, I was seeing like, ‘Best of You’ and ‘Watchtower.’ This dude is planning a show. And the way his mind works—it’s hard for me to speak of him in the past tense—is to want it to be about the music and not do what everybody’s expecting, like come out and play ‘Raspberry Beret’ and ‘Little Red Corvette’ and then go into ‘Kiss.’ He was paying homage to Ike and Tina Turner with ‘Proud Mary.’ And Queen! And then he mixed his music into that. It’s like, ‘No it’s not about me. It’s about the music, it’s about this moment,’” Shelby J., Prince’s vocalist on the halftime show, told The Ringer. 

The only downside to the show was that a massive storm was expected on the day of the game. It hit on game day and was unrelenting. The rain only impacted one change in Prince’s performance: He put on a do-rag and went on with the show. The rest is history. 

“When we hit air I was really worried and concerned,” Mischer told Ultimate Prince. “And then after about 45 seconds, I began to say, This actually looks incredible. This could be a blessing in disguise.” As one Prince fan said on a YouTube page dedicated to this show, “God was like, ‘Oh, Prince is playing Purple Rain. Let me provide the rain.’”

Prince also didn’t shy away from politics.

At the 2015 Grammys, before handing out the award for best album, he said, “Albums still matter,” he said to the crowd of pop start and music luminaries. “Like books and black lives, albums still matter.”

Following up his remarks by releasing the song “Baltimore” about Freddie Gray, a Black man, murdered by the police, which followed an outbreak of protests and riots. 

Prince also played a concert for peace in Baltimore, where the riots took place. 

Prince was found dead at his Paisley Park estate. An autopsy later revealed he had died from an accidental overdose of fentanyl. His memoir, The Beautiful Ones, was released in 2019.

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