Prince – The 15 best guitar solos!

Prince - 15 Best Guitar solos - Header (


The A Pop Life Panel, which reconvenes twice a year, contemplated on the subject for the next article. Following Prince – The 25 best live bootlegs!, Prince – The 15 best B-sides!, Prince – The 15 best remixes!, Prince 1958-2016: 5 years later and Prince – The 15 best albums!, this is the list containing the 15 best guitar solos!

Why a top 15?

In 2019 the A Pop Life Panel published the first article Prince – The 25 best live bootlegs!. Both the compilation and the many positive reactions and comments made us decide to undertake the same process many times after. This is episode 6 (!) already. As a tribute to Prince the guitar player we picked the best guitar solos.

Bram, Edward, Leon, Rick and me went to work with great zeal and compiled our own personal top 15. Before going to the list, some remarks:

  • The song with the highest score wins and so on. The points are calculated as follows:
    • Number 1: 15 points
    • Number 2: 14 points
    • Etc

    All points are added up, which results in the definitive list.

  • If more than 1 guitar solo ends up with the same number of points, the sorting order is expanded with the year of initial release/performance (old to new) and the song title (alphabetically).
  • Everything is eligible, so a studio or a live recording, official or bootleg releases or even from memory alone.

With pride and sincere gratitude to the A Pop Life Panel, these are Prince’s 15 guitar solos!

Prince - Guitar - Paard van Troje 1988 (

Prince – Paard van Troje (?) 1988

1. Just My Imagination

08/18/1988, Paard van Troje, The Hague (aftershow)


Bram Perfection does exist… I always thought this was a Stones song. Now I don’t know any better than: this is a Prince song.
Edward And yet another track from the Trojan Horse boot: Prince’s epic rendition of Just My Imagination by The Temptations from 1971 in this set is remarkable, with a compelling and screeching guitar solo of no less than 4 minutes. Prince at his physical and artistic peak. His confidence and showmanship have never been more evident than here. Simply stunning.
Erwin The build is perfect. One of the most beloved guitar solo’s among Prince connaisseurs. Pure emotion, beautiful!
Leon If a tie for first place were possible, this track would share the spot with Purple Rain. Legendary, especially the build-up of the solo… from soft to hard, from high to low, a cascade of notes that swirl like a river and roll like the surf, coming to a climax. Fantastic recording too. For me this is Prince in full, casually playful and I think he’s really enjoying what comes out of his hands… and just playing that after a regular concert… unbelievable.
Rick This one is from the aftershow at The Trojan Horse. This is the best version of Just My Imagination that Prince or anyone else has ever played. The solo starts off slow and builds up to an incredible climax. One of the longest solos on my list, but it’s never boring, not even for a second, it’s quite the the opposite: you just want more!
Prince - Guitar - Motherless Child 2009 (

Prince – Motherless Child

2. Motherless Child

11/22/1999, Séptimo (TV performance)


Bram Everything you can do with a guitar, I think, happens here. This song gives me so much joy, I could cry. It is that good. This is part of a fantastic set from Spanish television. Rumour has it that prior to this mini concert, there were some tensions between Prince and the ‘TV people’. The frustration that ensued probably put him on edge.
Edward While visiting the television program Séptimo of the Spanish TV channel 2-TVE on November 22, 1999, Prince plays a 40-minute mini concert. Including this version of Motherless Child, a traditional from 1850 that Prince manages to alter into a great emotional opus with phenomenal guitar work outs, driven by some very strong vocals, and all this to the beat of Love Thy Will Be Done. Larry Graham plays a wonderful game of bass during this performance, which should not be left unmentioned.
Erwin The passion Prince portrays in this performance is unparalleled. If there ever was a time that a musician was truly one with his instrument, it was Prince on this day, with this performance. The sounds he and his guitar produce here are truly incomprehensible!
Leon For the people who know Prince from Raspberry Beret and The Most Beautiful Girl In The World, Kiss… who have no idea that he is also a good guitarist who actually masters all styles… even a bit of metal… listen to this performance and you immediately understand Prince fans who get angry when someone says: “Prince… he doesn’t play the guitar, he just sings very high”. In addition to the ripping and racing solos, Larry Graham’s thick stomping bass makes the song complete and delightfully and heavy.
Prince - The Undertaker (

Prince – The Undertaker

3. The Ride

The Undertaker video (recorded live on 06/14/1993, Paisley Park Studios, Minneapolis)


Edward The Undertaker is an unreleased Prince album and was recorded live in one take during a rehearsal on June 14, 1993 at Paisley Park Studios. A CD release was planned as a bonus to the Guitar World magazine in November 1994, with a circulation of 700.000 copies (if we are to believe Prince, in a 1995 interview). The official reading, however, I believe is still 1.000 copies. Warner Brothers soon got wind of the project and immediately blocked its release. The first batch of CDs that Prince had already produced himself had to be withdrawn immediately to provide all copies with a plastic layer, making them unplayable; some are playable though, despite the coating. Making this yet another real opportunity for the Prince fanatic to track down this historic disc, after the withdrawn Black Album from December 1987. Some say that specifically this veto of WB decided Prince to only do public appearances with the word “Slave” written on his cheek.
Alright, what about its contents? The Undertaker is considerably outside the box of the friendly pop/rock genre in which area Prince had normally been moving about until then, barring a few wild outings. It robustly leans towards the blues, although the guitar solos (and there are quite a few) often move outside the boundaries of traditional blues riffs: sometimes flowing, sometimes epic, sometimes ripping, sometimes distorted madness. Perhaps that is why it’s so attractive, it certainly is 36 minutes like you’ve never heard Prince before. Scotty, shake some indeed!
The Ride: the opener of the CD is incredibly exciting, constructive and invigorating. With great bass accompaniment by Sonny T and the tight drumming by Michael B. Prince’s voice was not optimal that night, perhaps that is why he doesn’t sing as much, with mainly his purple symbol guitar doing all the work. I deliberately chose this 11 minute version, drawn from The Undertaker CD because the guitar work continues to scream delightfully around your ears. The live versions of the concerts and aftershows from that era usually are done after only 5 minutes, as does the officially released live version on Crystal Ball (1998). So let’s not do that then.
Erwin Blues, The Ride never sounded like this before (or after). The guitar literally weeps.
Leon The whole gig is a string of guitar work, if there was a list of best complete gigs, this would be my number 1. How pure. Dummer, bassist and Prince on guitar (because he just can’t play it all at the same time live), how well this fits together and how strong this song is. Probably also written from a thought of making a great guitar stunner, definitely guitar in the lead. For me especially the calm solo at the end is a feast for the ear, a lot on the wah pedal and in my eyes freestyling and simply having fun.
Prince - Lovesexy Tour (

Prince – Lovesexy Tour

4. Lovesexy (Feel U Up jam)

June 1988, Paisley Park Studios, Minneapolis (rehearsal)


Bram Prince goes to extremes here. “To boldly go where no one has gone before!” they used to say in Star Trek. And that’s a nice bridge, because this is just outerworldly…
Questlove once told in an interview he used to play this one over and over again in his car, every morning when he took the kids to school. He made his wife and children obligated to listen. If this is a true story, no more than rightfully so. I wish I would have done the same.
Erwin I love the way the guitar enters the song at 02:13. It’s almost like it’s a competition between Prince and his guitar, which must be tamed. Add to that the starts and stops, phenomenal. “Fuck it up!”
Prince Lovesexy Tour (source unknown)

Prince tijdens Lovesexy tour 1988/1989

5. Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic

08/18/1988, Paard van Troje, The Hague (aftershow)


Bram When I play my Paard CD, I am eagerly waiting for this moment. That fuzz, or whatever it is, is irresistible.
Edward A track from THE bootleg that sets the bar: a most essential classic in any serious Prince collection. If you don’t have this one, then just go for a bike ride, after an hour we’ll be done cursing. With phenomenal sound quality, especially for a bootleg, this was the talk of the town in the fanatic Prince community in the early 90s. With some confidence I can state: the best thing Prince has ever entrusted to the nighttime hours, this performance in our own Trojan Horse in The Hague. The setlist that evening consists of long improvised jams, stunning blues/jazz covers, effortlessly mixed with completely new renditions of a few of his own classics.
The embryo version of Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic, being the closing track of his nightly appearance at Trojan Horse, lasts for a staggering 16 minutes (!). Starting off as a fairly simple straightforward yet funky jam, in which he asks the audience to ‘rave’ along, the track seems to end after about 10 minutes. However, there are still a few encores to arise with hard as hell, killer guitar solos, which Carlos Santana or Jimi Hendrix would be proud of. Truly awesome! Legendary!
Erwin Great solo in this, at the time, unpublished and unknown song. Prince improvises to the max and just keeps on going. Highlight!
Prince - Guitar - Manchester 2014 (

Prince – Manchester 2014

6. Something In The Water (Does Not Compute)

3rdEyeGirl YouTube account (recorded live on 02/22/2014, Manchester Academy, Manchester)


Bram This version grabs me by the throat every time. There is so much emotion in this short clip, I just can’t get enough of it to watch and listen to it over and over again. The crowd participation in this song is so overwelming and the magnificent guitar solo is pure bliss. The only pity is, I had to skip the 14 minute rehearsal version from 1984 from this list… And that really says a lot… In whatever version, this song always has a melancholy that pleases me enormously.
Erwin In 2014 Prince still played like a true champ. By now, the guitar had turned into the ultimate extension. Pure excitement.
Leon So this is typical Prince, of a song that doesn’t have a guitar solo and a completely different vibe, making a different version live with a very solid guitar solo. The solo is preceded by a screaming Prince and actually the solo just continues this scream.
Prince - Guitar - America videoclip (

Prince – Live 1985

7. Temptation

Studio version (Around The World In A Day album)


Edward Ehm yes, maybe you weren’t expecting this, but this remains a big favorite of mine: Temptation, the last track from the 1985 album Around The World In A Day. I still remember buying the record the day it came out: luckily I was not expecting a Purple Rain part II. No, I wanted to be surprised, I wanted to be sort of carried along with his journey… and boy, this is just the record to do that! Often cited as Prince’s Sgt. Pepper, it takes you on some trip indeed. Experimental, multi-coloured, psychedelic, hallucinogenic to name a few words to describe that very record. And the closing track Temptation fulfills the role of 8 minutes pure exaggerated insanity. Prince never sounded more bombastic as on this track (in the studio, I mean), with ripping guitars, frenzied drums and vocals flying in all directions. Includes a dialogue with God (used in the Purple Rain tour) in which the latter briefly explains the difference between love and sex. So, all the ingredients for a successful tune (meant ironically). Still, holy & blissful!
Rick What makes a first impression will stick with you. Around The World In A Day was my first Prince album. Temptation is a weird rock song. It’s not his best-known guitar track. I don’t think it ever made a set list for a concert either. I don’t know if a live version of this song exists. A live version of this song would have been a must for the guitar freaks. But this studio solo, which starts at 3:30, is a true gem. It is perhaps his most filthy and underrated solo.
Prince - Guitar - Las Vegas 2002 (

Prince – Live 2002

8. Joy In Repetition

Live version (One Nite Alone… The Aftershow: It Ain’t Over album, recorded on 04/10/2002, The World, New York)


Erwin One of my favorite songs ever, played by the fantastisc band that accompanied Prince in 2002. But, as usual, it’s Prince that steals the show with his inimitable solo. Perfection!
Rick Just like Empty Room, I occasionally come across new live versions of Joy in Repetition. But this official release is the best version I’ve come across so far. This song is always good for a flaming guitar solo. This version contains two solos at 2:52 and 7:35. The second one is my favourite.
Prince - Guitar - Montreux 2009 (

Prince – Montreux 2009

9. Empty Room

07/18/2009, Auditorium Stravinsky, Montreux (concert)


Leon Very good show from start to finish. Empty Room is such a typical Prince song, calmly constructive, processing heartbreak and expressing the pain of loss in a solo. The best thing about this performance is that there is also an image… his hands in close-up sliding over the strings. What beautiful music those hands have made!
Rick From time to time new live versions I never heard before appear on YouTube. This is an example of that. The solo in this version is in my opinion the best I have heard so far. The solo in this insanely beautiful song is so melodic and emotionally played.
Prince - Guitar - Live 1979 (

Prince – Live 1979

10. Bambi

Studio version (Prince album)


Edward The absolute showstopper of Prince’s second LP from 1979. Just like I’m Yours on the For You album (1978), the only rock song on the record. It seems, he stuck to a certain formula at that time, I guess not to be placed in any specific box by the critics. I specifically chose the 1979 studio version because of the high spontaneity that version entails, and which later live renditions sometimes lack.
The story of Bambi: Normally Prince always gets the girl, but here lies a challenge of a different kind: Prince tries to get Bambi, a lesbian, doing it with a man. Supported by a strong thick guitar sound and still quite funny when you consider he’s attempting to convince her with such a high falsetto voice. Anyway, LHBT issues were not yet on the political agenda at the time compared to today, shall we say. Wouldn’t you like to try it with a man, Prince? Seems like a fun movie to me.
Leon 2nd album by a very young Prince, with a track that blows him into the ranks of the great guitarists, as far as I’m concerned. Played a lot live and especially for a long time. I think it already sounds raw and aggressive on CD, let alone live. The anger aimed at a girl in electrically amplified form.
Prince - Guitar - Purple Rain live 1985 (

Prince – Purple Rain live 1985

11. Purple Rain

Prince & The Revolution Live! video (recorded on 03/30/1985, Carrier Dome, Syracuse)


Leon It’s the #1 song for me, the #1 solo, the #1 performance. The whole song builds up to a solo that just goes on and on and when it’s over you just listen again. On several moments you see and hear that everything is completely coming together. Also legendary is the guitar change, for the real thing the Cloud comes on stage. Wonderfully screeching high notes and when you think it can’t get any higher and more screeching, another wave is coming.
Rick No doubt his most famous solo and greatest hit. There are plenty of live versions to be found. This is my favourite because I’ve known this version for so long. At this point in time Prince is the brand new world star, and he is not tired of playing Purple Rain yet. This Purple Rain solo is still on fire.
Prince - Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame - While My Guitar Gently Weeps (

Prince – Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame 2004

12. While My Guitar Gently Weeps

03/15/2004, Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame (TV performance)


Leon I think the solo is legendary mainly because Prince is not on stage here as Prince, but simply as the guitarist of a band. In the background all the time but then the solo: everyone is impressed… perfectly played, emotional and above all very tough. Guitar in the air and walking off stage as if you just slathered a peanut butter sandwich. He came, he saw and he conquered.
Rick Perhaps it is a bit cliché to choose this solo. But it deserves a place in the top 15 for nostalgic reasons alone. Prince and Tom Petty have passed, but their music has made them immortal. Music is a time machine that brings back memories. And of course it’s a fantastic solo.
Prince - Guitar - Sister Dortmund 09-09-1988 (

Prince – Sister Dortmund 09-09-1988

13. Sister

Lovesexy Live video (recorded on 09/09/1988, Westfalenhalle, Dortmund)


Bram One of the many “blow my socks off” moments during this show. It turns out that Prince even can play punk music. And it suits him fine! The transition from Jack U Off/It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)/Twelve to Sister is truly masterful.
Erwin My beloved Lovesexy tour already had its fair share of guitar bliss, but here Prince shifts into 100th gear. Punky, heavy, fgast and yet another perfect solo. An unforgettable moment in the show.
Prince - Guitar - Bambi 1990 (

Prince – Bambi Tokyo 1990

14. Bambi

08/31/1990, Tokyo, Tokyo Dome (concert, TV recording)


Bram There are so many damn good versions of this Prince-rock-song of all Prince-rock-songs, what makes choosing one is really hard. His performance, of a somewhat more recent date, at the Jimmy Fallon Late Night from 2013 is also one that immediately comes to mind. But for sentimental reasons, the choice was made for the Nude version. I can still remember my first spin at Erwin’s house. I fell off the couch when I listened to it… I think Erwin was already stretched on the floor just after he had pressed the play button on his CD player. I didn’t see this superior audio quality coming! And least of all, this brilliant performance. Until this day, my butt still hurts a bit from that fall…
Erwin When I heard this for the very first time, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. That sound, the guitar roar, the sound! And with that band. From the very first moment I heard this it has been an all-time favorite.
Prince - Guitar - The Question Of U 1990 (

Prince – The Question Of U Tokyo 1990

15. The Question Of U

08/31/1990, Tokyo, Tokyo Dome (concert, TV recording)


Bram That screeching sound at 2 minute 29 when he slides over that guitarstring does it every time for me… Goosebumps!
Erwin Short solo, but indescribably beautiful! The way the guitar is played/attacked is impressive. The full sound is moving in itself. Pure bliss.
Rick Most times the live solos of this song stay close to the album version. They start melodic with a nice build up to the climax. This solo is no exception. But this live performance does have that nice raw edge to it compared to the studio version.


Interpretation and justification

So, there it is: the 15 best Prince guitar solos according to the A Pop Life Panel. Of course, there are things to be said about the list.

Prince - 15 best guitar solos - Graph Year (

Prince – 15 best guitar solos – Graph Year

Two years stand out: 1988 and 1994. The major difference lies in the number of nominations that ended up in the end Top 15 list. 80% of the 1988 nominations ended up in the ultimate list, where none of the 1994 nominations made the list. So, 1988 is the ultimate purveyor of the list, immediately followed by 1985 and 1990.

Prince - 15 best guitar solos - Graph Decade (

Prince – 15 best guitar solos – Graph Decade

It’s funny to see that from then 1980s onwards the number of nominations is inversely proportional to the number of entries in the ultimate Top 15 list. It’s remarkable as well that most of the nominations stem from the 2000s.

Given the nominations and recordings in the list the 1980s were the most successful: 55% of the nominations ended up in the ultimate list. Followed by the 1970s: 50%, the 1990s: 30%, the 2000s; 20% and the 2010s: 17%.


As can be seen in the complete list below, number 1 is undisputed. The difference between the number 1 and 2 is 19 (!) points. Of all the 46 nominated songs just 1 was nominated by all list providers.

Of all compilers, 67% of Erwin’s nominations ended up in the Top 15, followed by Bram and Leon (53%), Rick (47%) and Edward (40%). Leon’s personal top 7 is part of the ultimate list, followed by Bram (top 6) and Erwin (top 5). Remarkably, the 1st nominations of both Edward and Rick didn’t make the ultimate list.

The following songs have been nominated twice in different versions:

  • Beautiful Strange (2005 and 2011)
  • Days Of Wild (1999 and 2002)
  • Santana medley (two consecutive days in 1994)
  • Shhh (2003 and 2008)
  • Something In The Water (Does Not Compute) (1985 and 2014)
  • The Ride (1993 and 1994)

The song Bambi has been nominated in 3 (!) different versions: the 1979 studio version and 2 live versions, dating from 1990 and 1993. The first two versions can be found in the ultimate Top 15 list.

The complete list

For everyone that just can’t get enough, below the complete list, sorted by the number of points, year of release/performance and song title, can be viewed. Click the text below to show the complete list.

The individual lists

All lists come with personal commentary, remarks and memories. All lists are enclosed below. Click on one or more lines below.

Previous guitar articles

Prince and his guitar have been the subjects of previous articles on this blog:

In closing

A Pop Life Panel

Just as with our previous A Pop Life Panel articles, we had a great time compiling this list. My sincere thanks to all involved!

Of course we are curious about reactions, remarks, compliments and your opinions. Use the comment form at the bottom of this article and get in touch. It truly is highly appreciated!

We have plans to publish more of this kind of articles in the future. Should you have wishes or suggestions, we’d love to hear them. Please be so kind as to report them by clicking the mail icon on the A Pop Life Panel page.

This story contains an accompanying video. Click on the following link to see it: Video: Prince – The 15 best guitar solos!. The A Pop Life playlist on Spotify has been updated as well.

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    • John Clifford on 11/28/2021 at 7:39 PM
    • Reply

    God (instrumental) and Alexis de Paris are also stunning.

    1. I agree, there are so many to choose from!

    • Wilco Goossens on 12/03/2021 at 4:31 PM
    • Reply

    The list collected on my YT: Prince – 15 best guitar solos

    1. Thanks, wow!

Compliments/remarks? Yes, please!