This is the send-off we’ve all been waiting for. After a night of incredible performances, tributes, and moving speeches, the BET awards set up the atmosphere with a purple spirit. All night was a trail of “magic” as Jesse Williams would say, and a powerful testament of presence and cultural command.
In an incredibly shared yet personal goodbye Sheila E. paid tribute to Prince during the 2016 BET Awards on Sunday, June 26. She closed the show by performing a medley of the Prince’s hits that included “Let’s Work,” “Earthquake,” “Erotic City,” ”A Love Bizarre,” ”The Glamorous Life,” “U Got the Look,” “The Glamorous Life,” ”America,” and “Baby I’m a Star.” She was also joined by Purple Rain actor Jerome Benton and Prince’s ex-wife, Mayte Garcia.
Leading up to this instantly historic close of an awards ceremony, Jennifer Hudson, Stevie Wonder and Tori Kelly sang “Purple Rain,” while a photo montage of Prince played in the background. Janelle Monae, a former mentee of Prince, performed “Kiss,” ”Delirious” and “I Would Die 4 U.” Then Bilal offered to the space a soulful performance of “The Beautiful Ones,” and Erykah Badu contributed with a performance of “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker.” The Roots backed them both with a flow of soul.
Prince’s partner and collaborator, and former fiancée kicked off her performance of “The Purple Medley” (a barefoot soul contribution) behind the drums and sang a variety of Prince’s hits. She worked the stage with a masterful presence as if taking host of the essence we all know as Prince. As dancers danced, and singers sang, everyone began to raise to their feet.
Sheila E. danced barefoot and glided across the stage on beat, she moved in syncopation with the dancers while belting with the backup singers. She shouted from her spirit “y’all ain’t ready! Give it some heart!” She ended the offering by lifting her purple guitar to the air, while confetti fell from the sky and she tried to hold back tears.
BET did it right. He may have passed, but Prince’s heartbeat was alive on that stage. Thank you, Sheila E. and The BET Awards for last night. It was a mix of closure, hope, and magic.