The artist who will forever be known as Prince took the stage on Sunday (June 27) to accept the Lifetime Achievement Award during the 10th annual BET Awards
“I was pretty wild in my younger days,” the honoree said.
BET’s award presentation for Prince united generations and musical styles. Janelle Monae opened the tribute with an energetic cover of “Let’s Go Crazy,” a song that hit big a year before the 25-year-old was born. Next Up: jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding, strumming a custom electric upright bass, sang “If I Was Your Girlfriend.” She was followed by five-months-pregnant Alicia Keys, who played the piano then climbed atop it to provocatively belt out “Adore.” R&B diva Patti LaBelle closed out with the classic “Purple Rain” before Chaka Khan joined her onstage to introduce the man himself.
Wearing a flowing, silk pajama-like ensemble bearing the symbol that replaced his name for a time, Prince approached the mic, looking just a bit older, calmer and more subdued than his sex-fueled “When Doves Cry” days.
“You don’t have to do what I did. You don’t have to make any of the mistakes I made,” he advised fellow musicians in the audience. Earlier in the show, R&B heartthrob Trey Songz performed his own tribute to Prince, covering “Purple Rain” during his set.
The singer then waxed patriotic. “The future’s in your hands now and the world is really yours,” he said. “There is a change in America that’s going on right now. Everybody can feel it. We’re going to be a beacon to the rest of the world.”
As known for his groundbreaking music as he is for his raunchy performances, Prince went through a religious conversion a few years ago and appeared humble, soft-spoken even, a contrast to his earlier tendency to come off as eccentric and aloof. He thanked all of the performers who led his tribute as well as top BET executives Debra Lee and Stephen Hill.
“Thank you so much Debra Lee and Stephen Hill for a wonderful night tonight,” he said. “I’ll never forget it for as long as I live.” Then he turned and walked offstage with his arms around LaBelle and Chaka Khan, both of whom have previously been honored with the award.
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