When Prince Added A Whole Lotta Funk To Zeps Whole Lotta Love

Prince Whole Lotta Love

Photo: Scott Penner, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

If anybody ever doubted the amazing and deep talents of the late musical artist Prince, than you gotta hear what he did did with Led Zeppelin’s classic song “Whole Lotta Love.” The multi-talented Prince was known for doing amazing cover versions of songs that were already legendary. Songs that many other others would never touch because they were so iconic. Prince never cared about how legendary or iconic a song might have already been. If Prince liked that particular iconic song, he did it. On one of the biggest stages Prince ever performed on during his career at the Super Bowl halftime show when he could have promoted any one of his songs to the biggest audience that ever would have seen them at one time, Prince chose to do a cover of the Foo Fighters “The Best of You,” simply because Prince loved that song. That’s who Prince was first and foremost, a musician who loved performing, who loved singing and just so deeply loved music. We can only imagine the songs he played in his studio on his own, just sitting there  fooling around on the piano or guitar lighting it up in an empty room, no one ever hearing what he was doing except himself. Maybe one day we will. However this article takes a look at exceptional performance of Prince performing one of Led Zeppelin’s most legendary songs.

In 2002, Prince performed at The Aladdin Theater in in the city of Las Vegas, Nevada. At the time, the theater was called the Aladdin Theater which was located in the Planet Hollywood Las Vegas Casino which used to be called the Aladdin Casino. The theater has since been renamed The Zappos Theater. Putting aside all the issues of naming rights the theater itself is one of the best sounding  theaters in the United States for performers. The Prince show at the Aladdin Theater in 2002 stands as one of Prince’s greatest performances. The performance was also released straight to video on a live DVD entitled Prince At the Aladdin Theater. Whether you are a Prince fan or not, this is a complete concert you don’t want to miss. The show that was released on DVD was recorded on December 15th 2002. This was a concert that included so many special guests including James Brown’s legendary saxophone player Maceo Parker. Also performing in the show was Prince’s longtime percussionist and notable star in her own right Sheila E, along with longtime Prince band member Eric Leed. Also featured in the show was ex-Prince female vocalist Nikka Costa who just lit up the stage.

The 2002 show would become famous for all the cover versions of songs Prince performed, an unreleased song, and to the happiness of Prince fans, the inclusion of many old songs that Prince had  not performed in concert for years with some seeing their concert debut. However what stood out in our eyes and ears was the amazing version of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love. ”

As he has done so many times before when covering legendary songs, Prince made Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” his own. Prince stayed true to the original Jimmy Page lick which is just so iconic and simple that it would make no sense to change it. However. Prince added a funk and psychedelic groove to the song that was a home run. It’s impossible to try and sound like Robert Plant. It’s also quite silly When anybody tries to do it. Just listen to Greta Van Fleet and how ridiculous that band sounds. Prince does his own version of  Robert Plant’s iconic vocal. Singing in that Prince falsetto, Prince just finds the right sweet spot to make it work.

It’s in the band arrangement where we really dig this one. Renato Neto on electric piano lays down a 1960 psychedelic groove that is just so delicious. Rhonda Smith’s bass playing on the track is  soul food in a rock funk sense that taste so good. She connects with drummer John Blackwell in such groove that one could just see how much it lights up the rhythm in Prince’s shoes. Prince is electrified by what Rhonda Smith and John Blackwell set up. Any great band is made or broken by the rhythm section. A point that Prince truly understands. Maceo Parker on alto saxophone, Eric Leeds on tenor saxophone and Greg Boyer on trombone interject soulful lines and funk blasts that help carry the song away in a sea of “psychedelic funk tranquility.” Yeah baby that’s what I’m talkin about, “psychedelic funk tranquility!

With the groove set perfectly, and Prince laying out the vocal like only Prince can do, all that is left is to pay tribute respectfully to the great guitar work of Jimmy Page. Prince does it by not trying to imitate the iconic  guitarist, but of course by making the song his own while still paying respect to the original Led Zeppelin version. Prince doesn’t change the melody or the chord changes, he just fills the song with soul. There’s always been a little bit of Jimi Hendrix in Prince’s guitar solos one can easily tell how much Jimi Hendrix influenced Prince, but there’s also a bit of Miles Davis in there too and of course the soul of James Brown. If you listen closely you can hear all of that. The Prince guitar solo is just off the charts. Prince and the band grow together in the extended solo section using dynamics slight rhythm changes and an overall feeling to make it work so perfectly. Do not miss this!

Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” was  originally released on the album Led Zeppelin II. The album Led Zeppelin II was obviously Led Zeppelin’s second album. The album was released on November 7th 1969. Songwriting credit was attributed to all four members of the band Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, John Bonham and blues songwriter Willie Dixon who originally did not receive credit. Willie Dixon had wrote a song entitled “You Need Love,” which was recorded by Muddy Waters. Lyrics and Melody from the song was used in Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” Willie Dixon did not receive credit for Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” until 1985. “Whole Lotta Love,” was released as a single from the album and broke the Billboard Hot 100’s top 10 peaking at number four. It remains one of the most loved Led Zeppelin songs ever released. Next to “Stairway to Heaven,” it is Led Zeppelin’s  signature song. Although many would argue there are a whole bunch of other Led Zeppelin songs that stand as their signature song too.

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