There’s a reason why Madonna references Prince during a guitar solo at the end of Like a Prayer on her Celebration World Tour

Madonna Celebration World Tour
(Image credit: Live Nation)

Madonna kicked off her Celebration World Tour in London at the weekend, and took the opportunity to pay tribute to both Prince and Michael Jackson - the artists who, alongside her, made up the ‘big three’ of ‘80s pop megastars.

Prince was actually acknowledged twice: his spoken-word intro to Let’s Go Crazy was incorporated into an ‘interlude’ version of Madonna’s 2014 single Living for Love, and there was a very Prince-esque guitar solo at the end of Like a Prayer. A purple light descended as this was played, with the words ‘I would die 4 U’ flashing up on the big screens.

The Like a Prayer reference is significant; it’s believed that, when the track was recorded, back in 1988, Prince actually contributed a guitar solo to the song, along with various other parts.

The solo didn’t make the final edit, though - in fact, it was long thought that Prince didn’t feature on the track at all. However, in 2014, Patrick Leonard, the song’s producer and co-writer, confirmed that it’s actually Prince’s guitar you can hear right at the beginning of the track, which kicks off the Like a Prayer album, before the ‘door slam’ cuts it off.

Prince does feature ‘officially’ elsewhere on the album - he duetted with Madonna on Love Song, which he co-wrote - and it’s also believed that he has uncredited guitar parts on two further Like a Prayer tracks: Keep It Together and Act of Contrition.

Madonna’s Michael Jackson tribute during the Celebration show is lengthier and less oblique. This features silhouetted versions of the two stars dancing together as Billie Jean segues into Like A Virgin and then continues to flip between them. Photographs of the ‘King and Queen Of Pop’ together appear on the screens, later followed by the words Never Can Say Goodbye, a reference to the Jackson 5 song of the same name.

The Celebration World Tour continues its run at London’s O2 this week, before heading off to mainland Europe. Following a further two dates at the O2 in December, it will hit the US that same month.

The tour was originally scheduled to kick off in June but had to be postponed after Madonna was hospitalised with a bacterial infection. There were further problems on the opening night (14 October), when the show had to be temporarily halted just a few songs in following reported technical issues that were then resolved.  

Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it.