7 of the best guitar cover versions of Prince's Purple Rain

(Image credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

We guitarists and guitar fans wait for the universal moments that lift the instrument to a higher place – an unexplainable feeling that transcends everything else. Purple Rain is one of those and it's why artists keep coming back to brave their own renditions of it.

Any take on Prince's solo section demands full commitment to the cause; any interpretation cannot be successfully delivered without full emotional commitment. It's not about a technique setlist, but Prince's hooks within it are scared. But there are those who can approach the song without the lead histrionics of an electric guitar and still make it powerful. 

So here are seven very different approaches to Purple Rain, and a legendary one from its writer too. 

Chris Buck with Martin Miller 

Our most recent choice from the 2022 Guitar Summit in Mannheim is a very strong start; Chris Buck's emotive playing is a perfect fit on paper, and so it proves. He comes in at 4:19 – and he gets lost in it. And it's not the only Yamaha Revstar we're going to hear in this list. 

Adam Levine 

Ok ok, you've seen his moves like Jagger and you have him down as the tattooed pretty boy of pop with the helium lungs. Well Adam Levine has news for you, and chops.

Vocally he's a good fit in this Howard Stern birthday bash show, but did anyone see that Strat solo coming? But where Buck soars, Levine takes a more aggressive rock approach. 

Levine later reported that he's heard Prince's reaction through a mutual friend; "He's learning," said The Purple One. And from a man who traditionally listened to covers of his songs through gritted teeth, that passes as praise.  

London Grammar 

Radio 1's Live Lounge performances often deliver some fresh approaches from artists in their cover versions and we like what London Grammar's Dan Rothman choosing muted, delayed arpeggiated notes to support Hannah Reid's understated vocal. 

The rawk police may be uneasy but Purple Rain can be a gentle lullaby as much as a wonderfully overblown finale. 

Foy Vance 

With that in mind, why not strip it right back to the acoustic guitar essentials; the test of any great song, and of course it passes with purple flying colours

Again, there's respect paid to the song and power in the performance by simply not overplaying here; the longing, resigned and melancholic feeling that permeates the song is undeniable.  

Jack Thammarat 

There's plenty of guitarists who will take on the song instrumentally and we love seeing Jack's clear love for it in this audience footage from a Yamaha event in Manilla. 

He makes that Revstar sing, moving around the melody with such class and control. It builds and he goes full guitar hero in the last part while never losing sight of the song. 

Jeff Beck with Beth Hart 

What a treat this is from 2017 with members of The Revolution, no less; Hart is the kind of singer than can get Steven Tyler on backing duties and Beck to accompany. 

Just in case we forgot how good he is, Jeff Beck is subtly masterful here. He know show to support a singer, and when to break out with the classy breaks. Wonderful stuff. 

David Gilmour 

Another elite level guitar hero tipped his hat the Purple One during a 2016 Teenage Cancer Trust benefit show at the Royal Albert Hall. Prince had passed away earlier that month. 

The classy tribute comes in at 4:27, and Gilmour ties it into his own legendary outro solo. 

And just to remind us… the man himself 

Prince played it at the 2007 Superbowl IN THE RAIN but the true spirit of Purple Rain is here with The Revolution in Syracuse on 30 March 30, 1985. Enjoy over 16 minutes of the master and his band at work.  

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Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.