5 Years Ago: Beck Hugs Prince at the Grammys, Then Regrets It
You can’t fault Beck for getting swept up in the moment.
He had just won Album of the Year at the 2015 Grammys and one of his idols, Prince, was on stage to present the award. As Beck claimed his trophy, he gave Prince a big hug -- and immediately regretted it.
Beck was far from the favorite that year. Though his Morning Phase album had earned plenty of critical praise, it wasn’t the commercial chart-topper that the Grammys so often recognize. Most pundits believed Beyonce would win Album of the Year, with Ed Sheeran and Pharrell Williams looming as potential alternatives. Generally speaking, Beck was considered the category’s outcast.
Still, there were signs early in the ceremony that Beck may be poised for a big night. He took home Best Rock Album, while his team scored Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical honors.
As the Grammys wound to a close, host LL Cool J introduced the presenter for the evening’s climactic award. “A seven-time Grammy winner and one of the groundbreaking figures in music history,” the rapper-turned actor excitedly announced. “Ladies and gentlemen, let’s go crazy for the artist forever known as Prince!”
The iconic musician strode to the microphone, wearing a shimmering tangerine outfit with a silver, sparkling walking cane. The audience gave him a standing ovation, then Prince began to speak. “Albums still matter,” the artist declared. “Like books and black lives, albums still matter. Tonight and always.” After reading the nominees for Album of the Year, Prince opened the envelope and revealed the surprising winner.
A clearly stunned Beck walked to the stage where he was presented with the award. It was at that moment that he leaned in and landed a hug on Prince.
“When I saw him I was overwhelmed,” Beck later recalled of the moment. “I think I subconsciously knew it was probably the only chance I was going to get to do this without bodyguards, and that kind of thing. So I just went in and gave him a big hug. And I don't know if you're supposed to do that.”
Beck quickly regretted the move, fearful he’d made one of his idols feel awkward. “I immediately felt like I should probably not be doing this,” the rocker admitted in an interview with The Sun. “But we were on stage and I was carried away in the moment, I just wanted to embrace him. Afterwards he disappeared somewhere and I never got to talk to him. I kind of cringed for a while that I had made him uncomfortable or overstepped the mark."
Prince died in April 2016, a little more than a year after his Grammy appearance. Upon hearing the tragic news, Beck went back and looked at photos from their brief moment together on stage. “I looked for that photo of me hugging him,” the singer recalled in an interview with NPR. “And he's smiling. He has a huge smile on his face. So the guilt I had of being presumptuous enough to embrace him in the moment - it meant a lot to me that he was smiling.”
A day after the official cause of Prince's death was released, Beck dedicated part of his set to at the Governors Ball festival to the fallen icon. The singer performed a rendition of “Raspberry Beret” before recounting their slightly awkward Grammy moment.
Beck would later become the first artist to record in Studio A at Paisley Park following Prince’s death. Describing the experience as “strange and even a little bit heartbreaking,” the rocker created an EP called Paisley Park Sessions. Released in 2019, the EP featured a medley of four Prince covers -- “Raspberry Beret,” “When Doves Cry,” “Kiss” and “1999” -- that he called "The Paisley Experience," along with new versions of two Beck hits, “Where It’s At” and “Up All Night.”