Don Mischer has produced a slew of Super Bowl halftime shows including those with Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones. He also handled the rain-soaked 2007 show starring Prince, which many have called the best of them all. “I have been fortunate enough to work with many talented artists, but he truly was iconic and legendary, and brilliant,” Mischer said of Prince, who died today at 57. “I will say that experience – Super Bowl 41, in 2007 – I heard from a number of people at the NFL Today show who were saying, ‘Weren’t we lucky to be able to share a real moment that is one of the markers in Prince’s incredible career?'”
Here, in his own words, is how Mischer recalls that show, how it came together and how it came off:
“He put his whole self into everything he did. We had five meetings before we even went to Miami and talked about what he was going to do and how he was going to do it. And what I remember the most was he wanted to create a great show. It wasn’t about promoting a new project or a new single. He wanted it to be something a gigantic audience would love. He covered a Foo Fighters song, a John Fogerty song, a Bob Dylan song. He was selfless in that sense. He just wanted to make it a great show.
We were so worried about the rain, because the stage was designed as his symbol, and it had a very slippery floor on top; when it got wet, it was almost treacherous. His two dancers, The Twins, were wearing 8 1/2-inch heels, and we were terrified of the rain and if they would he be able to stay on his feet.
There was a little drizzle in the morning. … Before we went on with the halftime show, the heavens just burst open. It was a really heavy rain, and I’m in a panic mode because Prince was playing live with four different electric guitars; he was switching guitars – all electric, all live, four times, in a 12 1/2-minute set. Could he get an electric shock? Will they work. It was cause for great concern. He took that moment and turned it into this ethereal, magical halftime show. He rose above the problems of the rain. All the guitars worked, and there were droplets of rain all over the lenses. And 60 seconds in, you knew we were being blessed, and then it ended with “Purple Rain,” and we were able to turn the rain purple.
I just have the greatest respect for him. He was a musical genius.
Of course, the most talked-about moment of that halftime show was when Prince and his guitar were illuminated from behind a huge expanse of sheeting. Seeing as how it was CBS’ first Super Bowl broadcast since its infamous halftime show in which Janet Jackson’s breast debuted on the world stage, Prince’s silhouette outraged some. The Associated Press questioned “whether a guitar was just a guitar” or a “phallic connotation.” “Malfunction!” screamed New York magazine’s Daily Intelligencer. “A rude-looking shadow show … embarrassingly rude, crude and unfortunately placed,” sniffed The Daily News.
Mischer said the idea was his and phallic statement was not on his mind. He’d used the technique for the Opening Ceremony of the centennial Olympics Games in Atlanta, only then he used the fabric to project discus throwers, sprinters and other classic Olympics symbols between faux Grecian columns. “When I stared to work on the Prince project, I suggested to him we could, for 15 or 20 seconds, re-create that silhouette effect.”
Watch the full performance above. And enjoy.
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