How Prince's 'Purple Rain' Super Bowl halftime show went from safety hazard to divine blessing

Jon San
Supervising Producer, Yahoo Entertainment

As the story goes, a few days after Prince’s thrilling performance of “Purple Rain” during a very rainy halftime show for Super Bowl XLI in 2007, Don Mischer visited Beijing. Mischer, who had directed the show, said that he was met at the airport by a Chinese reporter who asked him, “How many water trucks he used to create the rain effect?” Mischer laughed it off, but that sense of utter disbelief — that a literal purple rain performance must have been artificially made — underscores how divine Prince’s halftime show really was. 

Prince would have turned 60 on June 7, and while there’s an overabundance of myths associated with the artist, his one and only Super Bowl halftime show — which is frequently cited as the greatest — occupies a special place in TV history.

Prince’s 2007 Super Bowl halftime show, which included him singing “Purple Rain” in the rain, is ranked by many to be the best of all time. (Photo: AP Images).

Mischer, who also directed halftime-show performances by Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, and others, spoke to Yahoo Entertainment about how Prince’s performance came together, and how the rain turned from a curse to a blessing.

“It rained lightly in the first half,” said Mischer. “And as we were counting down to go on the air for our actual halftime show, it was as if the heavens opened up and it started raining like crazy.”

Safety being his primary concern, Mischer was terrified of someone slipping on the stage, which had a Formica surface  a recipe for disaster in a rainstorm.

“What happens if Prince falls down?” Mischer recalls himself thinking.

Before Prince took the stage, Mischer gave him some words of encouragement via headset. But Prince shrugged off the concerns in a sound bite for the books. Mischer said, “That’s when he said to me, ‘As far as I’m concerned, it can rain harder.’”

Mischer said Prince went out there with “unbelievable confidence” and that the rain actually helped him nail the performance. Even with four electric guitar changes, everything went according to plan.

“About 45 seconds in, I said, ‘You know, this is a blessing,’” Mischer said.

He went on to explain how it elevated the performance: “The rain is creating these droplets on the lens … it’s creating a mist that’s sweeping across the stage … this is ethereal, it’s incredible.”

More than 10 years later, Mischer is still floored by the once-in-a-lifetime experience: “Sometimes, these unaccounted-for, unpredictable accidents or mistakes turn out to be something that really identifies the show and becomes memorable.”

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