My experience with Prince is personal. Not because he was personal friend. I personally never met him. The closest I ever got to him in the physical form was seeing him live at the Forum back in 2009. Great show, I was literally in heaven for three hours.
But despite having no material relationship with him, I, like millions of others shared a lifetime through his art. He had a song for every moment in your life, and if you were a real fan, he made sure he crafted the songs that served as the personal soundtrack to your life.
I consider myself blessed that I was only 4 years old when Prince made his debut album For You, because he literally corrupted my virgin ears with “Soft And Wet”. I had no idea what he was talking about, but adults acted funny when that song came on and tried to keep me from hearing it, which made me want to hear it more.
By the time I was 6, Prince was my babysitter. My mother had the 45 single to “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad” and she would put it on repeat and I would play air guitar until I got tired and fell asleep.
Of course I also understood the words and I really felt sad when I thought of how mean this lady was. What I didn’t realize was that I was in for my share of mean ladies in the future, but Prince had me covered.
In my developmental years he would deliver gems such as” Still Waiting”, “Little Red Corvette” and the ultimate trick anthem “Irresistible Bitch”. We’ve all had that one love that was no good but we couldn’t get enough of them. The words “All my potnas ask me why I take so much abuse/ Why am I so faithful, honey why are you so loose/Why am I the one who never gets to take you home/But they don’t know the things you do to me when we’re alone” sum it all up.
Prince was slick like that when it came to songwriting. He could play the sucker for love (“How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore”) and in the next song sing about lost love (“Another Lonely Christmas”), and then turn into the coldest freak, which he embodied on “Get Off” (“23 positions in a one night stand”). Nuff said.
Prince was more than my love therapist. His music gave me hope as a youth. There was never a more inspirational voice in my head than his. His work was complex, he mixed love, war, theology and philosophy into songs that made you think about the world around you and what you could do to change it.
So many album cuts, like “Free”, which was his four-minute dissertation on the cold war of the ’80s, and “Party Up”, his anti-nuclear war anthem, touched on the realistic fears we all had as the threat of nuclear holocaust loomed over us.
He would take his crusade for peace to a higher level with his Graffiti Bridge project. Every song was a challenge to the status quo and the power system that he believed was crushing our dreams.
“Lay down your funky weapons, come join us on the floor” was the battle cry, and I remember it motivating me to get involved with local politics and challenge my teachers in school.
There was “Thieves In The Temple”, one of the most brilliant gospel songs ever. Of course it wasn’t viewed as such, but when you break down the words, he crying out for Love (God) to come quick to stop those who were robbing us of our souls.
I could go on and on about how deep his music was and its impact on mankind. But that’s already been said and people will say it for years to come.
My purpose for this piece was to express the love and guidance he shared with me and maybe help a younger generation — who may have come along in the years when his fame was waning and the hits were not at as consistent — understand why the world is mourning.
I hope this inspires you to dig up these songs I mentioned and make your connection and hopefully create your own personal soundtrack that will help you navigate this thing we call life.
Eric Robinson, a former entertainment editor and editor-in-chief of The Gramblinite, was founder of Grooveline edutainment magazine. He has written for The Source, XXL and Rap Pages magazines.