Top 10 Prince Rock Songs
Prince was a lot closer to rock 'n' roll than his history on the pop and R&B charts lets on. From the very start, right there on his 1978 debut album For You, you can hear the influence of the music he grew up on, made by '60s rock greats like Jimi Hendrix. And he wasn't shy about letting you know it.
As he grew as an artist, and as his albums became more textured, Prince let that Hendrix inspiration show even more. At his best, Prince's records sounded like little else from the period, as he channeled everyone from Little Richard to Sly Stone.
On '80s triumphs like 1999, Purple Rain and Sign o' the Times, he threw so much great music out there – juggling pop, R&B, funk and straight-up rock 'n' roll in the process – that it was often difficult to keep up with his moves. At the same time, Prince made tons of records, several of which were never released. He was a difficult artist, often battling his record company and occasionally bandmates as he became more protective of his music over the years.
The Top 10 Prince Rock Songs are all centered on one thing: a guitar. Prince was one of the best musicians to ever become a massive star. He played almost every single instrument on those early albums, and he continued to take on multiple duties (including singing, writing and producing) even after he sealed his legend on 1984's Purple Rain. One listen to the breathtaking solo that caps the epic title song of that album, and it's easy to hear why Prince was one of music's all-time greatest artists, and why his place in rock history is unshakable.
10. 'Bambi' (1979)
With his second album, Prince really started to let his tougher rock influences loose. On the raw, dirty and sleazy "Bambi" he wails, breaks out the cowbell and fires off a killer guitar riff that sounds like it was lifted straight out of any '70s rock record.
9. 'America' (1985)
Prince followed up his massive commercial breakthrough Purple Rain with Around the World in a Day, a psychedelia-shaded album that was started before Purple Rain even came out. The album is best known for "Raspberry Beret," but "America" is its toughest cut, a Sly & the Family Stone-style funk jam that gloriously falls into one of Prince's sweatiest instrumental workouts.
8. 'The Cross' (1987)
Prince often balanced his twin obsessions on record: sex and God. Sex usually won, but on this epic track from 1987's great Sign O' the Times album, Prince pays tribute to a higher being with a spiritual that begins with just a slowly strummed guitar and his voice. By the time it unfurls its final minute, the song begins to rage with a guitar solo that sounds like it was sent up from the devil himself.
7. 'Cream' (1991)
By 1991, Prince was exploring his own corners of rock, pop and R&B music. "Cream," from the Diamonds and Pearls album, was his last No. 1 single, and it's pretty much a slow-burning dance track that makes room for some tasteful shredding among one of Prince's slinkiest grooves.
6. '7 (1992)
Taken from the 1992 album which fans refer to as Love Symbol (after the unpronounceable emblem on the LP's cover), "7" is driven by one of Prince's most direct rhythms and recalls the psychedelic pop music that found its way on the radio in the late '60s – another of the decade's influences on Prince's catalog of sounds.
5. 'When You Were Mine' (1980)
Cyndi Lauper covered "When You Were Mine" on her hit 'She's So Unusual' album, but Prince's original version – from 1980's excellent Dirty Mind LP – is more primal, cutting closer to the lyric's bitter recollections. The spare guitar lines Prince pushes forward take the song to a whole other place.
4. 'U Got the Look' (1987)
The club beats and Sheena Easton's co-vocal peg it as a pop tune, but "U Got the Look" features one of Prince's most piercing guitar solos – string-bending knife stabs that punctuate just how restless he felt when dropped into just one genre. This one bounces all over the place.
3. 'Delirious' (1983)
The playful, mile-a-minute keyboard betrays Prince's funk and R&B roots, but that breathless pace and his exuberant delivery comes from Little Richard's playbook. Prince also borrowed the rock 'n' roll pioneer's razor-thin mustache, androgyny and flamboyancy, if you hadn't noticed.
2. 'Let's Go Crazy' (1984)
The opening track on the career-exploding Purple Rain album starts like a sermon and ends with a guitar solo – played out in real time as all the instruments take a break – that pretty much announces Prince as a major star. He rarely gets enough credit from casual fans for his musicianship. The entire Purple Rain album – and "Let's Go Crazy," especially – is a testament to his legend.
1. 'Purple Rain' (1984)
"Purple Rain" runs almost nine minutes on the album of the same name, capped by one of rock's best-ever guitar solos. The whole song – a simmering ballad recorded live – sounds like something from Jimi Hendrix's 'Electric Ladyland.' The soulful solo brings it all home. It's hard not to get caught up in the emotion of the moment. Prince did, delivering his best performance on an album that made him a star.