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Updated by DJ Rob on Aug 08, 2023
Headline for Prince's Legacy: His 57 Greatest Songs - the Classic Years!
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Prince's Legacy: His 57 Greatest Songs - the Classic Years!

The April 21st death of rock, soul and funk legend Prince at age 57 has left the music world in utter sadness, shock and disbelief. The suddenness of it and his young age makes it as hard or harder a pill to swallow as the losses of fellow icons like David Bowie, Whitney Houston or Michael Jackson.

The outpouring of love for The Purple One in the three days since his death has been nothing short of phenomenal, whether it's been via social media, in dance-offs performed in city streets across the world, or on radio station (land, satellite and Internet-based) marathons of His Purple Highness' vast playlist of classic jams.

You may even be listening to your own favorite Prince tunes as you read this, while trying to decide which ones you really liked better than the others.

Tough choices, aren't they?

Considering that the legacy Prince left behind is about as prolific a catalog of hits (and non-hits) as any artist's in modern history, on any given day your favorite Prince tune might change.

In an era when artists, especially superstar ones, recorded an album every two or three years and then slowly milked it dry with lengthy singles promotional campaigns, the Purple One recorded an average of at least one album a year for a total of 39 between 1978 and 2015.

You'd have hundreds of Prince jams from which to choose when deciding that favorite.

By comparison, Michael Jackson only released six albums (not counting greatest hits compilations or the EP record, Blood on The Dance Floor) between 1979 and 2009 when he died, with two more released posthumously.

In terms of sheer volume, no other contemporary pop artist can claim such an accomplishment as Prince's.

Make no mistake though, Prince was able to flex his extensive creative muscle largely because of his immense popularity and success in the 1980s. Selling nearly 100 million records worldwide in that decade alone was enough to land him the large recording complex he called Paisley Park Studios, where much of his creative genius occurred.

The artistic freedom he must have experienced in that studio - without the constraints of schedule pressure, booking fees and A&R people/record execs breathing down his neck - likely served as further inspiration for the man who crafted his art without boundaries.

Prince's death comes at a time when we've hardly had time to grieve the others who've left us in this year of artists' reckoning. Preceding him in 2016 were fellow 20th-century legends like Glenn Frey, David Bowie, Maurice White and Merle Haggard.

But remember him we will. And for me it continues with this third tribute djrobblog article: a special djroblist of the greatest Prince songs of the classic era, 1978 - 1996.

To me there are basically three types of Prince fans: 1) ones that only know the popular singles or think his career began with 1999 (or worse, Purple Rain!); 2) those that know everything from his heyday (1978 - 1996), including album cuts, B-sides, etc.; and 3) those that know and appreciate everything, all the way up to 2015's HITnRUN albums.

The djroblist that follows caters to those in the middle category - a sort of compromise if you will. It's a list of 57 songs - one for every full year that the man lived.

I realize that only considering the first half of his nearly 40-year career is blasphemous to the truest Prince fans (the third type) out there, and this may leave some of you a bit dissatisfied. I even believe that some of those later songs are possibly better - from a quality standpoint - than what's included here.

But I'll leave it to the Type 3s to create a countdown that includes stuff from his last 20 or so albums (post-1996's Emancipation), or provide comments and convince me to add them to this list.

For now, the focus is the classic years and the songs that "brung 'em"...the ones for which we'll remember him most.

So here they are, the 57 Best Songs by Prince - the Classic Years: 1978 - 1996.


57. She's Always In My Hair

I struggled deciding which song to fill this first slot with, because it meant that several other worthy candidates wouldn't make it. I decided to go with this B-side to the "Raspberry Beret" single. So other good songs like "Pink Cashmere," "Scandalous," "When You Were Mine" and "Irresistible Bitch" ultimately became casualties, but they're worthy of honorable mention, nonetheless.