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Prince was outspoken on a lot of topics — to the point where he got in a fight with a music critic. Afterward, the Purple One opened up about his feelings toward critics. In addition, he revealed why he came to sympathize with the critic with whom he fought.

Prince wearing a scarf
Prince | Virginia Turbett/Redferns

How Prince reacted to ‘cruel words’ he received

First, a little background. In 1984, Prince released Purple Rain, the iconic soundtrack album which many fans and critics see as his opus. The following year, he released Around the World in a Day, a very different album. Whereas Purple Rain sounded contemporary, Around the World in a Day was more indebted to the music of the 1960s. While Purple Rain is universally acclaimed, Around the World in a Day is a more divisive album. Around the time of the latter album’s release, Neal Karlen of Rolling Stone asked Prince if he read the words of his critics. 

“A little, not much,” he said. “Sometimes someone will pass along a funny one. I just wrote a song called ‘Hello,’ which is going to be on the flip side of ‘Pop Life.’ It says at the end, ‘Life is cruel enough without cruel words.’ I get a lot of cruel words. A lot of people do.”

The Purple One on how critics reacted to Stevie Wonder and Miles Davis

Prince went on to discuss the critical reception of certain albums. Firstly, he discussed the critical thrashing of Stevie Wonder’s album Stevie Wonder’s Journey Through “The Secret Life of Plants.” The album is a soundtrack for the documentary of the same name. Prince said Wonder had produced so many wonderful songs, he wouldn’t dream of criticizing him. In addition, Prince discussed the critical reception of Miles Davis’ then-recent work. Prince felt that if people didn’t like Davis’ new work, they should refrain from criticizing him and instead buy another album. Afterward, Karlen asked Prince if he hated rock critics — or if he thought critics feared him.

“Purple Rain”

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The time Prince fought a critic

“No, it’s no big deal,” the Purple One said. “Hey, I’m afraid of them! One time early in my career, I got into a fight with a New York writer, this little skinny cat, a real sidewinder. He said, ‘I’ll tell you a secret, Prince. Writers write for other writers, and a lot of time it’s more fun to be nasty.’ I just looked at him. But when I really thought about it and put myself in his shoes, I realized that’s what he had to do. I could see his point.”

How critics think of the Purple One today

Rock critics gave Prince a hard time at one point. However, in 2020, Rolling Stone ranked Purple Rain No. 8 on their list of “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.” In the list, they said the album’s title track might be the best rock ballad ever. Writers were nasty to Prince at the time — but his stature has only grown.