Prince Is Responsible for Helping Me Learn to Be Alone

I found a safe haven between the grooves of 1999.

A by-product of the fact that I grew up in a very large family, and spent much of my teen years in group environments like bands and sports, is that I never had a chance to get comfortable with just being by myself. This caught up to me as I transitioned into adulthood.

In 1982, when I was 18, I went through a sea change in my life. I no longer lived at home, and my mom had sold my childhood home. I felt sort of un-rooted. And I could feel the beginnings of the breakup of my first real relationship with a serious girlfriend. There were also drugs cascading into Seattle, and I was "losing" a lot of close friends to the pull of narcotics. For the first time in my life . . . I felt alone.

I was a guy who played different instruments in different bands, and a friend of mine who was a big fan of Prince early on turned me onto Controversy and Dirty Mind. He thought I might relate to the genius multi-instrumentalist from Minneapolis. The records were groundbreaking and forward-thinking. I was hooked.

When 1999 came out later that year, I found a respite and safe haven between the grooves of this epic double album. It didn't matter that the topics of "Little Red Corvette" and "Something in the Water" didn't directly relate to me and my situations exactly; it was the intent and drama and impossibility of how good this record was that made me start to think that maybe ANYTHING was possible in my own life, too. I could rise and get through all this messy teenage young-adult stuff, with a little help from this record.

1999 became the soundtrack of my life through 1983, and when I decided to move to L.A. on my own, this record (by then on cassette), became my traveling companion and best friend. Since then, many records by different artists have become the soundtracks of different parts and eras of my life, but nothing since 1999 has had such an impact, and given me confidence and be-alone and stay-alone capabilities. I owe a lot to this record.

Thankfully, my need and training for being alone has passed. I am a happy family man nowadays, and find myself surrounded, all of the time, by my girls, dogs, and stinky rock bandmates. But Prince's music remains a touchstone for me, and 1999 will always hold a special place in my soul. It gave me strength, and it gave me friendship. It made me work harder for the things I wanted to attain. It was the sturdy vessel that protected me in those choppy and scary waters of my coming-of-age sea change.

Duff McKagan is the founding bassist of Guns N' Roses and the frontman of Seattle's Loaded. His column runs every Thursday at

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