Compassion. A feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. A concept we seem to be sorely lacking as a human race. You know there isn’t enough of it because the people who have truly had it – Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, etc. – are memorable. If we all had the amount of compassion we’re supposed to we’d all be like the four of them, therefore they wouldn’t be memorable. They’d just be four good people like the rest of us.
Prince’s song “Compassion” was written and recorded in 2006 but did not make it on to a record until the 20Ten album released in? You guessed it…2010. When I hear the title “Compassion” I imagine a song sounding grand like “We Are the World” or something more like a ballad or love song. This song is neither of those things. “Compassion” starts out sounding like an early-80’s uptempo Prince jam heavy on drum machine and synth. As the song builds it continues to add more elements. Electric guitar. Background vocals courtesy of Shelby J. and Liv Warfield. A horn section including the legendary Maceo Parker on sax. It’s like a snowball getting bigger and bigger as it goes. By the end the beat remains the same, but you’re hearing something bigger and fuller than you had at the beginning.
I’d like to say the lyrics to the song are prophetic, but who am I kidding? The pendulum swings back and forth. History repeats itself. When you write a song about humanity’s lack of compassion you’re going to be right some of the time and wrong some of the time. The song feels prophetic now because it seems like we have a dearth of compassion in 2020. When it was written in 2006, sadly, I’m sure the message applied then. This song was written in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Sadly, it’s rarely the wrong time to be reminded of mankind’s lack of compassion. It still feels more absent today than I can ever recall. Here’s a sampling of the lyrics:
Whatever skin you’re in
We all need to be friends
All happy again
So much better than nothingEverybody can win
With a little faith in man
Beginning of an end
The start of a brand new somethingWhen ego, fear, and judgmentBecome the rule of lawWatch the polar ice capsHeat up, melt down, and thawWhen the greedy one forgetsThat he’s the reason for it allThe only gold that’s so worth stashingCompassionGet it onCompassionRight on
Here’s my issue: this song just doesn’t do it for me. I want to get on board with it, but there’s something about it musically that just doesn’t sit right. I don’t like the tempo and the sound of the drum programming. I’m on board with the lyrical content, but the song itself misses the mark. When I weigh the positives and negatives I’m going to rule that this is a slightly below average Prince song. I’m still all for the message, though. We could all use more compassion every day.