After my interview with Robin Thicke, I came a to a conclusion. It seemed obvious to me that his father, the late “Growing Pains” actor, Alan Thicke, a native of Ontario, must have been running a boarding house for Canadian superstars who ventured south of the northern border.
Exhibit A: Wayne Gretzky. In 1988, when he was traded to the LA Kings, he was staying at the Thicke residence and was essentially babysitting Robin. Imagine the Great One pouring you a bowl of Lucky Charms in the morning and reminding you to brush your teeth?
But Robin was also an inadvertent player in the story of Gretzky’s blockbuster trade from the Edmonton Oilers. Alan had taken Robin’s older brother to Russia for 10 days, and Gretzky and his soon-to-be wife, Janet Jones, were staying at chez Thicke for the summer, even sleeping in Alan’s room while he was away. That day, Robin was attending Joe Torre’s baseball camp, and he was about to leave the house, when the phone rang. It was the former LA Kings owner Bruce McNall, who was also a friend of Alan’s.
“He wants me to wake up Wayne,” Robin told me. “I’m like OK, so I’m knocking on the door, ‘Wayne, Wayne’. I’m like 10 years old … 11 years old. And so Wayne gets the phone, I got to camp. I come back from camp, and Wayne is in Edmonton on a podium, saying that he has been traded and he’s crying. And I’m like, ‘Holy what’! That was the 7 a.m. phone call from Bruce McNall. And I got Wayne on the phone. So Edmonton will never forgive me, that’s for sure … for the part I played.”
What an insane story.
Then when I asked him about Canadian artists Céline Dion and Shania Twain, he said his father was close with producer David Foster, so he got to be around Dion in the early days. But Twain stayed at their guest house for two weeks when she first came to Los Angeles to score a record deal. “She stayed at the house. She’s part of our part of our Canadian brethren,” said Robin. I have a feeling that house had more celebrity Canadian DNA than Canada’s Walk of Fame.
Most men wouldn’t say this, but Robin is just dope. He’s got the insanely great hair, model good looks, slick style and off-the-charts talent, but he has that inherent cool factor that you just can’t teach. He is the full package. And along with having his own hits, (my personal favorite is “Lost Without U”) he’s collaborated with many R&B artists, including Pharrell Williams, Usher, Brandy and Mary J. Blige. During a recent episode of “The Masked Singer,” where Robin is a judge, we learned that he and Brian Austin Green of “BH90210” had a hip-pop duo as teens called Think Twice. Nick Cannon jokingly referred to them as the “white Kriss Kross.”
That cool factor has helped him become one of the few white artists in R&B, which has always been a predominantly black genre. Then he and Justin Timberlake came along. To be the minority in any space, like Bubba Wallace in NASCAR, Tiger Woods in golf, Christian McCaffrey as a running back in the NFL, you’re always chipping away at the status quo and creating change in spaces that might not be ready for it. Robin was seemingly a natural.
Although he gives a lot of credit for his maturation as an artist to his creative partner, the late Andre Harrell, he comes from a long line of musicians, and jazz ones at that.
“As it turns out, on my mother’s side of the family, we have about six generations of musicians … My grandfather was a jazz trumpet player. His father was a jazz trumpet player. So, you know, we’ve been trying to be black for generations.”
But I told him that we already drafted him decades ago.
Robin is a busy man. His girlfriend, April Love Geary just gave birth to a son, Luca, who is his fourth child. And he’s also released a song “Fire It Up,” which is part of the NFL “Songs of the Season” campaign in collaboration with Roc Nation.
One thing he’d like to add to his schedule: a studio session with Drake. On his first mixtape, the Canadian artist rapped over Robin’s “Teach U a Lesson,” song. “I would love to do an original record with Drake just because I am such a big fan.”
That shouldn’t be a problem because he and Drake have tons in common. They both have Canadian roots, and they’re both massive NBA fans. Robin even sang at Chris Paul’s 2011 wedding in front of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. That’s where he met Kevin Hart, who cast him on “Real Husbands of Hollywood.”
But since he is such a big Lakers fan, I had to gauge his hoops IQ and asked him how many championships LeBron was going to win the team. To his credit, he didn’t just give me a fawning fan’s answer. He thinks if everyone stays healthy, LeBron wins another championship there, most likely this season. But after this year, the pieces might be different, and it’s all up in the air.
If he had gone all fan on me, I would have had to school him, but he gets it. Maybe next year he and Drake can perform their new single for the Lakers’ championship celebration — a celebration where we hope fans will be present and cheering loudly.
Detroit native Jalen Rose is a member of the University of Michigan’s iconoclastic Fab Five, who shook up the college hoops world in the early ’90s. He played 13 seasons in the NBA, before transitioning into a media personality. Rose is currently an analyst for “NBA Countdown” and “Get Up,” and co-host of “Jalen & Jacoby.” He executive produced “The Fab Five” for ESPN’s “30 for 30” series, is the author of the best-selling book “Got To Give the People What They Want,” a fashion tastemaker, and co-founded the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a public charter school in his hometown.