OSU’s Rapping Bum Dies
Donald Allen Robinson: Oct. 12, 1951 - Feb. 19, 2012
By Chris ScullinPosted Mar 28, 2012
After more than 20 years of entertaining students as they strolled up and down High Street, Don Robinson, more commonly known as “Help is on the Way” or “The Rapping Bum,” has passed away at age 60.
Robinson was discovered lifeless in his apartment on Feb. 19. Though no autopsy was performed, it was speculated that he died from natural causes.
After growing up in Mississippi, Robinson moved to Ohio in 1972, but did not make it to Columbus until 1989. Here he eventually became the most famous “bum” in the city.
Delivering rhymes such as, “Have no fear, I’ll drink a beer/ Lordy, Lordy, Lordy, I need me a forty,” and “A shirt that looks like a jacket is a shacket,” Robinson always brought smiles to the faces of those he came across along High Street. He most often roamed near the Newport Music Hall and Tobacco International on E. 13th, carrying a cup of change and providing entertainment for people as they waited in line for concerts or were on their way to buy beer.
While Robinson was not homeless, he was poor. He spent the last year or so of his life at Hotel St. Clair, a low-income apartment complex and assisted living center for senior citizens.
Robinson’s cheerful and caring personality was easily noticed by all those he encountered, both near campus and at his home.
“When I moved in here, he was one of the guys that helped me get acclimated to things,” said Chuck Prillerman, his friend and neighbor at Hotel St. Clair. “He was just a good hearted guy … if you were having a bad day, you could talk to Don and it would brighten up.”
Robinson’s rhymes were not only meant to bring joy to the students. According to Prillerman, this daily interaction with students brought him self-fulfillment as well.
Robinson did not rhyme only at OSU, according to Willie Clark, another tenant at Hotel St. Clair that was good friends with him.
“He always had raps and rhymes to make people laugh,” Clark said. “They were always comical. He was just an all around good guy. Everybody liked him.”
Robinson was aware that he was popular around campus, as he made evident in some of his raps.
“It’s all the way with scarlet and gray, the Buckeyes save the day … as far as I can see, 150,000 Buckeye alumni been good to me.”
After Robinson became somewhat famous, he saw the opportunity to make more money through his raps than through small tips from passersby. In the last decade, Robinson recorded two albums, which he sold out of a backpack. He also sold shirts with his nickname/catchphrase, “Help is on the Way.”
To some, what was most admirable about Robinson spending the last two decades rapping for students around campus was the fact that he seemed to do it by choice.
“He was definitely capable of finding work, I think he just had something against ‘The Man,’” said Jon Roalef, a fourth year in social work who had spent time with Robinson on many occasions over the last few years. “He seemed to just enjoy talking to college kids and people and seeing how they would react to him ... he was happy to be doing what he was doing. I’ve never met anybody like him.”
Despite his difficult situation, Robinson never became resentful.
“He always had something nice to say about people,” Clark said. “He never said anything bad about anybody.”
All things considered, it seems that Robinson was as grateful to be around OSU as OSU was to have had him around.
“I been using what God gave me, I’m so glad he sent all these people to save me/ Every time you put it in my cup, it’s liftin’ my spirit up.”