With the death Thursday of Prince Rogers Nelson, you may see a strange mix on your Facebook feed of sex and religion.
That’s because perhaps one of the raunchiest, steamiest pop culture figures in the past quarter-century was a conservative Christian. Religious and spiritual themes ran through a huge amount of his work, including this tiny sampling of lyrics:
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called Life,” he intoned, pastor-like, in “Let’s Go Crazy.”
“If God one day struck me blind, your beauty I’ll still see” – “Adore”
“We all have our problems, some are big, some are small. Soon all of our problems, y’all, will be taken by the cross.” – “The Cross”
Prince even appeared on a lot of playlists created for the U.S. visits of Pope Benedict (2008) and Pope Francis (2015) — yes, playlists for pope trips exist! That’s because of his classic “The Pope,” which included this line: “You can be the president, I’d rather be the pope. You can be the side effect, I’d rather be the dope.” (Then a few unpublishable words.)
Yet his faith was complex. Prince was raised a Seventh-day Adventist and later became a Jehovah’s Witness — two faith communities who have in different ways been rejected at times as Christian and seen by mainstream Protestantism as cults. However his beliefs and spirituality were his own, rooted in what his biographer Toure called “my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ” as well as a deep fascination with the afterlife and Judeo-Christian scripture, which he was constantly quoting.
The story of his conversion to Jehovah’s Witness became public in a rather remarkable way. The Guardian wrote in 2004: “A newspaper in his hometown reported how a married couple had answered their door to find Prince proffering a copy of the Watchtower. Though they were orthodox Jews, and it was Yom Kippur, they were also Prince fans. They welcomed him into the house.”
My colleague Justin Moyer wrote about Prince last year, when His Purpleness announced he’d play in Baltimore, to honor Freddie Gray.
Here’s Moyer on Prince’s faith and how the singer apparently intended his intense, bawdy expressions of sexuality to be linked to the worship of God. This excerpt begins with Prince talking in 2009 with Tavis Smiley, and explaining why he — Prince — didn’t vote for Obama, the first black president:
“The reason why is that I’m one of the Jehovah’s Witnesses,” Prince said. “And we’ve never voted. That’s not to say I don’t think … President Obama is a very smart individual and he seems like he means well. Prophecy is what we all have to go by now.”
Indeed, though Prince is famous for writhing around naked in purple bathrooms and writing songs with titles like “Sexy M.F.,” religion — okay, “prophecy” — has guided much of his music. For every filthy song like “Darling Nikki,” it seems, there is a track like “The Cross.” The Purple One’s religiosity became even more apparent after he turned to Jesus in 2001.
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SOURCE: The Washington Post