Prince’s religious beliefs and their influence on his music career.
On April 21, 2016, pop music icon Prince shocked the world with his sudden death, the cause of which is still under investigation. Majority of his fans will certainly remember his music as something provocative, wild and full of sexual content. But for those who have really spent part of their lives following the artist, it’s easy to notice how much of his work changed towards a more faith-infused art form.
Prince Rogers Nelson is an African-American artist who was born in Minneapolis. Prince was raised as a Seventh-Day Adventist but eventually converted into a Jehovah’s Witness later in his life. It may not seem apparent from his performances but religion and spirituality have been influential to his career and personal life. Similar with all other individuals struggling with their faith, Prince had to seek answers and the truth. In a 1999 interview with a Dutch TV program, he described his life destination as “complete oneness with the spirit of God and knowledge of the truth.”
Though many people might not notice it, Christianity has always been at the center of his music. Listeners might readily recognize the carnal and rock-and-roll lifestyle themes in his songs but fail to notice the deeper spiritual lessons of the lyrics which are tucked under the beats. Journalist and writer Touré who wrote a biography about Prince entitled “I Would Die 4 U: Why Prince Became an Icon” (which he calls as a love letter which explains the artist’s appeal to generations) described that the “amount of discussion of religion and spirituality and God and Jesus” in his works is double or way more than “the amount of discussion of sex.”
Touré also cited several examples like his “1999” dance hit which religious scholars identify as Prince’s notion on the end of days. In his song “Let’s Go Crazy,” the artist emphasizes that religion is the key to maintaining a happy life amidst all its challenges. And at the latter part of his “Let’s Pretend We’re Married,” Prince wanted to clarify that sex and sexuality is a symbolic and godly act.
Perhaps the most influential person in Prince’s life in the last two decades is musician Larry Graham. Aside from music, Graham’s impact was more on the spiritual level. The two started building a brother-like relationship since the 90s and it took years of discussions and reading the bible to eventually convince Prince to join the Jehovah’s Witness Church in 2001 where Graham is a member.
In an interview, Graham whom Prince considers as a “loving brother” explained how they have worked together to become closer to God “by digging deep into the truth and gaining more knowledge and getting closer to our creator and that’s very important. And as a result, you become closer to people around you that you love and that love you… If we weren’t connected heart to heart, then, it would just be playing music with another musician.”
Right after his change of religion, Prince noticeably became a different man. In a 2004 TV interview, he was asked if he was still the same man. He replied saying “I don’t think so. I’m constantly evolving, trying to work on my whole being to better myself and the world around me.” He added that by becoming a member of the Jehovah’s Witness Church and with Graham’s help, he learned to study the bible in a practical way and cut through all the dogma. It didn’t only help in his music but definitely in every aspect of his life. It helped him “see everything clearer.”
Aside from praising God in his awards and recognition speeches, he also tried to impart lessons to his followers, especially the younger generation. At the 2010 BET Awards, he stressed “I was pretty wild in my younger days. And you don’t have to do what I did. You don’t have to make any of the mistakes I made. The future is in your hands now.”
Being a devout Christian also influenced Prince’s political and social views. It’s interesting to note that he did not vote in the elections after his religious conversion. Though a previous Republican, he eventually cited that the GOP’s referencing of the bible is wrong. He also believed that much of the Democrats views, like gay marriage, were also not right.
In 2014, Prince wore “third eye” sunglasses during a performance on Saturday Night Live. The third eye is a hindu concept that originated with the Hindu deity Shiva. The third eye symbolizes omniscience and power.
Public figures across the spectrum are reflecting about his life and career on social media.
— CNN (@CNN) April 22, 2016
PRINCE, sad to say, has passed on!!! He was a Giant. My deep condolences go out to his family, friends and fans.
— Gene Simmons (@genesimmons) April 21, 2016
Today is the worst day ever. Prince R.I.P I am crying!
— Boy George (@BoyGeorge) April 21, 2016
Prince was brilliant and larger than life. What a sad day.
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) April 21, 2016
So sad to hear of Prince's passing; one of the greatest musical talents of my lifetime. Maybe of the 20th century. RIP.
— Slash (@Slash) April 21, 2016
Unbelievable just heard about PRINCE. Strength and light to his family/loved ones. One of my favs and a true pioneering artist. RIP brotha.
— Dwayne Johnson (@TheRock) April 21, 2016
I wish I could have expressed my love for him before he left. https://t.co/drlyFNWF9X
— James Franco (@JamesFrancoTV) April 21, 2016
I can’t believe it, I’m in total shock. So many wonderful memories,
I will miss him. #Prince
— Lionel Richie (@LionelRichie) April 21, 2016
Oh my god I can’t believe that Prince has died…he was a great great talent…RIP
— Billy Idol (@BillyIdol) April 21, 2016
I'm Crushed!! UK news reporting Prince Is Dead?! For Real?! Massive Loss for us all! What a Genius! Speechless.
— Samuel L. Jackson (@SamuelLJackson) April 21, 2016
Prince the doves really are crying now. Listening to your music. Remembering you. #RIPPrince
— Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) April 21, 2016
Just came back from Cuba & received horrible news. Such an iconic legend. Will forever cherish u & what u gave this earth sir. Love u Prince
— Usher Raymond IV (@Usher) April 21, 2016
My friend is gone…This is what it sounds like, when doves cry. He was my
— Stevie Nicks (@StevieNicks) April 21, 2016