A day after the sudden death of the artist known as Prince — a man who could easily be described as complicated — much is being made of his “conservative” legacy.
As an endless stream of tributes pour in, the picture is becoming a little clearer: Prince Rogers Nelson was a complex cultural icon, a sex symbol who was also driven by his Christian faith.
Look no further than his music catalogue for evidence of this.
The Washington Post on Thursday described Prince as “raunchy” and wrote that the departed music icon was “actually a conservative Christian” who “opposed gay marriage.”
In its evaluation of the singer, who died at 57 inside his Paisley Park Minnesota compound earlier in the day, the paper noted that Prince’s often sexually charged music was also laden with religious themes, and suggested the duality was ultimately intended to lead people in a spiritual direction.
In Touré’s 2013 book I Would Die 4 U: Why Prince Became an Icon, the author wrote, “Prince intended sexuality to be linked to the worship of God, and he filled his music with classic Christian messages.”
The book also describes Prince as “an MTV megastar and a religious evangelist” who used “images of sex and profanity to invite us into a musical conversation about the healing power of God.”
According to the Post, the information above and the lyrics below are evidence that Prince was a conservative Christian, albeit an unconventional one:
“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 grew up a Seventh-day Adventist, but became a devout Jehovah’s Witness in 2001. There are stories of the singer going door-to-door to proselytize, and there is also evidence that his faith heavily influenced his political beliefs.
Prince disagreed that his new faith was due to a conversion: “I don’t see it really as a conversion,” he said in a 2008 interview with The New Yorker. “More, you know, it’s a realization. It’s like Morpheus and Neo in The Matrix.”
In the same interview, Prince seemingly opposed gay marriage: “So here’s how it is: you’ve got the Republicans, and basically they want to live according to this,” he said, pointing to a Bible. He added:
But there’s the problem of interpretation, and you’ve got some churches, some people, basically doing things and saying it comes from here, but it doesn’t. And then on the opposite end of the spectrum you’ve got blue, you’ve got the Democrats, and they’re, like, “You can do whatever you want.” Gay marriage, whatever. But neither of them is right.
The New Yorker also wrote, “When asked about his perspective on social issues — gay marriage, abortion — Prince tapped his Bible and said, ‘God came to earth and saw people sticking it wherever and doing it with whatever, and he just cleared it all out,’” adding, “He was, like, ‘Enough.’”
Although Prince performed a private show in 2015 for President Obama and company at the White House, he did not vote for Obama.
“I don’t vote,” Prince told Tavis Smiley in 2009. “I’ve [sic] don’t have nothing to do with it. I’ve got no dog in that race.”
“The reason why is that I’m one of the Jehovah’s Witnesses,” Prince added. “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.”
During an interview last year with Entertainment Weekly, engineer and producer Joshua Welton told the publication Prince was leading a “God-focused life” at Paisley Park, and said when they met, they “just stood in the kitchen and talked about Scripture for two hours.”
Hip hop artist Talib Kweli shared a memory of Prince on Twitter Thursday that seemed to confirm the artist was willing to use his pulpit to preach the Gospel, even in unlikely places.
Once I was in a club w Prince in LA. When 2am came, he kicked all the dudes out, it was just us & the women. Then he read from the Bible.
— Talib Kweli Greene (@TalibKweli) April 21, 2016