Arts & Media Death & Dying Faith News

5 faith facts about Prince: Sexy, provocative and religious

Singer Prince performs in a surprise appearance on the "American Idol" television show finale at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, California in this May 24, 2006 file photo. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Chris Pizzello/Files *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-PRINCE-OBIT, originally transmitted on April 21, 2016.

(RNS) Rock ‘n’ roll, pop, soul, R&B icon Prince has died at age 57. His life and career were often shrouded in mystery; he used a symbol instead of a name to become “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince,” and he was cagey about his sexuality. But he was clearly and undoubtedly a man of faith. Here are five faith facts about Prince Rogers Nelson, musician, who died April 21.

1. He grew up a Seventh-day Adventist.

When he was a child, he often suffered epileptic seizures. One day he told his mother he wasn’t going to have them anymore. She asked why, and he responded, “Because an angel told me so.”

2. As an adult, he became a Jehovah’s Witness.

In 2001, after two years of consideration, Prince became a Jehovah’s Witness. In an interview with The New Yorker, he said: “I don’t see it really as a conversion. More, you know, it’s a realization. It’s like Morpheus and Neo in ‘The Matrix.’”

3. Prince proselytized door-to-door for the Witnesses.

In 2003, a Minneapolis newspaper carried a story about a couple who answered their door to find Prince offering a copy of The Watchtower, the Witness magazine.

“Though they were Orthodox Jews, and it was Yom Kippur, they were also Prince fans,” Sean O’Hagan of The Observer wrote of the incident. “They welcomed him into the house where, with his friend Larry Graham, erstwhile member of Sly & the Family Stone, one of Prince’s core influences, he spread the word of Jehovah for 20 minutes before moving on to the next house.”

4. Prince’s songs were sometimes mini-sermons.

In 2013, the writer Touré wrote “I Would Die 4 U: Why Prince Became an Icon.” In it, he explored the Christianity he found at the root of much of Prince’s music.

“The amount of discussion of sex is this much,” Touré said during an interview with The Observer, holding his hands a foot apart, “and the amount of discussion of religion and spirituality and God and Jesus is this much” — doubling the space between his hands.

In the book, Prince’s guitarist Dez Dickerson describes Prince as a “guy who really is thoughtful and introspective and holds religious considerations close to his heart and ponders those questions sincerely and genuinely and deeply.”

Prince performs during the Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on May 19, 2013. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Steve Marcus *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-PRINCE-OBIT, originally transmitted on April 21, 2016.

Prince performs during the Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on May 19, 2013. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Steve Marcus *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-PRINCE-OBIT, originally transmitted on April 21, 2016.

5. An original in music, Prince was also an original in his religious thinking.

In an undated interview with V Magazine’s Vanessa Grigoriadis, Prince discussed — reluctantly — the relationship between his sometimes racy lyrics and his faith: “We are sensual beings, the way God created us, when you take the shame and taboo away from it,” he said, and then described religion as “like a force, an electro-magnetic one or like gravity, that puts things in motion.”

The things Prince put in motion — in music and beyond — will last long after his death.

About the author

Kimberly Winston

Kimberly Winston is a freelance religion reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

32 Comments

Click here to post a comment

  • Wish he’d have gotten to know the REAL Jesus of the Bible, very sadly the Witnesses DON’T recognize Him.

  • Pretap, there’s a lot of misinformation out there about Jehovah’s Witnesses. One, as you’ve pointed out, is the idea that JW’s don’t believe in or recognize Jesus. This is quite far from the truth. If you check out JW.org, the only official JW website, you’ll quickly see that JW’s not only believe in Jesus, but believe, as the Bible states, that he is the only begotten son of God, was sent to redeem mankind from sin, and is the only path to everlasting life. I hope you’ll check out the website and receive this reply with the kindness and sincerity in which it was intended.

  • Prince knew the real Jesus, who is the son of God, Messiah, lamb of God, mediator, and King of God’s kingdom. He is now resting or sleeping in death and has the hope of resurrection back to life on earth in the near future. Quoting an old song, “he ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.”

  • I wasn’t a real fan of his music, but it’s a lot more palatable than the door-knocking that his associates do on Saturday mornings! NONE of us–the article’s writer included, is equipped or authorized to pass judgment on whether or not this guy knew the real Christ, or was just taken by a dogma he was steeped in since childhood.

  • I don’t agree with the statement that he was “cagey about his sexuality.” I have no issue with anyone’s sexuality but he was clearly heterosexual. The author is so mis-informed and I would even argue ignorant, to associate sexual freedom with being “cagey”. Get a thesaurus. I’ve not read this about other artists who often dressed androgynously. It’s a form of artistic expression and he’s not the first..

  • I’m a Minnesotan, Prince’s home. I don’t know about his sexuality, nor do I care. I have no need to judge the validity of his faith either.

    What I do know about Prince is that he was loyal to the people in his state. He did many generous things, and liked to throw impromptu parties at his place, Paisley Park. That’s in Chanhassen, an outer ring suburb southwest of Minneapolis. He didn’t have an exclusive list of the well-to-do on the invite list. Us riff raff were welcomed in. He was generous to those in need.

    Prince was not perfect, but he was a good and decent person. His death is indeed a loss. Rest in Peace.

  • I agree, they absolutely believe in Jesus, as the son of God, not in the trinity where he is also God. They also believe Jesus and Michael the archangel, are one and the same…..which is where they lost me.

  • Well that is how different religions goes I suppose. A Jewish man would equally be as lost if you were to tell him Jesus is divine in nature and the one true messiah.

  • LOL at people here trying to claim Prince as one of their own posthumously. Sounds alot like what they did to people in history, like Constantine (a practicioner of the Roman pantheon till his dying breath), and Queen Idia (practicioner of Ifa till her dying breath).

    Despite being a follower of the JW’s, Prince’s beliefs spanned different beliefs, as was demonstrated by the symbol he chose for himself, which I can assure you, had nothing whatsoever to do with Christ-insanity.

  • He was a great songwriter, musical collaborator, guitarist, and didn’t get himself into ridiculous kinds of trouble. Everything else is speculation at this point. He produced great music enjoyed by millions. The world is diminished in his passing.

  • I’m not sure what you’re talking about SAMURAI36. Just to be sure – Prince was born and raised in MN and continued to maintain his primary residence and recording studio in MN.

  • “LOL at people here trying to claim Prince as one of their own posthumously.”

    That’s what I am responding to. As you can read from this, I did read what you said. Why would you assume otherwise?

  • Part of reading comprehension is recognizing context. Never once did I mention where he lived, nor did I respond to you specifically. Not to mention, my original statement directly mentioned historical people, and their religious beliefs, as well as Prince’s beliefs.

  • This is kind of funny Samurai. I wrote to affirm what I’d said earlier about Prince’s home. Now you’ve devoted 2 comments to lecture me, in a patronizing and arrogant way, about everything but the content of my comment. Well, have a good time with that. Pleasing you is just not that important to me. Right now I’m watching the Prince clips on SNL and thoroughly enjoying it. Bye.

  • Maybe you’re not familiar with how Disqus works. I think you also missed the part where I stated that I never once responded to your initial statement. You inserted yourself into MY discussion, not vice versa. There are nearly a half dozen comments here, and in case you haven’t noticed, NONE of them (save my recent responses) are in response to anything you’ve said.

    Therefore, the only “arrogance” here, is yours. So, instead of conceding the point, you’d rather save face. Good luck with that.

  • Faith is a disaster. Many great people have succumbed to such superstitions:
    Elvis Presley, Isaac Newton and Prince. But it is a mark against their legacy in the end. It always is.

    It adds nothing good at all to the legacy of the Pilgrims that they believed in witches.

  • Faith isn’t a disaster but a mystery for those who don’t understand how you can have it with something you can’t physically interact with

  • lol You’re always going to get those people who just cannot read something with out putting their own interpretation to it and get it wrong. And then blame you for that.

  • Not sure but they may have used that word to describe his reticence to be more forthcoming about it in interviews. His stage costume went with his performances very well I thought. It was just artistic expression to me.

  • That’s because for 49 years you thought “faith” meant an intellectual acceptance of a proposition for which you had no evidence based on emotion, cultural influence or some other non rational motivation. That’s what you now assume (on faith) is what other people mean by the word. That is the faith of atheists. They have assumed that there is no evidence because they’ve never seen any, like the people who thought the world was flat.

  • That’s what I said you thought it was. Read more carefully. You spent 49 years in stupidity. Give it up.

  • There’s a difference between knowing Jesus by faith and knowing Jesus intellectually. Intellectual knowledge of Jesus won’t a Christian make you, but rather leaves you wanting and bitter. Sounds like you relied on your own understanding of Christianity for 49 years and finally gave up in futility? Please, take another look at Jesus and ignore the Christians and I myself am a unchurched Christian and loving it. It’s a personal relationship with the Divine and it beats anything this sick world has to offer. Most importantly please don’t judge the act of faith and other Christians because you had a bad experience. Faith is real and tangible and moves mountains and calling it a mindless, wishful waste of time is insulting. If this is where you landed after leaving Christianity, I’d say you backpedaled in your spiritual journey rather than advancing forward.

ADVERTISEMENTs