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The Religious Affiliation of Pop Singer
Prince was raised as a Seventh-day Adventist, but is now a convert to the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Various Jehovah's Witnesses have confirmed that Prince is an active adherent (Bible student, who attends JW meetings), although he is not a full-fledged "publisher."
People familiar with Prince's background are not so surprised that he would take an interest in a group that is intensely dedicated to the Bible. Prince was raised as a Seventh-day Adventist, and has always had a spiritual bent.
Prince has appeared on lists of "famous Vegans." It is clear, however, that to whatever extent Prince lives a vegan lifestyle, Veganism does not function as a religion for him. Veganism is merely a dietary lifestyle choice which is a component of his religious background as a Seventh-day Adventist. It is very common for Seventh-day Adventists to be vegetarians. Prince may, in fact, not actually be a vegan, but may simply be a vegetarian.
The following brief article, which was published by Associated Press (May 27, 2001) and carried in newspapers worldwide, was the first major source of this information:
NEW YORK: A G-rated Prince? It may be hard to believe, but the singer who once provoked shock waves with his X-rated lyrics has sworn off cursing and is preaching about the importance of virtue in the May edition of Gotham magazine.
From: Sean O'Hagan, "Royal Blush", published in The Observer, 4 April 2004 (http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/features/story/0,11710,1186112,00.html; viewed 15 November 2005):
Prince, who is now a Jehovah's Witness, said that "when you use those (curse) words, you call up all the anger, all the negatives times the word has been used before you bring it toward yourself. Why would you want that?"
Prince also told the magazine that teens need more God in their lives.
"When I look at the violence, I wonder where the parents are, but also where is God in their lives? A kid is an open computer ready for programming. Some weird relationships happen, smoking too early and sex."
Jehovah's Witnesses are an apocalyptic group that interprets the Bible differently than traditional Christian organizations.
Given all that has happened, then, it is perhaps unsurprising that, like many pioneering black artists before him, Prince has sought solace in the church. Though he was brought up as a practising Seventh Day Adventist he has recently, like Michael Jackson before him, become a Jehovah's Witness.
From: Aleksandrs Rozens (Reuters), "'The Artist' Is With Major Label But Dodges Clauses", published November 1999, posted on "Prince Lyrics" website (http://www.princelyrics.co.uk/viewarticle.asp?article=11; viewed 15 November 2005):
The story of his conversion broke in typically surreal fashion last October, when 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 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.
Although he has always spoken openly about his religious beliefs - 'The Cross' from Sign 'O' the Times was a veritable hymn - and his conversion had been signalled in retrospect by his recent album The Rainbow Children, which can now be read as a paean to his new-found faith, the media viewed his outing as further confirmation that Prince was now second only to Michael Jackson in the pop oddball stakes.
What this means in terms of his musical direction is probably of interest to none but the most diehard of Prince fans. The rest of us, many of whom anticipated Prince's Eighties releases with the kind of excitement that only attends the work of the truly gifted, now look forward to the release of yet another Prince album with a mixture of resignation and wishful thinking.
'You hope against hope for him to come back and cut it like he used to,' says DJ Norman Jay, a man who played at several Prince parties in the Eighties, 'but with every hyped record that turns out to be just another Prince album, that hope diminishes. He's the classic illustration of the old A&R adage that if you give an artist total creative control, you'll destroy them. He's been allowed to release far too much stuff, and he's probably surrounded himself with people who are all telling him everything he touches is great. That's a recipe for pure self-indulgence even - especially - where genius is concerned.'
Raised as a Seventh Day Adventist, The Artist continues to seek strength in religion.
From: Karl Coryat, "His Highness Gets Down!", published in Bass Player, November 1999, posted on "Prince Lyrics" website (http://www.princelyrics.co.uk/viewarticle.asp?article=35):
There are regular readings of the Bible with his bassist, Larry Graham Jr., formerly with Sly & The Family Stone. "We talk about how and why we were made," he said. "God told us he made us in his image to create. Everything I do is inspired by God."
He said the readings are "to see where the minefields are and how to avoid them," but he does not draw directly from the Bible when he pens lyrics. "I don't read the Bible and write a song."
Things went much smoother once I had been paisley-whipped into shape. Yet it seemed no matter what I asked, the conversation turned to either God, Larry Graham, or both - The Artist freely admitting he modeled his bass style after Graham's. Prince first briefly met the slap pioneer at a Warner Bros. company picnic in 1978, by which time Larry had moved on from Sly & the Family Stone and was a star in his own right fronting Graham Central Station. The two met again a few years later, this time at a Nashville jam. "Larry's wife came up to him and pulled an effects box and cord out of her purse," The Artist remembers warmly. "Now that's love." But Graham and the man he calls "Little Brother" didn't develop a real relationship until the '90s - "relationship" perhaps being an inadequate description. "Here's a guy who has a brother hug for you every day," says The Artist. "And once Larry taught me The Truth, everything changed. My agoraphobia went away. I used to have nightmares about going to the mall, with everyone looking at me strange. No more." The couple forged an ocean-deep spiritual connection - The Artist is a Seventh Day Adventist, Graham a Jehovah's Witness. "I mean, Larry still goes around knocking on doors telling people The Truth. You don't see me doing that!"
From: "Born Again", published in The Times Magazine (United Kingdom), 18 July 1998 (http://www.theprincepages.com/times98article.htm; viewed 15 November 2005):
...The Artist invited his "older brother" to Minneapolis, set him up with a house of his own, and welcomed him into the Paisley Park family, "signing" him to a handshake-based deal with NPG Records. Before long Graham was playing with The Artist's band New Power Generation and feasting Graham Central Station on Paisley's incredible rehearsal and studio facilities. And ever since, after years of always picking up the bass for at least a few numbers per set, The Artist has hardly touched the instrument onstage. "I can't even physically reach for it anymore," he laughs. Why? "I don't know. I hope it's out of respect for Larry, and not because I feel inadequate compared to him."
Prince is not like most British stars. He does have some humility -- but that humility is before God, not man. What a deeply religious people the Americans are, and none more so than black Americans. Prince is no exception. He was brought up in several denominations -- Seventh Day Adventist and Baptist among them. Now, he seems to be leaning -- as I discover later from Graham -- towards another, more fundamentalist sect. "You've gotta have belief," says Prince. "It's the only way to make it through this maze. And God is here, he's everywhere, he ain't dead, contrary to popular opinion. And he will come again and it will be the most beautiful, powerful, electric moment, the sky's gonna go all purple and red." He says that, "I've always imagined angels and demons fighting, like two people arguing. You've got to battle it out." He says that he gives a lot of his wealth away. He says that "30 million people in the world have Aids and 21 million of them are in Africa" -- which is precisely accurate. "That's an organised effort to diminish light. It's fertile soil, rich soil. These people are farmers. You see folks with flies on 'em, then who are you? You'd better help somebody."
Below are excerpts from an interview Prince did with "Addicted to Noice" (http://www.addict.com/issues/5.11/html/hifi/Cover_Story/Artist,_The/page_2.html). The article and Prince himself discuss the influence of fellow Jehovah's Witness Larry Graham Jr. on Prince's music:
...Now, he seems -- at 40, out of Warner's embrace, still on strained terms with his father, after such a dreadful personal loss -- to be a man looking for faith. Yet, he does not seem at ease finding that faith in racial consciousness or exclusivity. Instead, he is finding his faith in the verities of old-time religion. For instance he has given up swearing. Graham, whom I spoke to as promised, told me: "He's a spiritual man. Sometimes we study. For hours, six, seven, eight hours a day we sit down and get into the scriptures." I ask Graham where he goes to worship. 'We go to the Kingdom Hall in Navarre, last 15 minutes up the road, for our spiritual training. Five meetings a week." And does The Artist go too? "He goes with us sometimes." I ask Graham what people who go to the Kingdom Hall are called. He says: "In England, yeah, they would be called Jehovah's Witness." Sure enough, I later find copies of Watchtower and Awake in Studio B, right next to a symbol-shaped guitar. In one issue, God is referred to as The One. That is also the title of Prince's latest single. I ask Graham: how do people react to The Artist at the Kingdom Hall? "Totally different from if we went any place else without security. There's no security needed. The star of the show is God." So be warned. Next year is 1999: he may come knockin' on your door, but he won't have come to party.
Addicted To Noise: What about Ani DiFranco? I'm guessing that among the things you admire about her are her unwillingness to compromise and her ability to run her own label. Was it difficult for two people with such singular visions to accommodate each other?
The Artist: She has a vision by nature and she made it come to fruition. I wanted to meet her because she doesn't allow
nobody to mess with her vision. I didn't look at it as two people with strong visions colliding. She knows what she wants
and I don't think she thinks about it as someone trying to mess with that. She just views it as the absurdity of if
someone did [mess with her vision]. I think Chuck [D] puts it better. It's like giving up your business to someone. Like,
'Here, I gave you some paper that I know is valueless.' It's like you gave your art to someone and then they kept your
gold. It's your creation, your gold. I've been studying the Bible with Larry [Graham Jr., former Sly & the Family Stone
bassist] and it says that God created the world and he saw that it was good, he saw man and saw that he was good, but
then something happened there and man started creating things. What does that tell you?
The 41-year-old Artist appears to have been profoundly affected by his close working relationship with Graham. The bassist has been touring with The Artist for the past year and, in early 1999, The Artist released Graham's album Graham Central Station 2000 on his NPG label.
Graham is someone who "makes my light shine brighter," The Artist says. The pair share Bible study as well as an almost telepathic connection. "He's a brother, mentor, advisor. I get things from him. He teaches me a lot about people," The Artist says.
The Artist has had many musical foils over the years, from percussionist Sheila E. to multi-instrumentalists Wendy & Lisa, to singer Rosie Gaines and rapper Tony M. But Graham appears to occupy a different space than the others, who may have shared center stage but were clearly following The Artist's lead.
The Artist speaks of Graham as an equal, an inspiration from which he can learn. The Artist gives nearly all of his dozen band members a chance to shine during the Thursday afternoon jam session, but he looks to Graham to help hold down not just the beat, but the flow of the show.
In a revealing moment, The Artist draws a distinct line between what he thinks he can and can't learn from Graham.
Addicted To Noise: How much does ego play into all of this? Yours or theirs?
The Artist: It's our will or God's. God's way ain't gonna be easy. There's a hurricane the size of Texas out there. Can you imagine that coming over you? If you're on the side of the truth, that's scary, but you're not scared.
Webpage created 15 July 2005. Last modified 19 December 2005.
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