There’s been a plethora of Prince tributes that have floated around the Internet, with the most beautiful one coming from Erykah Badu. In her tribute, she recalled her many interactions with The Purple One. One of those was when her mother asked Prince to sign a copy of his Dirty Mind album. He protested. “He wasn’t into that no mo.” This is the side of Prince that has been ignored since his passing. I could write a lot about his musicianship. He has over 500 songs to pull from. I can write a lot about his hidden sense of humor. He spent over 15 minutes ribbing Morris Day (on drums) and calling his Ex “Cloreen Bacon Skin.” Or I could go for the obvious and write about his gender-bending style. But there’s one aspect of Prince that intrigues me the most that is often overlooked. It is this duality he had when it came to spirituality and sexuality.
When referring to Prince’s sexuality, the conversation always centers around whether he’s straight or gay (as he’s played with this notion on “Controversy,” “Uptown” and “Life ‘O’ the Party”). When referring to his spirituality, the conversation often centers around how God-less he appeared to be. However, any assessment of Prince in this manner is completely shallow.
I grew up in a very, very strict Christian home where secular music wasn’t allowed. Not even inspirational music. Watching the Powerpuff Girls sing “Love Makes the World Go ‘Round” would lead to a sharp rebuke. If it didn’t explicitly say Jesus, it was a no go. So, you know Prince wasn’t going to fly in our household. I remember watching this documentary of sorts on VH1 where Prince’s spirituality was the subject. My mother walked in and saw Prince breaking into a split, and she shook the HI-ZELL out of me. Any conversation about sex would end up in the same manner—with a good shaking. This is why as an adult, I have an affinity for Prince’s music. He defines sex from both a physical and metaphysical prospective that I have never heard before. In one of my favorite songs of his, “Soul Sanctuary,” he sings:
All of me, I give to thee, down at your feet
The reassurance in your rhythm speaks to me
Over and over, your screams are like a prayer
In the dark, you are there, you are there
My soul sanctuary, ooh, my soul sanctuary
It’s this sort of spiritual reverence that sparks my interest. The comparison of his wife’s physicality as his soul sanctuary. This type of love is beyond the clichés of “deeper than skin” or “sapiosexuality.” But rather, it’s an acknowledgement of both his physical and spiritual attraction. I have never heard sex expressed in both a physical and spiritual form. It has always been either or. Not even the Song of Solomon has been expressed and interpreted in such an apparent manner.
This isn’t the only song in which Prince has devoutly expressed his sexuality. Of course there’s “Darling Nikki,” which led to the creation of the Parental Advisory sticker. Yet, towards the end of the song, he sings, “I know the Lord is coming soon” in reverse. (A demonstration of Prince’s prolific trolling capabilities.) Then there’s “Purple Rain,” where he confesses his sins of being a “weekend lover” looking for redemption before the rapture occurs. All of these Christian themes within his music can be easily deemed sacrilegious. However, there has always been a musical struggle between the sacred and profane. You can hear it in the blues, rooted in Negro spirituals. You can hear it in Marvin Gaye’s In Our Lifetime as he sings about the struggle between good and evil. Yet, Prince is one of those rare artists that didn’t see a major distinction between the carnal and the divine. He mastered both as he once sang, “love is God, God is love, girls and boys love God above.” I have never heard love embodied in such intangible way.
Rest in eternity to the man that has broken the code.