Prince as a Jehovah's Witness rock star

Time and Newsweek devote stories this week to Prince, and both note in passing that his faith as a Jehovah's Witness has dialed back his earlier obsessions with sex. Josh Tyrangel reviews Prince's latest album, Musicology, in Time: "As a Jehovah's Witness, Prince has said he will try to abstain from getting too dirty, and give the man credit: he manages to hold out for an entire song."

Talking with Lorraine Ali in Newsweek, Prince interprets his tense relations with the record industry by talking about the Garden of Eden:

Does he think he's sacrificed anything by stepping out of the spotlight for more than a decade? "That notion of me losing something is a fallacy," he says, and unleashes a scriptural analogy. "There's Adam and Eve -- artists -- in the garden, chilling. God tells them they're supposed to have sex, and they do. Here comes a snake -- the record-industry guy -- and tells them the grass is greener on the other side. And when they fell for that, boy, did they fall. No, I didn't lose a thing."

No publication has gone into any depth about what prompted Prince to become a Jehovah's Witness. A St. Paul Pioneer Press article on Prince's induction to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame reinforces earlier reports that his conversion resulted from a long-standing friendship with Larry Graham. (Graham is the former bassist for Sly and the Family Stone and founder of his own band, Graham Central Station.)

He gave praise and thanks to Jehovah and thanked Larry Graham among his "spiritual mentors" and Warner Brothers Records for giving him his "freedom."

"A word to the wise -- without spiritual mentoring, freedom can lead to the soul's decay," Prince said from the podium.

"And a word to the young, real friends and mentors are not on your payroll. A real friend and mentor cares for your soul as much as his own."

He closed his brief acceptance speech by saying "I wish you the best on this fascinating journey, and it ain't over. Peace." He then blew two-handed kisses to the audience, touched his heart and pointed to the crowd.

Prince, like Little Richard, was born a Seventh-day Adventist, and his music always has reflected a struggle between the sacred and the profane. In becoming a Jehovah's Witness, Prince has committed himself to a demanding and countercultural faith. Witnesses place a strong emphasis on racial equality; decline to celebrate Christmas and Easter, which they consider pagan holidays (they reject the doctrine of the Trinity for similar reasons); reject military service as a sin of nationalism; and are forbidden to receive blood transfusions (because of biblical prohibitions about eating animals' blood).

City Pages, an alternative weekly in Minneapolis, published a lengthy profile of Prince (without his cooperation) in 2001 that included this humorous prediction:

Alan Leeds, who worked as Prince's tour manager for seven years and ran the now-defunct Paisley Park Records from 1989 to 1992, still remembers a late-night chat he had with his wife several years ago. "I remember saying, 'You know where this is going to end up? This is going to end up with Prince playing on Sundays in a purple church in Chanhassen [the location of Paisley Park],'" Leeds recounts. "People will be dressed in ruffled shirts, looking like it's the Eighties, watching him preach and play 'Purple Rain.'"

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