Okay, first to the inane news. It’s been reported all over that Prince is now a Jehovah’s Witness. I went around refuting it everywhere, based on comments Prince made on his blog a year ago. His site doesn’t have archives, but a fan had dug up his older comments, and here’s what he said:
April 14, 1998
Spirituality needs no name
Much speculation has been raised over O(+>’s religious leaning… the
truth of the matter is that he has never professed 2 being a member of
any religion… spirituality needs no name, no commandments xcept –
love4oneanother -(one and other)…nuffsaid!
If you translate the Prince-speak, (which, yes, has gotten worse over the years…) he was pretty clearly not aligning himself with the Witnesses. I figured that they had taken his close friendship with Larry Graham over the past few years and extrapolated from his decision to stop swearing, and just made the rest up. The ubiquity of the article, despite the fact that Prince stopped swearing almost 4 years ago, made me think that the whole thing was some sort of wacky self-promotion for Gotham magazine, with whom he had the interview. (No link, Gotham doesn’t have a website.)
Unfortunately, Prince updated that blog again, and now he says:
Altho PRINCE is studying The Holy Scriptures with brothers from The Jehovah’s Witnesses, he is not a baptized publisher, yet. Stay 2ned.
Sigh. Now this disturbs me. Obviously, the man’s music has fallen off over the past few years, but I’d rather that be the result of his own bizarre personality than as the result of some erstwhile cult. It offends me that Larry Graham became a part of Prince’s life shortly after the death of his child and the dissolution of his marriage. These are classic points of vulnerability for any person to become susceptible to spiritual hucksterism.
I’ve been a fan since pretty much as long as I’ve been listening to music, but now I fear that the emotional foibles of The Artist Formerly Known as The Artist are going to drive away the last true fans he has, and shift his mad genius reputation from focus on the "genius" to focus on the "mad". After seeing Sly Stone burn out, Marvin Gaye get murdered, James Brown become a near-parody of his former self, Stevie Wonder’s music descend into sugar-coated pap, and, well, Michael Jackson, I was never sure how Prince would progress through middle age.
Prince’s embrace, over the past several years, of Internet technologies and artist’s rights, along with collaborations with artists like Ani Difranco and Chuck D. made me hopeful and excited to see where he’d go now that his knack for innovation had clearly shifted from the musical realm. I was very curious to see where he’d go next.
Now I’m afraid I don’t want to find out.