In Only Son
J. Smith IV
April 25, 2016 at 8:06 p.m.
Prince has died and with his recent passing, it seems that the entire planet has become cloaked in purple with deep grooves of memories of the man and his music: some near-hymns in their solemnity and faithfulness.
One has only to listen and watch any number of video clips in high demand on the net to sense something akin to the spiritual: "You say you want a leader but you can't seem to make up your mind. Maybe you'd better close it and let the Father of Jesus Christ guide you to the Purple Rain?"
My spidey senses are tingling.
Perhaps it is because one of Prince's live and best performances of Purple Rain is a curious one because the Jesus Christ of the Gospel is not the Jesus that Jehovah Witnesses report on. In fact, Jehovah Witnesses do not subscribe to the beliefs of the Holy Trinity anymore than they accept Jesus as the one and only son of God.
To be sure though, everything about Prince's performance can and do appeal to the senses because that’s what artists do! The appeal is first and foremost to our senses. It's quite an experience to have seen, heard, even gyrated to and/or watched a live performance by Prince, whether that performance be with the Revolution, The Family, The New Power Generation or entirely on his own. But, some of these experiences lead my mind to unhealthy places. Some experiences are either better left alone or guided by wisdom at the proper time, age and stage of one's development.
For example, when Jimi Hendrix posed the question in his classic Are You Experienced?, I knew from intuition, even as a teenager, that the experience Hendrix sang of in Are You Experienced? was not the kind that I should seek to emulate or follow in any form or fashion and yet, I became a Prince fan in 1982 when I discovered the Controversy album. When the motion picture movie Purple Rain was released in 1984, I was lower than hip deep into Prince's music, whether the myriad double entrendre were fully comprehended or not.
See?....this is part of the allure of art....you can be drawn all into it before you fully comprehend what it's about. In his early years, some of Prince's lyrics proved to be a series of sexual assaults upon this fifteen year old Christian boy's ears, though I did not have the wisdom to discern those lyrics as a hazard to my own spiritual growth. Music can be a powerful medium.
During my Pine Tree ISD High School years in East Texas as a minority Black kid in the 80s, there was no greater Prince fan than I. I was lost within His Royal Badness’ persona when being me was not enough. He was, after all, “a Star” and I was not. My imagination ran wild with striving for some identity through him, Prince. Jackets with stand-up collars and hair coiffed to a Luster curl made in his image, I did the best that I could. I even had a pair of gray, side zipper, ankle Florsheim Men’s Duke Boot shoes. I must have looked like a lanky, walking stick on stilts with a head full of Prince-like curl-esque hair: too funny!
Admittedly, I had a lot of time on my hands and not enough constructive expressions of my imagination and identity as a teenager. Identity? What “identity?” I was a kid while he was “the Kid” that I wanted to be…
….for all the wrong reasons.
For me, to adore him (Prince) was something far beyond a man-krush. Prince was my teen idol before I even knew that idolatry was a sin. Prince was my idol before I even knew that his lyrics were a spiritual hazard to my burgeoning identity as a Christian boy. During those formative years as a saved teenage Christian, I did not exercise discernment, by the aid of the Holy Spirit, to filter from my ears and mind the sensual lyrics and images that Prince’s music conjured.
For example, a sampling of an instrumental piece called “God” is heard in the motion picture film Purple Rain but as beautiful as that piece was and is to me, the piece is associated with a very sensual scene between the Kid and Apollonia. It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile the music or, for that matter, the lyrics to God with the Purple Rain “love” scene.
Given this dichotomy of thoughts and ideas through Prince’s music, sex and religion were often fused in ways that left me in a purple haze of my own lusty fantasies. My guitar idol became inexorably linked to all things sensual, if not overtly sexual.
Prince did not mince words with titles like Jack U Off, Little Annie Christian, Sexuality, Lady Cab Driver, Little Red Corvette and Darling Nikki nor did he seem to feel any contradiction in his creation of some of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard. God, Free, Condition of the Heart, Sign O’ the Times, The Ballard of Dorothy Parker, The Beautiful Ones, Boys and Girls, The Arms of Orion, Batdance, Computer Blue, Purple Rain and Seven are my favorites.
During his acceptance of the Lifetime Achievement-BET Awards, Prince said something that caught me totally off guard: something that I’ll always be thankful for him sharing with his fans and future inspired artists alike. “I was pretty wild in my younger days. You don’t have to do the things that I did…you don’t have to make the mistakes that I made….”
My take-away from those words spoken at the Lifetime Achievement Award at BET Awards was that Prince was never intended to be my idol.
He was a person and a highly intriguing artist in search of...