Prince Dead at 57: A Look at His Faith


Singer, producer, artist, songwriter and label owner Prince died on April 21, 2016, at the age of 57. He was found unresponsive in an elevator that morning at his Paisley Park complex. An emergency call was placed at 9:32 a.m; he did not respond to CPR, and was pronounced dead at 10:07 a.m.

Prior to his death, Prince postponed two performances from his Piano & A Microphone Tour on April 7, 2016, at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia, stating that he was "battling the flu." On April 15, the artist's private jet made an emergency landing at Quad City International Airport in Moline, Illinois, so that he could seek medical treatment. Representatives stated that he suffered from "bad dehydration" and had been fighting influenza for several weeks. He performed a rescheduled Atlanta concert the day before, even though he had still not been feeling well.

Prince was seen in public the following evening, when he shopped at the Electric Fetus in Minneapolis on Record Store Day, and made a brief appearance at a dance party at his Paisley Park recording studio complex in Chanhassen, Minnesota, stating that he was feeling okay. 

Known for hit songs such as "Purple Rain," "Kiss," "U Got the Look" and many others, Prince has sold over 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling artists of all time. He won seven Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe Award, and an Academy Award. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, the first year of his eligibility.  In addition to his own work, he has written or/and performed with artists such as Madonna, Chaka Khan, Sheila E, Vanity 6, Mavis Staples, Sheena Easton and many others. 

As far as faith goes, Prince was a Jehovah's Witness. "I'm a Jehovah's Witness. I'm trying to learn the Bible. It's a history book, a science book, a guidebook. It's all the same."

Prince's understanding of religion requires him to avoid political stands, including those that concern morality. "I have friends that are gay, and we study the Bible together," he said. He did not vote for Proposition 8, the referendum to make gay marriage illegal. "I don't vote," he said. "I didn't vote for Barack [Obama], either; I've never voted. Jehovah's Witnesses haven't voted for their whole inception."

Prince, who became a Jehovah's Witness in 2001 under the guidance of veteran bassist and songwriter Larry Graham. He views everything through the lens of his religion. No topic -- sexuality, civil rights, his disdain for corporate pop -- comes up in which it doesn't play a role. Recounting a recent meeting with Earth, Wind and Fire singer Philip Bailey, for example, he commented that that group's penchant for Afrocentric garb revealed a lost history similar to the one uncovered in the Jehovah's Witnesses' version of the Bible.

Prince's statements can sound extreme to a secular listener. Some have accused him of trying to conceal his views to avoid alienating nonbelieving (and, particularly, gay) fans. But his desire to be tolerant seems sincere. His favorite television show, for example, is "Real Time With Bill Maher." Asked if the comedian's confrontational atheism bothers him, he harrumphed. "That's cool," said Prince. "He can be what he wants. I like arguments. Somebody saying I'm a terrible guitar player feeds me."

Last year, Prince surprised fans when Prince and 3rdEyeGirl released an electric guitar-heavy cover of Christian singer-songwriter Nichole Nordeman's "What If," a song that embraces the closely-knit relationship between doubt and faith. 


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