Prince was an artist who intrigued me and whose genius and influence I respected but who I never was fan of. The funk and dance that blended with rock to make that Minneapolis Sound just pushed Prince out of my more conventional preferences.
I guess there was the sex too. I was obviously very interested in his God references and the clear Christian messages that were threaded through his work but I remember watching a concert and just not being able to quite justify his presentation of sex. Call me a prude but it was just too weird a juxtaposition.
My favourite two songs were obviously the two most Christ centred. I came across 4 The Tears In Your Eyes on the We Are The World album which I bought for Springsteen’s rarity Trapped.
4 The Tears In Your Eyes was just so up front Christian, even though it spoke of Jesus turning rocks into bread which not only did he not do but when tempted by the devil refused to do. For me it was also opening up the social implications of the Gospel.
This was 1985. Bob Geldof had opened me up to how we might respond with poverty with Band Aid and Live Aid. U2 were helping blend Christian faith and world issues together and John Stott's Issues Facing Christians Today had just been published too. My mind and soul were expanding and this Prince song added to my Attention Collection to steal my friend David Dark’s phrase.
This was the kind of Jesus I liked:
Many people came from all around
To hear this man preach, glorious sound
He spoke of man in harmony and love abound
He died for the tears in your eyes, your eyes
Your eyes, your eyes
He died for the tears in your eyes
For the tears in your eyes and the tears of sorrow
Four cents may be all that they're worth
For the rising sun each day assures us
The meek shall inherit the earth, the earth
Prince went further into the Christ theology in 1987. Just three weeks after U2’s Joshua Tree, Sign Of The Times arrived as a double album Prince certified classic. And… right in the middle of this great work is The Cross.
The cross is of course at the centre of Christian thought, this place where in his death at the hands of the world’s injustice Jesus somehow brought justice, dealt evil a trump card, pitched power structure a curve and made everything different ever since. Prince sees it as a place of transformation.
Salvation, redemption, hope are all made tangible by a knowledge of this cross and all that it stands for. The Blind Boys Of Alabama made it even more Gospel in their version.
“We all have our problems
Some BIG, some are small
Soon all of our problems
Will be taken by the cross
Black day, stormy night
No love, no hope in sight
Don't cry 4 he is coming
Don't die without knowing the cross.”