A few months ago, I interviewed several Rolling Stone writers for my academic research paper, An Analysis of Rolling Stone's Coverage of Prince. Although that project was not about Prince's spirituality, I did ask some of the journalists a few questions about the subject.
As I've said before, I am covering the media's reaction to Prince's spirituality in depth in the book (see "Prince and the Media," Part I and Part II). As I promised earlier, I am sharing some of what I learned from Rolling Stone writers Anthony DeCurtis, David Browne and Tom Moon:
On journalists' perception of Prince's spirituality in the 1980s and 1990s:
It seems that they really didn't know what to think, especially given Prince's mixed messages in his music and his reluctance to open up to the media.
"For me, it was always a little muddled," said David Browne, who reviewed Lovesexy for Rolling Stone. "It was like he was grappling with it, like how sexual or how spiritual to get, back and forth."
Although the overall message may have been confusing, journalists and fans alike seemed to enjoy Prince's combination of the sacred and profane in his music. Browne appreciated that mixture in Lovesexy, and DeCurtis said that that aspect of Prince's music makes him comparable to other artists in rock: "The other kind of connections between spirituality and sexuality that he was playing around with...in many ways has been true in rock and roll going back to Little Richard."
Do journalists think that Prince is genuine in his Jehovah's Witness faith?
"As far as his spiritual thinking, I think he very ardently believes whatever he very ardently believes that minute," DeCurtis said.
Because Browne and Moon have not followed Prince very closely in recent years, they couldn't really give an opinion, but Moon brought up a good point: "I think he’s one of those people that because he was such a risqué figure for so long, it was easy to sort of say, ‘Oh now he’s just doing this sort of transcendant-seeking, God-seeking sort of atone[ment].'" I really think that is a popular view, and one of my goals is to show that Prince's "God-seeking" is not new at all.
Moon also wanted to know if Prince has actually renounced his old vulgar content. In my opinion, at this point in my research, I wouldn't say he has renounced it, but that he is a different person, more mature and in a different mindset, spiritually. I don't think he is condemning who he was at all.
There will be a lot more from my discussions with those and other Rolling Stone journalists (Robert McNamara, Jim Henke, etc.) and the questions that were raised will be addressed further in the book.
Thanks for reading!