I think most casual fans are aware that Prince referenced religion in his music. Those who were really into the Purple Rain era would know about the song "God," which is a recounting of the first chapter of Genesis in the Bible. If they stuck around for Lovesexy, they would have heard Prince proclaim Jesus as his God on "Anna Stesia."
Those who paid some attention in the '90s might have heard Prince reference the Biblical creation story again on "My Name is Prince," or praise Jesus once more on "Holy River."
But there are so many other Biblical references, both coded ("De-elevator," "Spooky Electric" even "love") and conspicuous. And Jesus isn't the only person getting shine. Prince also alludes to the prophet Moses quite a bit. With that said, I give you some of those occasions.
|Charlton Heston in the The Ten Commandments. Photo: "Moses" by Superfloop, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0|
"Thieves in the Temple" - Extended version (1990)
To make a point about an ex-lover, Prince sings, "You led me on, thinking you was Moses, herding sheep blindly through a fantasy.”
Did Prince use these analogies because they were easily accessible, given his religious upbringing--or just given his life in a Christian-leaning Western country? Plenty of American writers employ Christian imagery regardless of their personal faith.
Something else to chew on: Is "Thieves in the Temple" even about a lover? Could his plea, "Love, come quick," be directed to God? These are ideas I discuss in my book.
Side note: Prince is dancing his behind off in this video.
"Chelsea Rodgers" (2007)
The Planet Earth track is about a model whose soul and personality are as beautiful as her appearance. It is said to be inspired by a real-life woman, but I wonder if all the attributes in the song were real or projected on this goddess by Prince for purposes of the song. Whatever the case, Prince paints her as a spiritual guide, teaching him information about ancient civilization.
"Moses was a pharaoh in the 18th Dynasty," he sings.
So this is a bit of a trick. I originally thought research would lead me to Moses, but it appears Prince is referencing the Egyptian name Thutmose. Several pharaohs took the name during the 18th Dynasty, which lasted in Egypt from 1549/1550 to 1292 BC. Because the name is sometimes stylized as Thutmoses, Prince may have shortened the name.
Interestingly enough, some theorize that the Biblical Moses did cross paths with Thutmose III. They believe the Exodus--Moses and the Israelites' exit from Egypt--occurred in 1446 BC, which was during Thutmose III's reign.
Coincidentally, Akhenaten was also a pharaoh during the 18th Dynasty. According to Prince's ex-wife Mayte Garcia's book, he once believed he had a special, spiritual connection to the pharaoh.
Additionally, some scholars suggest Egyptian pharaoh Amenmesse (or Amenmose) is the "real," historical Moses, but he ruled during the 19th Dynasty. So who knows what Prince believed about that theory.
"Feel Better, Feel Good, Feel Wonderful" (2008)
This Lotusflow3r track allegedly addresses Prince's long-term battle with the music industry. With the bitter dispute with Warner Bros. over a decade behind him, he has a more amiable attitude toward record labels in the song. However, he can't resist reminding them of his musical prowess.
"I've got a guitar that can part the sea," he sings. He is comparing his instrument to the staff Moses used to part the Red Sea (with assistance from God) and lead the Israelites to safety.
As if that weren't boastful enough, Prince doubles down on the staff metaphor with the following lyric. "Don't mean no disrespect I ain't trying to brag/But that might be the same one that tapped on the crag/And brought forth water that quenched your thirst."
According to Numbers 20:7-11 in the Bible, Moses used his staff to bring water from rock so the Israelites could drink during their journey in the wilderness. In Prince's mind, the music brought forth from his guitar is comparable to that water.
Can we really argue? Exactly fifteen years ago today, he did this:
Am I missing any other Moses references?
Check out my discussion of "Feel Better, Feel Good, Feel Wonderful" on the Prince: Track by Track podcast here.
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