Though he says he doesn’t vote and refused to sing on “We Are the World,” Prince will stage a “Rally 4 Peace” in Baltimore on Sunday to honor Freddie Gray.
“In a spirit of healing, the event is meant to be a catalyst for pause and reflection following the outpouring of violence that has gripped Baltimore and areas throughout the US,” according to a statement released by LiveNation. “As a symbolic message of our shared humanity and love for one another, attendees are invited to wear something gray in tribute to all those recently lost in the violence.”
— Jim Roberts (@nycjim) May 6, 2015
“The song was written following the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray and is a tribute to all of the people of Baltimore,” the news release read. “Although the song hasn’t yet debuted, the lyrics were recently made public and as a message of reconciliation, Prince states ‘Peace is more than the absence of war.’ ”
This is not the first time Prince has spoken out about police and African Americans. “Like books and black lives, albums still matter,” he said at the Grammys this year.
Prince the political activist is a new development in a career that’s spanned decades. Unlike peers such as Bruce Springsteen — whom Prince admires — he isn’t typically found stumping for candidates or causes. Even “We Are the World,” the 1985 hit single written to benefit Africa, went without his talents because he did not want to record with other artists. (He did donate an unreleased track to the “We Are the World” record, but hey — they say he has a vault that holds thousands of such songs.)
As with all things Prince, the 56-year-old artist’s political affiliations are not quite clear. Though it’s been reported he is a Republican and he made headlines by donating to a Republican candidate in his native state of Minnesota in 1990, a public records search under Prince’s given name, Prince Rogers Nelson, indicated he has not registered to vote. (Yes, Prince is in Nexis.) In fact, he told Tavis Smiley in 2009 that he doesn’t much care for politics.
“We’ve got a black president now,” Smiley said.
“Well, I don’t vote,” Prince said. “I’ve don’t have nothing to do with it. I’ve got no dog in that race.”
Smiley: “And for those who would cuss me out … if I didn’t ask you why?”
“The reason why is that I’m one of the Jehovah’s Witnesses,” Prince said. “And we’ve never voted. That’s not to say I don’t think … President Obama is a very smart individual and he seems like he means well. Prophecy is what we all have to go by now.”
Indeed, though Prince is famous for writhing around naked in purple bathrooms and writing songs with titles like “Sexy M.F.,” religion — okay, “prophecy” — has guided much of his music. For every filthy song like “Darling Nikki,” it seems, there is a track like “The Cross.” The Purple One’s religiosity became even more apparent after he turned to Jesus in 2001.
“I don’t see it really as a conversion,” he said. “More, you know, it’s a realization. It’s like Morpheus and Neo in ‘The Matrix.’ ”
Then there was the time Prince came out against gay marriage. In a New Yorker profile in 2008, he slighted Republicans and Democrats — “neither of them is getting it right,” he said — but singled out same-sex marriage as part of the Democrats’ notion that “‘You can do whatever you want.”
“God came to earth and saw people sticking it wherever and doing it with whatever, and he just cleared it all out,” he told the magazine. “He was, like, ‘Enough.’ ”
If the idea seems bonkers that the man who shrieked with unbridled sexual energy in the outro of “When Doves Cry” is actually a prude, well, maybe it’s not.
“Prince intended sexuality to be linked to the worship of God, and he filled his music with classic Christian messages,” the author Touré wrote in 2013 in “I Would Die 4 U: Why Prince Became an Icon,” “meaning Prince was sexual but, ultimately, very conservative.”
Perhaps Prince’s concert for Gray is part of this complicated moral calculus.
“There’s supposed to be a separation of church and state over here,” Prince told Smiley. “We can’t have a separation of state and morality though.”
The Purple One was not immediately available for comment.
Prince will be joined in Baltimore by his band 3rdEyeGirl. Tickets go on sale Wednesday at 5 p.m. – a “portion of the proceeds will be directed to the benefit of local Baltimore based youth charities,” according to the news release.
In the meantime, here are the lyrics to “Baltimore” as revealed to Fox 9:
NOBODY GOT IN NOBODY’S WAY
SO EYE GUESS U COULD SAY
IT WAS A GOOD DAY
AT LEAST A LITTLE BETTER THAN THE DAY IN BALTIMORE
DOES ANYBODY HEAR US PRAY?
4 MICHAEL BROWN OR FREDDIE GRAY PEACE IS MORE THAN THE ABSENCE OF WAR
ABSENCE OF WAR
R WE GONNA C ANOTHER BLOODY DAY?
WE’RE TIRED OF CRYIN’ & PEOPLE DYIN’
LET’S TAKE ALL THE GUNS AWAY
ABSENCE OF WAR- U AND ME
MAYBE WE CAN FINALLY SAY
ENUFF IS ENUFF IT’S TIME 4 LOVE
IT’S TIME 2 HEAR,
IT’S TIME 2 HEAR
THE GUITAR PLAY! (guitar solo)
Read more from Morning Mix: