Prince of Drugs; Jane Kelly

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screenshot_1218You are never too old to learn something new. Until recent days I thought The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, who latterly became just ‘Prince’ again and at one time had no name but was  represented by a symbol, was just what was once simply called a ‘pop star.’

Since he died last week I have discovered, from constant news reports and interviews on Radio 4, that he was some kind of global phenomenon; a greater song writer than Irving Berlin, better crooner than Sinatra, more influential than the Beatles.

I had no idea, in fact for some reason I missed out on him altogether. Today I further discovered from the Radio 4 BBC Sunday programme, as they ‘reflected on the faith of the music superstar’ that he was in fact a theologian of some note, his influence perhaps rivalling Bonhoeffer.[pullquote]‘Religion played a large role in his work,’ she said, a shock to those of us who thought he was a mincer who took a lot of drugs. The fact that he died on the way to the pharmacy doesn’t say anything about his role as a moral force in our lives.[/pullquote]Former journalist Sarah Niblock, now ‘professor’ and Associate Dean, Media, Arts and Design of the University of Westminster, formerly known as theRoyal Polytechnic Institution, calls herself a ‘Princecologist.’ She described his importance to the global Escatological community.

‘Religion played a large role in his work,’ she said, a shock to those of us who thought he was a mincer who took a lot of drugs. The fact that he died on the way to the pharmacy doesn’t say anything about his role as a moral force in our lives.

‘He tried to overtly explore the connection between religion and earthly pleasures,’ says Prof. Niblock, so that explains the drugs perhaps, ‘exploring a plethora of faith based philosophies throughout his career.’ She told us he really went at this, embracing Christianity, Buddhism and ‘New Age humanism.’

Like many disciples she is sometimes bewildered by the behaviour of the Master, complaining that he, ‘has not delivered a wholly consistent message about his faith. He contradicted his message by blurring the boundaries between good and bad.’

A bit of a problem for a faith leader in normal circumstances, but she explained he was above the usual considerations. ‘Regardless of which ever faith he had,’ she explained, ‘Artistically he was one step removed from any one doctrine. His ministry espoused a much more philosophical approach to shared human consciousness, as with ethnicity, sexuality and gender, he never operated within a set of rules even when they were divinely inspired.’

I rather lost the thread of her message as she went along, but I think, or I should say suspect, that a lot of the ‘influence’ of Prince which she and the BBC so relish, and his freedom from the usual considerations as a religious leader, have something to do with his ethnicity. He was also what we used to call a ‘gender bender’ and that seems to add to his transcendence too. He is also of course dead.

The BBC loves to compose obituaries for dead black musicians, even if little has been heard from them since a drug bust in 1940. In Prince they found a perfect icon; still youngish, beautiful and selling popular records with mass appeal to black and white audiences, the audience they crave. And he is very dead. A mysterious death gives a much better opportunity to spin the story out for longer.

I wonder whether I can interest the BBC or the Professor in the impact and theological influence of Billy Fury? He certainly had a big impact on me and many other girls of my generation. Perhaps not, after all he was a Liverpool docker, white, never mentioned religion, took drugs or displayed discontent with his heterosexual gender. Forget it. He will remain forever just a pop star.©

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9 Comments on Prince of Drugs; Jane Kelly

  1. I disagree. Prince was far more talented than many of his contemporaries, including the supremely overrated Madonna. And the BBC have done plenty of obituaries for white musicians.

  2. I agree that the various commentariat quotes on his death are overblown and ridiculous…but, if I may say so…

    I think this article is premature, given that we don’t have the results of the autopsy…

    …also, I think Prince was, genuinely, a once in a generation, musical talent. His was the only live show I saw where I was astounded at the artistry and musicianship on display.

    Someone once said: “Prince can do Michael Jackson…Michael Jackson can not do Prince.”

  3. I found him boring and weird, but then again he was only a part of life’s unimportant fluff. So I really don’t care one way or another.

  4. Jane, Great article but I must correct you on one point! I am a great fan of Billy Fury and of other early British rock stars. Billy did take drugs; he was a cannabis smoker. This is documented in many books, articles and also in films about him.

  5. Respectfully disagree Jane.
    Of course the BBC will go overboard and drive even his most admiring supporters to hating him.
    The liberal Oxbridge wannabes who infest the BBCs cultural departments( and this very much includes the disposable religious affairs mash up) will always be behind the curve , either eulogising and ululating with small jars of tears…or spitting venom and bile at the widow and the family that follow the coffin.
    One or the other-the BBC are bipolar suckups.
    But Prince WAS a phenomenon-and those of us who grew up in the pop culture that bypassed Mrs Thatchers attention, will now know the nature of the politics, prophecy and “Signs O The Times” that Prince described.
    Basically as good as Stevie, Joni..as good a dancer as Jackson or Brown(James)…and as talented as a Little Richard or a Hendrix.
    Now to pop culture that is one composite package that puts him right up there with the greats…he does draw comparisons with the very greatest because they too were virtuosos, geniuses and ahead of the pack and their contemporaries.
    Of course he`ll not be played in hundreds of years time like Mozart or Beethoven-but he`s every bit as technically accomplished as a solo act as they`d have been in their lifetimes..I`m sure of that.
    We here on the right have missed the power and the danger of “popular culture”-the likes of Solzhenitsyn, Luther King and Sharansky were able to invoke the thanatos culture to lacerate the false gods…and Prince was (in a song like “The Cross”) able to transcend the culture and bring a spirituality to his work that few other could.
    He really was THAT good and THAT important to todays world-but the Princology types get a spot on the BBC to sneer and take away any authenticity for their own wicca basket of multiculti-gender setting evils.
    Don`t let them do it-listen to some of his best songs, watch him perform and then you`ll see why and how musical prophetic evangelism can get to todays snowflakes unlike schools or churches…death seems to be the final curtian for them where they might even THINK of a God and a judgement-sure as hell the CofE/Catholics don`t do it anymore.

    • Sorry Chris, but knowingly or not you’re senses have obviously been dimmed by an overdose of cultural studies. I very much doubt that the artist formerly known as the Symbol saw his “activities” – musical or otherwise – as a form of progressive political resistance enjoying relative autonomy from the economic base. Participant in the culture wars or perhaps just a highly theatrical, if talented, ponce?

  6. Noticing overblown images of the recently dead is always a thankless task. Prince’s mortal remains hadn’t been removed from his terminal elevator before waiters, total strangers and friends all asked for my reaction. What to say when nothing comes to mind? “I couldn’t care less” is too callous. And yet I refuse to be impelled into the tide of concern, much of it morbid or superficial, that is thrust on me.