Biblical Allusion and Prince
As I write, it is Sunday morning June 7 and singer/songwriter/musician/producer Prince’s 62nd Birthday. I believe this is a prefect storm of events that I must write about.
Come on now, look at the serendipity of it all:
- – 7 is thought of as God’s favorite number.
- -It took 7 days for God to complete the creation of the world.
- -Christians observe Sunday as the Holy Sabbath (7) Day. Exodus 20:8-11
- -Prince was born on the 7th day of June.
- -7 was Prince’s favorite number and he used it a lot in his lyrics i.e I Love U in Me, 7, Reflections.
- -The Sabbath Day is the day of worship, and Prince frequently used his music to worship God with song.
- – Prince is our unexpected pastor. Don’t believe me? Check out this article, Prince, Our Unexpected Pastor.
With these thoughts racing through my mind, I felt compelled to write about Prince’s love for the Bible and his use of scripture in his musical works.
Biblical Allusion and Prince
As a person with a degree in English literature and an extreme love for God’s written word, Prince’s fascination with the Bible excites me. The Bible isn’t just an important book to Christian rhetoric, it is one of THEE most referenced books in classic literature.
The reference to the biblical text in literature is a literary device called Biblical allusion. Biblical allusion is a device utilized by many of the literary greats such all Walt Whitman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Langston Hughes, Kahlil Gibran, Robert Frost, Rumi, and even Chance the Rapper!
From what we know of Prince’s life, he was an avid reader of the Bible. Possibly Prince’s love for God started as a young boy who suffered from epileptic seizures. Prince told correspondent Tavis Smiley in an interview that as a child he suffered from seizures. Young Prince suddenly stopped seizing after he told his mother that an angel revealed to him that he would no longer be epileptic.
Prince credits famed guitarist, singer, and bandmate, Larry Graham, for teaching him scripture. Prince reported in an interview with Maria Bartiromo:
I started studying the Bible once I changed my name back and started studying with my good friend Larry Graham. He helped me to just look at the Bible in a very practical way, to cut through all the dogma. I just wanted a clean, simple approach to it.
After Prince’s death, police took pictures inside of the singer’s sprawling Paisley Park estate and found among his personal items a Bible and a dictionary.
I share this picture with no disrespect to the beloved singer, rather evidence. It makes perfect sense for the authorities to recover a Bible and dictionary from Prince’s home. The man had an extensive vocabulary, and a love for scripture which makes his writing style so noteworthy.
A Closer Look into Prince’s Biblical Allusions
Let’s dig a little further into the catalogue of the mastermind and look at Prince’s use of Biblical allusions in some of his most outstanding songs. In the light of today’s special number 7, I will only highlight my favorite 7 examples of Prince’s use of Biblical allusion in no particular order.
- Song: God (Love Theme from Purple Rain)– This song highlights God’s creation of the Earth.
Noteworthy Lyric: “The Lord, thy God made. He made the seas. He made the fruit upon the trees. When He saw, when he saw that it was good, He made a man. He made a man, only he could, only He could.
Lyrics Taken From What Scripture? Genesis 1 in it’s entirety.
- Song: 4 the Tears in Your Eyes– This song is about Jesus’s various miracles and His death on the cross. Also, what’s so beautiful about this song is it borrows from Jesus’s famous list of blessings called the Beatitudes. The Beatitude Prince croons is “The meek shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5)
Noteworthy Lyric: “The meek shall inherit the earth.”
Lyrics Taken From What Scripture? The entire Gospel of Matthew
- Song: 1999– 1999 alludes to the Biblical idea of the end of the world featured in the Book of Revelations. Prince is basically telling the world to party like the world is ending soon. Prince also sings of having a lion in his pocket. This lyric could allude to the fact that Jesus is called the Lion of Judah and he is coming back for his people.
Prince also sings that he was dreaming when he wrote this. The apostle John, who wrote the Book of Revelations, was also dreaming or having a vision when God revealed the prophecy to him and he wrote it.
Noteworthy Lyric: “I was dreaming when I wrote this, forgive me if it goes astray. But when I woke up this morning, could have sworn it was Judgement day.”
Lyrics Taken From What Scripture? The Book of Revelation
- Song: Wedding Feast– This song from Prince’s most eccentrics album, Rainbow Children, is so is funny! A song so humorous that even Prince chuckles at the end of the recording. The piece is under a minute long, but it alludes to a major event.
In the Book of Revelations, after the destruction of the former world, a new world is awaiting believers. Also waiting, is a wedding feast with Jesus as the bridegroom. This song is a short peek inside the Royal Wedding (to read more about this future feast, read this article).
Noteworthy Lyric: “Brother dear brother, I came as quickly as I could. The digital haze is broken, the banished ones are gone for good, gone for good.”
Lyrics Taken From What Scripture? Revelations 21 and 22.
- Song: And God Created Woman– This hit from the Love Symbol album is a sultry romantic number that directly alludes to God’s creation of the fairer sex.
This song elaborates how God put Adam into a deep sleep and from his ribs emerged Eve/ woman. The song even alludes to the serpent’s temptation of man.
Noteworthy Woman: “In a deep sleep I fell, and the music started to swell. One of my ribs He took and it shall, be bone of my bones
Lyrics Taken from What Scripture? Genesis 2:21- 25, 3:1-5
- Song: Muse 2 the Pharaoh: Another rendering from the Rainbow Children album, this song is so smooth. Muse 2 Pharaoh quotes LOTS of scripture. I think I may give Muse it’s own blogpost one day. For now, the principle subject of this song is how Prince desires a woman like the Queen of Sheba among many other female bible characters.
Sheba came to King Solomon, the wisest man in history, and asked him difficult questions. After the questions were answered to her satisfaction, the queen praised Solomon’s wisdom and gifted him with valuable spices and gold – among other amazingly useful and expensive gifts.
Noteworthy Lyric: “If like Sheba, she then could bring presents and wine. The Helix he might get between them. In other words, intertwine with the ebony and milk of her thighs.”
Lyrics Taken from What Scripture? 1 Kings 10. Many, many more scriptures are mentioned that we will dissect on a later date.
- Song: WHAT IT FEELS LIKE– This song from ART OFICIAL AGE– one of Prince’s last studio recordings- alludes to David and Saul. Saul was the first human king for the people of God. Saul was very loved until he lost his mind and shortly after favor with God.
After Saul’s fall, David rose up as king. God and his subjects dearly loved David. In Prince’s song, he admits that his lover shifted from treating him like Darling David to Scandalous Saul (Prince fans, see what I did there *wink*).
Noteworthy Lyric: “Been a couple hundred hours since he got your call. You use to treat me like David, but now I feel like Saul.”
Lyrics taken From What Scripture? 1 Samuel in it’s entirety.
- Bonus Song: Pink Cashmere– Click here to read the entire explanation.
Prince loved and admired God’s written Word and at the end of the day that’s all that is important. God’s word is a refreshment, a shield, a muse, a love letter, a birthright, an instructor, a comforter, and poetry.
I love that Prince included God in his work and I’m sure the Purple One’s fascination with the scripture will call people to Christ for decades to come.