Monday, November 17, 2008

Soup With Prince


     In my essay, "James Brown: Portal of Possibility," which was published in Flaunt magazine earlier this year and which I excerpted here in mid-October (click here for the excerpt), I mused late in the essay on three of Brown's artistic children: Prince, Michael Jackson and MeShell NdegeOcello. The excerpt I posted didn't include what I'd written about those "children." Here's what I said about Prince:

Prince. A man who in his early years worked enduring, ever-magnetic-in-the-American-imagination tropes of the tragic mulatto (so much for proud blackness), all while rocking Speedos, stilettos and trench coats. The bastard spawn of Little Richard and James Brown, already an artistically incestuous coupling, Prince is so clearly a child of Brown that it forced me to go back and check how much queerness was already packed into the iconography of Brown himself. The same way that Brown blasted open options of expression and black male sexuality for an earlier generation, Prince became for me a god. His androgyny, his promiscuity with genre, the undeniable strength and confidence that played out beneath his choreographed quirks, his feigned shyness and feyness – he was a New Black Man much the way Brown had been for a previous generation. But he was flipping much of the Brown template on its processed head even as he celebrated, riffed on and in many ways reinforced it. And the ambivalence with which so many black folk once and still regard(ed) him and his manifestation of black male sexuality resonated deeply with me. His multi-racial, multi-gendered band (as much Sly as James), the way he worked with female artists in his camp, his own use of conked hair…

     In the current issue of the New Yorker, there's a new interview with the Purple One. For many of us who embraced him early in his career and our lives, it is confirmation of what we already knew to be true the moment we heard that he'd become a Jehovah's Witness. The Prince of stilettos and bikini briefs, who sang of a utopia in which sexual freedom and fluidity were on par with racial equality as things to be pursued and celebrated... that Prince is gone. Retreated behind the securely locked iron gates of religious judgment and narrow-mindedness. Two excerpts:

1) Prince padded into the kitchen, a small fifty-year-old man in yoga pants and a big sweater, wearing platform flip-flops over white socks, like a geisha.

2) Recently, Prince hosted an executive who works for Philip Anschutz, the Christian businessman whose company owns the Staples Center. “We started talking red and blue,” Prince said. “People with money—money like that—are not affected by the stock market, and they’re not freaking out over anything. They’re just watching. So here’s how it is: you’ve got the Republicans, and basically they want to live according to this.” He pointed to a Bible. “But there’s the problem of interpretation, and you’ve got some churches, some people, basically doing things and saying it comes from here, but it doesn’t. And then on the opposite end of the spectrum you’ve got blue, you’ve got the Democrats, and they’re, like, ‘You can do whatever you want.’ Gay marriage, whatever. But neither of them is right.”
     When asked about his perspective on social issues—gay marriage, abortion—Prince tapped his Bible and said, “God came to earth and saw people sticking it wherever and doing it with whatever, and he just cleared it all out. He was, like, ‘Enough.’ ”

For the rest of the interview, click here.

2 comments:

sdg1844 said...

There's nothing more extreme than a reformed anything. I've know reformed drug addicts that are sanctimonious and unbearable. Seems like The Purple One has become sanctified after years of raising hell and praising freedom.

bL-AKtivist said...

Poor poor prince.

I'm sad if he really thinks that he knows something we all don't know and isn't kind enough to explicitly share - and would rather, instead- to offer veiled psuedo-declarations against folk.

VIBE (http://tinyurl.com/69l6zf) interprets this as him coming out against gay marriage... Possibly detrimental to his newly released book and image.

Another source says he was misquoted (http://tinyurl.com/69e2ok) by the New Yorker.

Either way, he said something. And as I said on Twitter, I'm not sold on his penchant for social commentary. Especially when it comes from a relgious slant.