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Music

Story Behind The Song: Prince’s religious appeal, ‘Let’s Go Crazy!’

When we think of Prince, we think of a multi-disciplined genius who could write, produce, play all manner of instruments and dance just as good as any of his backing entourage. Bringing Prince to the forefront of our minds, so too we undeniably think of sex, given his overtly sexual style; we think of bedroom-friendly music, and we view the man, in his own famous words, as a ‘Sexy Motherfucker’.

Yet despite the unmistakable sexual themes found in Prince’s music, not to mention within the man himself, we also find something else that has historically conflicted with sex: religion. Yes, sex and religion have something of a troubled relationship, so much so that the Catholic church had for so long found the subject taboo.

Yet, for an artist so undeniably sexy, Prince has always had an unshakeable faith in God. “I like to believe my inspiration comes from God. I’ve always known God is my creator. Without him, nothing works,” he once said. Prince’s faith must have surely come from an early illness. He was born epileptic, yet miraculously his condition was cured. As a child, Prince allegedly told his mother that an angel had told him he would be cured, though Prince has on occasion stated that he cannot remember having that conversation with his mother.

Prince was raised a Seventh-day Adventist, though he later became a Jehovah’s Witness. Both religions are often viewed as being just outside the actual Christian church, though Prince’s undying belief in God is undeniable, especially when we take a closer look at some of his music.

One particular track on which Prince’s faith in Christ is evident is the opener of 1984’s Purple Rain, which opens with the sermon-like line, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life,” as well as a funeral procession-esque organ solo to boot.

Prince revealed in 1997 that the track served as a metaphor for the battle between Christ and Satan. However, it was indeed a metaphor rather than an unobscured reference to his faith, as radio stations did not favour songs which contained religious themes.

“As I wrote it, ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ was about God and the de-elevation of sin,” Prince said. “But the problem was that religion as a subject is taboo in pop music. People think that the records they release have got to be hip, but what I need to do is to tell the truth.”

“I had to change those words up, but the elevator was Satan. I had to change the words up because you couldn’t say God on the radio. And ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ was God to me. It was: Stay happy, stay focused, and you can beat the elevator. Are we gonna let the elevator bring us down? Oh no let’s go!”

So Prince found a way around the censorship of radio in order to bring his pastor-like wisdom on the role that God can play in our lives if we accept him. The track re-charted on the Billboard Hot 100 following Prince’s death in 2016, rising as high as number 26 three weeks after his untimely passing.

While much of our initial conceptions of Prince seem at odds with religion, what with all the overt sexiness we find in his music, it is evident that Prince found solace in God, which in many ways eases the pain of his sad and early exit from this life. In ‘Let’s Go Crazy!’, the reverent Prince proclaims, “I’m here to tell you there’s something else, the afterworld, a world of never ending happiness, you can always see the sun, day or night.”