Holy trinity

The prince fully inhabits the Holy Trinity in “I would Die 4 U”

To celebrate the incredibly prolific, influential and diverse work left by Prince, we’ll explore a different song from him every day for an entire year with the 365 Prince Songs in a Year series.

Heard in miniature, 1984’s “I would Die 4 U” could easily be misinterpreted as nothing more than Prince’s messianic pride. Even Revolutionary member Dez Dickerson seemed to be on that side.

“I think Prince had been through something,” Dickerson told author Touré in 2013 I would Die 4 U: Why Prince Became an Icon. “I think he had a moving experience in terms of the idea of ​​who Jesus is or was, and he wanted to express it in a song. These are not very masked lyrics. says: he says he is Jesus. “

But there was much more to “I would Die 4 U”, a song Prince had been tinkering with for some time. (He first featured it at a scale during the 1981 Supporting Tour Controversial, according to PrinceVault.) The track ultimately didn’t come together, however, until Revolution keyboardist Dr. Fink fixed a problem with the bassline, attaching a sequencer to the drum machine to perform something. that neither he nor Prince could play manually.

The released version of “I would Die 4 U”, like “Baby I’m a Star” and “Purple Rain”, was recorded live during an appearance for Prince and the Revolution on August 3, 1983 at the First Avenue Club in Minneapolis – site of several key scenes in the sequel Purple rain movie. “We did revolutionary technological things that day,” Fink said. Rolling stone in 2016.

By this time, Prince had taken a bold narrative approach to “I would die 4 U”, as it skillfully inhabits not only the likeness of Jesus, but the entire Holy Trinity. Verse by verse, this artful transformation opens up a bold new avenue for Prince to share a message for the ages.

In the first verse, he takes on the role of God, starting the song with a theme of forgiveness – no matter the transgression. Then there is Jesus, in a second verse which refers to Christ’s fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Keep listening, however, and the third verse finds Prince subsequently turning into a dove, as the Holy Spirit does in the New Testament. Prince also refers to his role as “your conscience, “an inner voice often associated with the third element of the Triune.

Taking these various forms is a common trope in gospel music, of course, but much less common in the pop charts. It was another way for Prince to innovate.

At the same time, “I would Die 4 U” stays true to the central dichotomies that Prince personified, and that’s part of why his integrated concept didn’t necessarily take hold at the time – or even in 2016, when it did. became a Top 40 hits once again following the sudden death of Prince.

When he sang “I am not a woman, I am not a man” and “I am something that you will never understand“, it worked as a big screen introduction to a concept that Prince finally defined, from his well-known androgyny to adopting an unpronounceable glyph as a name to his overt last-day discussions of religion.

From the start, fans and reporters sought to pin Prince, in vain. By creating this open-minded aesthetic, where nothing is seen in black or white binary, Prince has given himself a solid platform to talk about Christianity on a remarkably large scale.

Raised as a Seventh-day Adventist, he became a Jehovah’s Witness around the turn of the century – a conversion that became common knowledge when the media began to publish articles about his leather shoe proselytizing. The truth is, he had been doing it for decades. “Years before he became a Jehovah’s Witness”, Touré memorably supported, “Prince knocked on America’s door through his music.”

“I would Die 4 U” – the fourth consecutive Top 10 Billboard knock to get out of Purple rain – is one of Prince’s most comprehensive testimonies of faith, and certainly the most widely heard.