“Stop talking about the music,” activist, author, and commentator Van Jones said on CNN last week, urging people to look past the music if they wanted to understand Prince.
And so the Los Angeles Times did in a piece looking at the singer’s religion.
The Times went to church, specifically Kingdom Hall, the home of the St. Louis Park Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, where congregants met for the first time since Prince’s death.
There, Prince wasn’t a celebrity.
Over the final decade of his life, Prince worshiped here because he was a fellow believer in the Jehovah’s Witness tenets: that Jesus was a savior but was lesser to God, that these are the final days of civilization, that the dead will be resurrected, and that the world will live under a global government lead by Jehovah, a Hebrew name for God. Among the St. Louis Park congregation, Prince wasn’t a celebrity but an equal in faith.
“He was accepted as our brother,” said congregant Josephine Parker, 74, on Sunday as the congregation gathered for its first meeting since Prince’s death. “He wasn’t treated as maybe the world would treat him.”
Prince converted in 2001, helped along by Larry Graham of Sly and the Family Stone fame, according to the paper.
On the afternoon of Yom Kippur in 2003, a Jewish couple in Eden Prairie opened their door to discover the 5-foot-2 singer standing in front of them. Even though a Vikings football game was on, they invited him in.
“My first thought is, ‘Cool, cool, cool. He wants to use my house as a set. I’m glad! Demolish the whole thing! Start over!’” a woman who only gave her name as Rochelle told the Minneapolis Star Tribune [in a 2003 article].
But Prince was there to proselytize them to become Jehovah’s Witnesses. “I said, ‘You know what? You’ve walked into a Jewish household, and this is not something I’m interested in,’” Rochelle told the newspaper.
Prince reportedly replied to her, “Can I finish?” He stayed for 25 minutes and left a pamphlet.
Did the story really happen? There’s no way to know. C.J., the Star Tribune’s gossip columnist, wrote the story and only used the first name of the person whose home Prince allegedly visited. From 2003, the story was accepted as fact as it was told and retold.
According to interviews with his family Prince arrived in a limousine outside a stranger’s house and would exit wearing a tailored suit and his trademark stack heels, the Daily Mail says in an article today.
Prince never performed at the Kingdom Hall, singing along with pre-recorded music like everyone else.
When discussing the importance of spiritual harmony during one of his early meetings, Prince remarked to the congregation that “if you were in a band and one of the instruments was out of tune, you’d stick out like a sore thumb,” Barry recalled.
When Barry complimented Prince for his contribution after the meeting, Prince responded, “Thank you, Sister Barry,” and she was impressed he had learned her name.
“He felt like it was a safe place here,” Barry said.
A congregant said Prince looked “pale and tired” when he was last at the St. Louis Park facility in late March. He wore a suit and tie and had his Bible and songbook.
“I knew he was a genius at what he did,” a member said over the weekend. “One time somebody came up to me after a meeting and said, ‘Brian, now you can say you sang with Prince.’”