The Purely Impure Prince



In the days since Prince’s death, the appreciation for “impurity” is stunning.  On the one hand, both livid racism and identity politics are drawing people towards purity – witness the anger at appropriation and enforcement of separation.  Yet Prince – the synthesizer, the polyvalent, the Dionysian mystery, desire in all its forms including the unknown – supercedes all.

Millions of the bereaved speak about Prince from a personal sense of loss. Without self-consciousness for whether they are straight, gay, black, white or other, people of all kinds are testifying that Prince was their guy. The power of art and theater makes the symbolic step possible. As one critic wrote of Prince’s tantalizing sexual play, his hotness, “Everyone wanted to sleep with Prince or wanted to be him – or both.”

While music and sex were his material, it didn’t rest there. Music or sex wasn’t the end or object. “What was subversive was that it didn’t matter how you got off – as long as you did,” Suzanne Moore writes in the Guardian.  You only have to look at his dancing. It was a precise, limbed invitation to ecstasy. “His imagination, it seemed, would just keep breaking down boundaries until they dissolved altogether. This pushing towards transcendence, which all the best music can do, is what he lived for; the holy trinity of funk and filth and faith met in him. Faith so often seems an intrinsic part of music that takes us to another realm,” Moore continues.

Prince latched onto a live wire at the core, and that wire has no boundary or name.  And that people understand.

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2 Responses to The Purely Impure Prince

  1. Vladimir says:

    Dionysian dimension is very interesting here. This Susan Moore should talk less about holy trinity and other concepts that are beyond her reach, like faith, for example, but the paradox of transcendence is clearly there.
    As I was reading your comments I thought about Catullus Attis, and Blok’s reading of it — the revolutionary transcendence merging with strange syncopated rhythms and sexual transformation. So rather than talking about faith and Prince, maybe one should talk about politics and Prince. Prince is a political concept after all.

    • jillbpearlman says:

      Thanks for your fascinating comments on Catullus and Blok, Vladimir. Yes, the Dionysian dimension of Prince is strong. I hadn’t thought of Blok’s reading of frenzy and the revolutionary rumble of restless people. It’s interesting to think of Prince riding (being at the eye of) a rebellion against bourgeois capitalism. His temperament was tuned to the good. (His sympathy for the devil was very different than Jagger’s). The transformation would come through the personal to be political.

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