Prince is hungry for both religion and sex in Touré’s reverent new biography

Our review of a new book about pop music’s hypersexual icon of diversity

This slim volume about a one-name pop star by a one-name writer flirts with biography. But Touré—journalist, co-host of MSNBC’s The Cycle and sage author of Who’s Afraid of Post Blackness?—has a higher purpose. In a triptych of propulsive essays, he’s on a mission to crack the Prince enigma and canonize him as a preacher/provocateur who has liquidated lines of race, gender and genre with music that’s both carnal and Christian. Although Prince was born on the tail end of the baby boom, Touré holds him up as a mirror ball for the author’s own Generation X—a latchkey kid and child of divorce who became a hypersexual icon of diversity. Fearful of being ghettoized as a black artist, he has always cast his musicians as a multicultural mix of black and white, male and female. And despite his voracious heterosexuality, he has cultivated a gay mystique with high heels and eye shadow—the sensitive Machiavellian.

Though Touré’s book is reverent, not trashy, in a chapter titled “The King of Porn Chic,” he draws a tantalizing portrait of Prince as a man “who loved to be with multiple girls, or to watch,” but who often preferred to bathe a woman than have sex. Recalls an ex-girfriend: “He ran the bath, he put the bubbles in, he took your clothes off, he washed you, he washed your hair?.?.?.?He put lotion on after. He’d give you a robe.” But the star of Purple Rain has always had a thing for baptism.

Raised a Seventh Day Adventist and now a Jehovah’s Witness, Prince channels religious and sexual fervour with equal intensity. And Touré shows how he’s spun the roots of blues, soul and gospel into ecstatic towers of song, more erotic and spiritual than both Michael Jackson and Madonna. As for his Messiah complex, Touré isn’t sure if Prince feels he is Jesus or merely Jesus-like. But when he calls him “the most important religious artist ever,” somehow forgetting Bob Marley, you have to wonder if he’s been drinking too much of the purple Kool-Aid.

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