The dawn of MTV coincided with my discovering music. In the early 80s, I ate up Duran Duran, Culture Club, The Police, and, among many others, Prince. On weekends or in the summer, my brother and I (and sometimes friends) would ride to the local record store Boulevard Music and buy 45s of the artists we’d inhaled from MTV. Buying whole albums was more of a commitment than our allowances would allow so we diversified our music library with singles and after we saw Purple Rain on VHS, we had to have “Let’s Go Crazy.”
Prince was (and is) your typical rock star, and to a boy not yet 10, this meant guitar prowess and raw energy. And when we listened to that song over and over, this was cemented: Prince was a rock god. One day (I think on the encouragement of one of my brother’s friends), we flipped the 45 over.
What I heard confused and titillated me, although I was too young to know why. The b-side “Erotic City” contains some of Prince’s raunchiest, sexy-fueled lyrics, and to fans, this was no surprise, but to someone who only knew the mainstream, Top 40 songs, this was a surprise. I understood maybe half of what he and the woman were singing about, but I knew based on my brother’s reaction that this was no fairy tale love story. Was Prince always like this and I just never knew it? All I knew was that I hadn’t heard someone be some blatant about sex in music before. Specifically, I’d never heard someone use the F-word like that. Apparently there was much more to this guy than red corvettes and doves.
My impression of people during the time of the Old Testament is pretty much consigned to people walking around in sandals, trying to get out of the heat, conducting animals (camels, ox, etc.) through their fields, worshipping God, belittling women, making war, and keeping their dwellings in order.
The Song of Songs hints at just how much life (and by life I mean a sensual side) these people had.
Unfolding like a few letters back and forth between two lovers, this book of the Bible shows how much passionate love these people fostered for the right person, unfolding in poetic, often erotic lines.
In some ways, their thoughts sound like ways Prince would express his desire. In fact, the purple one would be right at home in this book of the Bible, expressing his affection for a lover by wanting to sit in that person’s shade, eating (her) sweet fruit (2:3). Also, her breasts are like towers (10) (which seems like a strange compliment, but, then again, breasts don’t do anything for me). And there is the wish to give the lover “my love” (7:12). The context makes it clear that this is not a greeting card or something you could send through the mail. Yet it’s physical all right.
They also had a thing for wine, for on three different occasions, love is expressed to be better than wine (which is apparently saying something) (1:2 and 4; 4:10, 7:9).
Though, some of the comparisons are strange, and would likely arouse an unfavorable reaction were it offered as a compliment: You have teeth like a flock of sheep (6:6). Perhaps this depends on how sexy and healthy you find a flock of sheep.
Lastly, there is the the idea that one lover wishes to have the ability to be open in public about their love (8:1). Apparently, open displays of affection were not tolerated. So here, in advertently, the Bible offers insight into what gay people have felt for decades. This is what it feels like to carry around a longing for another person and be forced to conceal that desire because the expression of it is frowned upon.
I’m still a Prince fan, and I have enjoyed following his evolution as an artist. It took me some time to understand the sexual nature of his (and other artists’) lyrics, but when I did, I felt like I’d been invited into an adult club. And once there, I understood life a little differently. Not better, necessarily, just that there was more meaning in places than I’d previously realized, and one that finally opened up to me when I was mature enough to appreciate it.