Prince Testifies on ‘God’
Spirituality was prevalent in Prince’s work from the very beginning of his career. While the religious themes have often been glossed over in favor of the raw sexuality that became his trademark (as though the two have to be mutually exclusive), the fact of the matter is that Prince worked the line between godliness and horniness as well as (and in a much less tortured manner than) more traditional soul men like Marvin Gaye and Al Green.
There are two versions of the 1984 recording “God” floating around. The most commonly known version made its initial appearance as the B-side to his “Purple Rain” single. The atmospheric tune, recorded without contributions from members of the Revolution, features some of Prince’s most impressive vocal pyrotechnics, complete with wild screaming and sounds that conjure up the “speaking in tongues” that often appears in Pentecostal church services.
Lyrically, the song is Sunday School 101 set to music, complete with a call-and-response repetition of the chorus, “God made you / God made me / He made us all / Equally." The song was performed live regularly on the Purple Rain tour, and made its CD debut in 1993, appearing on the first Prince compilation The Hits / The B-Sides.
The more obscure version of “God” is an eight-minute instrumental, subtitled “Love Theme From Purple Rain”. It’s heard in the background of the film, and was only commercially released in the U.K., as the 12-inch B-side to the “Purple Rain” single. It follows the same basic structure as the single release, but instead of vocals, substitutes in some excellent guitar shredding. It finally received an American release on the 2017 deluxe package of Purple Rain.
While “God” is sonically and vocally one of the more curious entries in Prince’s catalog, it’s also a testament to the spiritual streak that ran through even his most debauched and commercially well-received work. It’s hard to imagine any other superstar rock act today (except maybe U2) placing such a nakedly spiritual song on the B-side to one of their biggest hits.
Hear Prince Perform 'God'
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