Did Prince Have the Heart of a Social Worker?

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Certainly longevity is not is not the measure of a good life. Some people have been around many years and have little to show. I could have done more. Others generate incredible amounts of productivity in a few years—think Martin Luther King, Jr.  Learning about the departure of Prince from mortal existence was shocking to many because we have begun to see 57 years of life as about two-thirds of expectations. Prince was young in years, appearance and spirit. The incredible outpouring of tribute to his artistry has been revealing.  Most television commentary programs interrupted their continuous looping of news about the presidential campaigns to pay tribute to Prince. There were expressions of appreciation for Prince and his music in every corner of the globe—purple was the color of the day.

Prince1Every commentator had a story about Prince’s impact of their lives. Many told about the incredible performances they had witnessed over the course of his career. Others reveled about his ability to play 17 different instruments and often played every instrument on his album, ala Stevie Wonder. Prince released 39 albums and sold more than 100 million over the course of his career. I have my Prince story. I was playing music for the Holiday party in the sedate Borough Hall in the mid-eighties and decided to be mischievous and drop in a Prince recording—D.M.S.R. (Dance, Music, Sex, Romance). The song begins: “Everybody, get on the floor, what the hell’d you come here for?” I wanted to see how long it would take for someone to tell me to cut the song. To my surprise and delight, everybody in the room got up and started dancing. I was truly amazed because I would never imagine some of the people in that room on a dance floor. And they were rocking to the music. They not only kept dancing but insisted that I play the song again. Obviously, they were not listening to the lyrics but had been captivated by Prince’s music. It does that to you.

Prince rarely made the headlines. He was an artist who usually faded into the background until his next super recording hit the airwaves. There were times when he made the news—challenging Warner Brothers Records for the rights to his music and creating lyrics that drove Tipper Gore to declare him a public menace. That resulted in parental advisory labels on music recordings. But for the most part Prince fiercely guarded his privacy and stayed out of the limelight. Few knew about his humanitarian side.  It was a surprise to me when former White House aide Van Jones related his experiences with Prince and the many people he helped.

Prince Performance History

His altruism was driven by the fact that Prince was a deeply religious person. Through his association with Larry Graham—the longtime bassist for Sly and the Family Stone and leader of his own band Graham Central Station—Prince converted to being a Jehovah’s Witness after growing as a Seventh Day Adventist. His membership in the religion forbade him from publicizing his humanitarian acts. Some say he was an introvert and naturally quiet and sometimes reclusive. He said in an interview that he would always live in Minneapolis because living there allowed him to walk around and be himself. He went door to door proselytizing for the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The breadth of Prince’s music is awe inspiring. He had a song for everyone and often a song that grabbed everybody. There are few who can match him at the craft of creating music. Fellow Minneapolitan Bob Dylan may be one. Of course there was Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder’s creativity seems limitless.  It has been said that Prince once recorded a song a day over a stretch at his Paisley Park Studio residence.  There is supposedly a “vault” containing hundreds of unreleased recordings. So Prince will be sharing his music with fans for decades to come.  After his death we discover that Prince gave much to many, so I think it is safe to say that he had in his heart the principles and beneficence of a social worker.

The post Did Prince Have the Heart of a Social Worker? appeared first on Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy.

Written By Charles E. Lewis Jr., Ph.D

Did Prince Have the Heart of a Social Worker? was originally published @ Charles Lewis – Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy and has been syndicated with permission.


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