The Artist Formerly Known as Prince looks back, rolls

Mark Scheerer

Has the Artist Formerly Known As Prince found religion?

His live concerts may feature a lot of bumps and grinds, but he says nothing really offensive ever happens on stage.

"No, no, not at all,” he says. “The days of just rock and roll for rock and roll’s sake is kind of over for me now. This is about spiritual upliftment and just a good time.”

It’s a long ways from the time 10 years ago when Tipper Gore founded the watchdog group the Parents Music Resource Center on the strength of a Prince song with a masturbation reference.

"I wonder what she’s thinking now. That’s pretty lightweight compared to what’s happening right now,” he says of the increasing sexual overtones in today’s music. “This is the country that she lives in (and) big conglomerates put this music out.”

Still, PMRC’s pressure led to parental advisory stickers on dozens of recordings. The artist says he approves of the practice.

"That’s very good,” he says. “So, if I’m responsible, then I’m glad.”

If the artist disapproves of blunt lyrics elsewhere in pop music, he won’t point any fingers.

"That’s not for me to judge. I’m not a judge. It’s their trip,” he says.

The creator

His trip these days has a lot to do with selling CD’s via the Internet and 800-number phone lines. And for this artist, who broke free of Warner Brothers in a very public contract dispute, he knows music delivery via downloading threatens to make record companies obsolete.

"I look at myself as a clothes maker or a baker. I make the donuts,” he says, adding, “The creator of the product, I believe, should take the lion’s share of the revenue, not the other way around.”

One thing the 39-year-old musician won’t discuss is the son born late last year to him and his wife Mayte. The child, born with an often fatal genetic abnormality, died after seven days.

He will say his faith in God and the hereafter has helped him overcome self-doubt and to persevere in his business struggles.

"And I love living more now than I did ever,” he says.

This love of life will hopefully spur him on as he launches a worldwide tour. Fifteen years ago, the artist wrote about partying until it’s 1999. His current “Jam of the Year” tour won’t end until then.

When asked where the party will be on New Year’s Eve 1999, the artist suddenly becomes coy.

"Aww, that’s a secret,” he says, smiling.