This week on the music beat -- Prince's artistic choices may be influenced by the Jehovah's Witnesses

By Chris Willman
Updated August 18, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT

Next time you see Jehovah’s Witnesses canvassing the hood, don’t close the curtains too hastily: That dude coming up the drive in a purple necktie could be Prince. Numerous sources say the perennially dirty-minded funkster has aligned himself with the evangelistic sect, due to the influence of ex-Sly & the Family Stone bassist Larry Graham, a devout Witness since the mid-’70s and Prince’s primary mentor over the last couple of years. Prince’s publicist denies he’s joined the church, but member or not, he’s said to have been attending services with Graham.

Some observers speculate that religious principles are one of the reasons he recently turned down a lucrative offer to reunite with the Revolution, the band that accompanied him during the mid-’80s height of his popularity. The top U.S. promoter, SFX, offered big bucks for a handful of shows. ”We finally got everybody to speak to each other about this, and everyone’s interested — except Prince,” says guitarist Wendy Melvoin. Drummer Bobby Z jammed with fellow ex-Revolutionaries Matt Fink and Brown Mark at Prince’s 42nd birthday party in June but has little hope for an official reunion: ”It’s like Sting and the Police. People would love to see that, too, but Sting doesn’t really need it.”

Prince has cited artistic factors for nixing the reunion. But some longtime associates suspect he’d rather not realign himself with bandmates whose morality he no longer approves of. And then there’s the matter of how long a set list he’d be able to cobble together. If he really is embracing Witness doctrine, says one former comrade, ”there’s no way he could sing ‘Sister’ or ‘Head’ or ‘Controversy’ or any of those songs.”