When Prince got political

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Prince didn’t shy away from politics during his influential music career.

{mosads}He was not a protest song singer like fellow Minnesotan Bob Dylan, did not hit the campaign trail like Bruce Springsteen and was never associated with global activism like U2’s Bono. And he came under criticism for not taking part in the all-star musical effort for Africa, “We are the World.”

Yet he often touched on politics in his music, perhaps most notably on the 1987 double album “Sign ‘O’ the Times,” released at the end of the Reagan era.

More recently, he took the time to pointedly weigh in on the string of killings of African-Americans by police, and played a concert at the White House, suggesting he was happy with Barack Obama, the first black U.S. president.

Here are five of the biggest moments in politics for the legendary musician, who died on Thursday at the age of 57.

1. Black Lives Matter

Prince showed up at the 2015 Grammys to hand out the award for best album.

“Albums still matter,” he said to the crowd of pop start and music luminaries. “Like books and black lives, albums still matter.”

It was a quick moment, but one of Prince’s more direct comments on social issues. It drew applause from the crowd and widespread attention on social media.

2. Baltimore

In case people didn’t get it enough at the Grammys, Prince followed up his remarks by recording and releasing the song “Baltimore” about Freddie Gray, an African-American man whose death while in police custody set off riots.

Prince also played a concert for peace in Baltimore, where riots had broken out.

Ahead of the concert, he called on those attending to “wear something gray.”

3. Secret White House concert

Prince played a secret show at the White House on June 13, 2015, for President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and 500 of their friends.

Music legends play at the White House all the time, of course. But this one was different, in part because it was so secretive.

According to Rolling Stone, the president is a big Prince fan. The musician just happened to be playing a couple of shows in Washington, D.C., at the time, so Obama made the White House event happen.

Rolling Stone also reported that the celebrities and others in attendance had to sign non-disclosure forms to not talk about the secret concert.

4. “Ronnie, Talk to Russia”

Like a lot of people who grew up in the 1970s and early 1980s, Prince was worried about global thermonuclear war.

The theme comes up in one of his biggest hits, “1999,” which suggested no one was going to make it to 2000, but if they did, it would be a big party.

On this 1981 song, written as tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union were at a high point with Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan, Prince urged new president Ronald Reagan to get in touch with Leonid Brezhnev.

The Boombox listed it as one of Prince’s 10 most political tracks.

While much of Prince’s music was about love and sex, there also was a sharp focus on inequality and helping the poor — a message that could also have been sparked by the star’s deeply felt religious views.

5.  Prince’s donation to a Republican

In one of many strange footnotes to his career, Prince gave $2,000 to Minnesota Sen. Rudy Boschwitz, a Republican, in 1990.

It does not appear the Republican was close at the time to perhaps his state’s most famous citizen.

“It’s safe to say that Rudy’s not familiar with Prince’s work” Boschwitz campaign manager Tom Mason said at the time.

Boschwitz ended up losing to Democrat Paul Wellstone in the 1990 campaign.

Tags Baltimore Barack Obama Black Lives Matter Freddie Gray Michelle Obama

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