The Cross is the fifth track on the second disc of Prince’s ninth album Sign O’ The Times. The Cross was released as a promotional single in South Africa only in 1987. In 1996, the track was included as the tenth track on the soundtrack album Girl 6 (a compilation of music by Prince and associated artists for the movie Girl 6, directed by Spike Lee).
A live version was also included as the closing track on the concert movie Sign O’ The Times (switching places with It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night in the usual concert setlist, perhaps due to the message of this song).
Basic tracking took place on 13 July 1986 at Sunset Sound, during the same one-day session that produced Everybody Want What They Don’t Got. The track was initially included as the fourth track of the second disc on a 18 July 1986 configurations of Dream Factory (by Prince and the Revolution).
It was kept for inclusion as the fifth track on the third disc as the album developed into the triple-album Crystal Ball on the 30 November 1986 configuration, which was eventually pared down and became Sign O’ The Times.
As Prince became a Jehovah’s Witness, he began to change the lyrics when performing the song live, reflecting his newer beliefs that Jesus died on "stauros" (a single stake, rather than a two-beamed cross), and the song became known as The Christ, causing some controversy amongst Prince’s online fanbase. The song was performed this way, with contributions from Larry Graham and Chaka Khan, on the 11th annual Essence Awards in 1998.