True to his nature, Prince never stops making music. Consequently, with his largely autobiographical film Purple Rain and its soundtrack seemingly finished, Prince added a new song at the last minute: “When Doves Cry.” RS500 Not a bad addition, since it may well be “the most influential single record of the eighties.” MA
As is often the case with great singles, the structure of the song is “simple and natural and utterly (invisibly) unorthodox.” WI After recording it, Prince erased the bass, RS500 an unheard of move, especially in the R&B genre. CR Along with its “keening melody and one of the strangest choruses in pop,” MC the resulting song is eccentric, even by Prince standards, RS500 “but as a piece of rhythm and harmony, this is not just an important record but a great one.” MA
Prince’s record company, Warner Bros., wasn’t sure what to make of the song. As engineer David Z. said, “They were a little afraid...they didn’t know what to do with it because it was drastically different.” CR
The record-buying public, however, knew what to do with it. In the U.S., the song became Prince’s first, and biggest, number one. It also was the biggest single of 1984. RS500 It also helped Prince become a superstar as it kick-started the Purple Rain soundtrack into blockbuster mode. Led by “When Doves Cry,” the album also produced the chart-topping “Let’s Go Crazy,” the #2 title cut, and the top ten hit “I Would Die 4 U,” all on its way toward spending 24 weeks atop the U.S. album charts. The album has sold 13 million stateside and another 8 million around the world.
- CR Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Page 471.
- MA Dave Marsh. (1989). The Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made. New York, NY; New American Library. Page 58.
- MC Neil McCormack (3/13/09). Telegraph.co.uk “100 Greatest Songs of All Time”
- RS500 Rolling Stone (12/04). “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.
- WI Paul Williams (1993). Rock and Roll: The Best 100 Singles. New York, NY: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc. Pages 216-7.
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Last updated June 2, 2012.