The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #69: When Doves Cry by Prince, from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the film, Purple Rain (KEXP)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #69: When Doves Cry by Prince…from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the film, “Purple Rain”.

The movie, “Purple Rain” was not our first introduction to the multi-talented performer known as Prince but, it was the vehicle that propelled him into the ranks of superstardom. More specifically, it was the soundtrack album that accompanied the film that spawned several songs that became synonymous with the sound of 80s music; including, “Let’s Go Crazy”, “Darling Nikki”, “Take Me With U”, “Purple Rain”, “I Would Die 4 U” and “When Doves Cry”. These songs and the movie they supported, also, helped create the image of Prince as being a sex symbol. In fact, the soundtrack album, “Purple Rain” became one of the very first albums ever to be labelled with a “Parent’s Advisory” sticker due to the sexually suggestive lyrics from “Darling Nikki”, as well as, the sexually steamy music video for “When Doves Cry”. Despite these attempt to censor the album by conservative politicians or, because of it, the soundtrack album to “Purple Rain” became Prince’s first album to reach #1, where it stayed for 24 straight weeks (remaining in the Top 40 for 122 weeks). “Lets’ Go Crazy” and “When Doves Cry” both reached #1 on their own, with “Purple Rain” stalling at #2. The album sold over 25 million copies worldwide. Prince won 2 Grammy Awards, as well as, the Academy Award for Best Song for a Motion Picture. All in all, there could be no better performer than Prince for position #69 in our countdown of the best and most-important songs of all-time.

Prince, who was born, “Prince Rogers Nelson” in 1958 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was a multi-instrumentalist who helped develop an entire music scene in the late 1970s/early 80s that became known as the “Minneapolis Sound”. While Prince could play any style of music…..and he did…..he was best known for his attempts to popularize the fine tradition of Funk, bringing it to the attention of a new generation who may not have grown up listening to James Brown, Stevie Wonder and bands such as Parliament-Funkadelic. Prince was very much his own man and was known for the control he exerted over every aspect of his music. In fact, it went so far that he even refused to allow his record company, Warner Bros., to use his name for publicity during contract negotiations. He ended up legally changing his name from “Prince” to a symbol that meant the coming together of male and female identity and thus, he became known as “The Artist Formerly Known As Prince”.

Anyway, when it came time to create the movie, “Purple Rain”, it was viewed as a means of introducing the world to, not only Prince but, to other acts under his sphere of influence in Minneapolis such as Morris Day and the Time (who took on the role of chief rivals to Prince, in the movie), Apollonia (who played his love interest) and his real-life back up band, The Revolution, (who played his back-up band in the movie, too). As production on the movie went along, there was a segment involving Prince’s character not being able to maintain his relationship with Apollonia’s character and, furthermore, Prince blaming that failure on how his movie parents failed to get along, as well. During this segment of the movie, there was no soundtrack music yet and the producer felt something was needed to tie the various elements of the scene together. He voiced his concerns to Prince who, that very night, wrote “When Doves Cry”.

“When Doves Cry” is noteworthy for several reasons. First of all, the song explores the idea of whether or not fear of commitment can stem from hereditary sources such as the problems parents may have had and the impact of their disputes on the formative development of the children. Secondly, as mentioned earlier, the video that accompanies this song was felt to be highly sexually suggestive at the time of its release. It starts with Prince rising out of a bathtub and goes from there. There is no nudity but, the suggestion is firmly implied. Finally, many musicians were quick to recognize something that Prince did with the structure of the song that was musically innovative. “When Dove Cry” is a song in the Funk tradition. Songs of that mold all tend to employ a bass guitar to generate those deep, bass notes that form the foundation of Funk. However, in “When Doves Cry”, Prince eschews a bass guitar altogether yet, still manages to create the time-honoured Funk sound. He did this by employing a new type of drum machine, as well as, by employing synthesizers. Previously, neither of these options had ever been used in the way that Prince did to produce the sounds that he was able to generate. As time went on, Prince became known as one of the pioneers of the use of technology; especially, drum machines and how to play and record them.

In any case, “When Doves Cry” was recorded quickly and helped fill in that musical gap that appeared in the movie. The song has gone on to be recognized as one of the best and most important Funk songs of the last forty years. So, without further delay, here in The Purple One, himself, Prince, with his first (of many) # 1 hit…..”When Doves Cry”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “When Doves Cry” by Prince, can be found here.

The link to the video for the trailer to the movie, “Purple Rain” can be found here.

The link to the official website for Prince, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP for playing the funkiest music and supporting the artists who create such joyful noise. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

Author: Tom MacInnes

Among the many characters I play: husband, father, son, retired elementary school teacher, writer, Cape Bretoner, lover of hot tea and, above all else, a gentleman. I strive to make a positive difference in the lives of others. In Life, I have chosen to be kind.

4 thoughts on “The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #69: When Doves Cry by Prince, from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the film, Purple Rain (KEXP)”

    1. I am a fan of Funk so, Prince just continues the tradition of Stevie Wonder and James Brown for me. I always marvel that a man who was only 5’2″ could pack so much power and charisma into everything he did. He was a force, for sure. 🙂

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