When Doves Cry

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"When Doves Cry"
U.S. 7" single
Single by Prince
from the album Purple Rain
Released May 16, 1984[1]
Recorded March 1, 1984
Sunset Sound
  • 7" edit: 3:47
  • Album/12" version: 5:52
Label Warner Bros.
Writer(s) Prince
Producer(s) Prince
  • Platinum (RIAA)August 21, 1984
  • Silver (BPI)August 1, 1984
Prince singles chronology
"When Doves Cry"
"Let's Go Crazy"
Prince (UK) chronology
"Little Red Corvette"
"When Doves Cry"
"Purple Rain"
Purple Rain track listing
"Darling Nikki"
"When Doves Cry"
"I Would Die 4 U"
Prince's "When Doves Cry" from Purple Rain

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"When Doves Cry" is a song by the American musician Prince, and the lead single from his 1984 album Purple Rain. It was a worldwide hit, and his first American number one single, topping the charts for five weeks. According to Billboard magazine, it was the top-selling single of the year. It was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, shipping two-million units in the United States.[2] It was the last single released by a solo artist to receive such certification before the certification requirements were lowered in 1989.

The song ranked #52 on the Rolling Stone list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.



According to the Purple Rain DVD, Prince was asked by the director to write a song to match the theme of a particular segment of the film – one which involved intermingled parental difficulties and a love affair. The next morning, Prince had reportedly composed two songs, one of which was "When Doves Cry". According to Per Nilsen, Prince's biographer, the song was inspired by his relationship with Vanity 6 member Susan Moonsie.


The song was #1 in the U.S. for five weeks, from July 7, 1984 to August 4, 1984, keeping Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark", from reaching the top spot. "When Doves Cry" was voted as the best single of the year in The Village Voice Pazz & Jop critics' poll. Billboard ranked it as the #1 single of 1984.

The B-side was the cult fan favorite "17 Days", which was originally intended for Apollonia 6's self-titled album. A 12-inch single issued in the UK included the album track, "17 Days", and two tracks from Prince's previous album, 1999, namely the title track and "D.M.S.R." The entire title, "17 Days (the rain will come down, then U will have 2 choose, if U believe, look 2 the dawn and U shall never lose)", is now the longest titled flipside of a Hot 100 #1, with 85 letters and/or numbers.

Song structure[edit]

Prince wrote and composed "When Doves Cry" after all the other tracks were complete on Purple Rain. In addition to vocals, he played all instruments on the track. The song's texture is remarkably stark. There is no bass line, which is very unusual for an 80s dance song; Prince has said that there originally was a bass line but, after a conversation with singer Jill Jones, he decided that the song was too conventional with it intact.[3] The song features an intro of a guitar solo and a Linn LM-1 drum machine, followed by a looped guttural vocal. After the lyrics, there is another, much longer guitar and a synthesizer solo. The song ends on a classical music-inspired keyboard piece backed by another synthesizer solo.

On versions edited for radio, either the song fades out as the long guitar and synthesizer solo begins, or the solo is eliminated altogether and the song skips to the ending with Prince's harmonizing and classical finish.

During live performances of the song on the Purple Rain Tour, Prince's bass player Brown Mark added bass lines in this song as well as other songs without bass lines.[4]


"When Doves Cry" has gone on to become one of Prince's signature songs. Spin magazine ranked the song 6th greatest single of all time. It was number #38 in Movement's list The Greatest Songs of All Time. Rolling Stone ranked "When Doves Cry" #52 on their list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (which makes it the second highest ranked song of the 1980s, after "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five). In 2006, VH1's "The 100 Greatest Songs of the '80s" ranked the song #5 on the list. On October 13, 2008, the song was voted #2 on Australian VH1's Top 10 Number One Pop Songs countdown.

Music video[edit]

The music video (directed by Prince himself) was released on MTV in June 1984. It opens with white doves emerging from double doors to reveal Prince in a bathtub. It also includes scenes from the Purple Rain film interspersed with shots of The Revolution performing and dancing in a white room. The final portion of the video incorporates a mirrored frame of the left half of the picture, creating a doubling effect. The video was nominated for Best Choreography at 1985's MTV Video Music Awards.[5] The video sparked controversy among network executives who thought that its sexual nature was too explicit for television.

Track listing[edit]

12": Paisley Park / 0-20170 (U.S.)[edit]

  1. "When Doves Cry" – 5:52
  2. "17 Days" – 3:54

12": Warner Bros. / W9286T (UK)[edit]

  1. "When Doves Cry" – 5:52
  2. "17 Days" – 3:54
  1. "1999" – 6:22
  2. "D.M.S.R." – 8:05
  • 2x12" pack


Chart (1984) Peak
Australian ARIA Charts 1
Austria Singles Chart 19
Canadian Singles Chart 1
German Singles Chart 16
Irish Singles Chart 2
Netherlands Singles Chart 6
New Zealand Singles Chart 2
Norway Singles Chart 10
Sweden Singles Chart 18
Swiss Singles Chart 17
UK Singles Chart 4
US Billboard Hot 100 1
US Billboard Hot Black Singles 1
US Billboard Hot Dance Club Play 1

Awards and nominations[edit]

Ginuwine version[edit]

"When Doves Cry"
Single by Ginuwine
from the album Ginuwine...the Bachelor
Released July 25, 1997
Format CD single
Genre R&B
Length 5:09
Label Epic
Producer(s) Timbaland
Ginuwine singles chronology
"Tell Me Do U Wanna"
"When Doves Cry"
"I'll Do Anything/I'm Sorry"
Ginuwine...the Bachelor track listing
"World Is So Cold"
"When Doves Cry"
"G. Thang"
Playlist: The Very Best of Ginuwine track listing
"Hell Yeah"
"When Doves Cry"

A cover version by R&B singer Ginuwine was produced by Timbaland in 1996 for Ginuwine's The Bachelor album, Ginuwine's cover uses actual dove sound effects as texture for its jungle music-inspired instrumental track. The official music video for this version was directed by Michael Lucero.[7]


Chart (1997) Peak
Belgium (Ultratip Flanders)[8] 16
Germany (Official German Charts)[9] 15
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[10] 15
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[11] 7
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[12] 24
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[13] 42
UK Singles (The Official Charts Company)[14] 10
U.S. Billboard Rhythmic Top 40[15] 16

In popular culture[edit]

Other cover versions[edit]


Appearances/references in other media[edit]

See also[edit]


  • Uptown: The Vault – The Definitive Guide to the Musical World of Prince: Nilsen Publishing 2004, ISBN 91-631-5482-X

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"The Reflex" by Duran Duran
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
July 7, 1984 - August 4, 1984
Succeeded by
"Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker Jr.
Preceded by
"Lovelite" by O'Bryan
Billboard Hot Black Singles number-one single
June 30, 1984 - August 18, 1984
Succeeded by
"Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker Jr.
Preceded by
"Tell Me I'm Not Dreamin' (Too Good to Be True)" by Jermaine Jackson and Michael Jackson
Billboard Hot Dance Club Play number-one single
(with "17 Days")

June 30, 1984 - August 4, 1984
Succeeded by
"Breakin'... There's No Stopping Us" by Ollie & Jerry
Preceded by
"Sister Christian" by Night Ranger
Canadian RPM Singles Chart number-one single
August 4, 1984 – August 18, 1984
Succeeded by
"Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker Jr.
Preceded by
"Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" by Wham!
Australian Kent Music Report number-one single
20 August 1984
Succeeded by
"Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" by Wham!