When Doves Cry

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"When Doves Cry"
Prince doves.jpg
Picture sleeve for 7" single release[a]
Single by Prince
from the album Purple Rain
B-side
ReleasedMay 16, 1984 (1984-05-16)[1]
RecordedMarch 1, 1984 (basic tracks)
March 2, 1984 (basic tracking and overdubs)
March 3, 1984 (mixing)
StudioSunset Sound, Los Angeles
Genre
Length3:47 (7" Single Edit)
5:52 (12"/Album Version)
LabelWarner Bros.
Songwriter(s)Prince
Producer(s)Prince
Prince US singles chronology
"Automatic"
(1983)
"When Doves Cry"
(1984)
"Let's Go Crazy"
(1984)
Music video
«When Doves Cry» on YouTube
Prince UK singles chronology
"D.M.S.R."
(1983)
"When Doves Cry"
(1984)
"Purple Rain"
(1984)

"When Doves Cry" is a song by American musician Prince, and the lead single from his sixth studio album Purple Rain. According to the DVD commentary of the film Purple Rain (1984), Prince was asked by director Albert Magnoli to write a song to match the theme of a particular segment of the film that involved intermingled parental difficulties and a love affair. The next morning, Prince had composed two songs, one of which was "When Doves Cry". According to Prince's biographer Per Nilsen, the song was inspired by his relationship with Vanity 6 member Susan Moonsie.

"When Doves Cry" was Prince's first Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 single, staying there for five weeks, and was also a worldwide hit. According to Billboard, it was the top-selling single of 1984. It is certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[8] It was the last single released by a solo artist to receive a Platinum certification before the certification requirements were lowered in 1989. "When Doves Cry" was ranked number one on the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1984. Following Prince's death, the song re-charted on the Billboard Hot 100 chart at number eight, its first appearance in the top 10 since the week ending September 1, 1984.

The music video, directed by Prince, premiered on MTV in June 1984. It opens with white doves emerging from double doors to reveal Prince in a bathtub, then shows him performing the song in various scenes. The video sparked controversy among network executives, who thought that its sexual nature was too explicit for television. "When Doves Cry" is ranked No. 37 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and is included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.[9] According to Acclaimed Music, it is the 31st most celebrated song in popular music history.[10]

Background and composition[edit]

Prince wrote and composed "When Doves Cry" after all the other tracks were complete on Purple Rain. In addition to providing 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 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 included.[11] 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 synthesizer. The song ends on a classical music-inspired keyboard piece backed by another synthesizer solo. Keyboardist Matt Fink revealed in 2014 that the baroque synthesizer solo was recorded by Prince at half speed and an octave lower against a half-speed backing track, then sped up to create the final version. Fink was then tasked to learn and perform the solo at the album's speed.[12]

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 to the song as well as to other songs without bass lines.[13]

The song is in the key of A minor.[14]

Reception[edit]

In its contemporary review of the song, Cash Box said that "featuring ethereal lyrics, a pounding backbeat and a sometimes ominous musical atmosphere, this single again proves Prince to be one of the most provocative and sophisticated artists in the business. ."[15]

"When Doves Cry" was No. 1 in the US for five weeks, from July 7, 1984, to August 4, 1984, keeping Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" from reaching the top spot. Because of tabulation differences, the song was announced as the year's No. 2 single on the American Top 40 year-end countdown (with "Say Say Say" at No. 1).[16] The song was voted as the best single of the year in The Village Voice Pazz & Jop critics' poll. Billboard ranked it as the No. 1 year-end single of 1984. In 2016, after Prince's death, "When Doves Cry" re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 20, peaking at No. 8. It also ranked No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Black Singles chart for eight weeks (from June 30, to August 18, 1984), preventing Tina Turner's "What's Love Got to Do With It" from reaching the top spot for five of those weeks.

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 "17 Days" and two tracks from Prince's previous album, 1999: its title track and "D.M.S.R.". The entire title of "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 flip side of a Hot 100 No. 1, with 85 letters and/or numbers.

"When Doves Cry" became one of Prince's signature songs. Spin magazine ranked No. 6 of all time. Rolling Stone ranks "When Doves Cry" No. 37 on its list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. In 2006, VH1's "The 100 Greatest Songs of the '80s" ranked the song at No. 5. On October 13, 2008, the song was voted No. 2 on Australian VH1's Top 10 Number One Pop Songs countdown. The "80 of the 80s" podcast ranks it as the No. 59 song of the decade.[17] In 2016, Paste ranked the song number three on their list of the 50 greatest Prince songs,[18] and in 2022, American Songwriter ranked the song number two on their list of the 10 greatest Prince songs.[19]

According to Acclaimed Music, it is the 31st most celebrated song in popular music history.[10]

"When Doves Cry" was sampled for use in MC Hammer's 1990 hit song, "Pray", one of the few samples of his songs legally sanctioned by Prince.

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.[20] The video sparked controversy among network executives, who thought that its sexual nature was too explicit for television.

Track listing[edit]

  • 7-inch single: Paisley Park / 0-20170 (US)
  1. "When Doves Cry" – 3:47
  2. "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.)" – 3:54
  • 12-inch single: Warner Bros. / W9286T (UK)
  1. "When Doves Cry" – 5:52
  2. "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.)" – 3:54
  1. "1999" – 6:22
  2. "D.M.S.R." – 8:05
  • 2×12" pack
  • CD single 1989
  1. "When Doves Cry"
  2. "Purple Rain" (album version)

Personnel[edit]

Charts and certifications[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Ginuwine version[edit]

"When Doves Cry"
Ginuwine When Doves Cry.jpg
Single by Ginuwine
from the album Ginuwine... the Bachelor
ReleasedJuly 25, 1997
Recorded1996
GenreR&B
Length5:09
LabelEpic
Songwriter(s)Prince
Producer(s)Timbaland
Ginuwine singles chronology
"Tell Me Do U Wanna"
(1997)
"When Doves Cry"
(1997)
"I'll Do Anything/I'm Sorry"
(1997)

A cover version by American singer Ginuwine was produced by Timbaland and released on July 25, 1997, for Ginuwine's album The Bachelor; Ginuwine's cover uses actual dove sound effects as texture for the song. The official music video for this version was directed by Michael Lucero.[69]

Charts[edit]

Chart (1997) Peak
position
Belgium (Ultratip Flanders)[70] 16
Germany (Official German Charts)[71] 15
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[72] 15
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[73] 13
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[74] 7
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[75] 24
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[76] 42
UK Singles (The Official Charts Company)[77] 10
U.S. Billboard Rhythmic Top 40[78] 16

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1997) Position
Germany (Official German Charts)[79] 80
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[80] 64
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[81] 48

Notable cover versions[edit]

  • As a child, American actor and singer Quindon Tarver covered the song for the 1996 film Romeo + Juliet. It was included on the soundtrack album William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet: Music from the Motion Picture, Volume 2, and became a number 3 hit in Australia in July 1997.[82]
  • After Prince's death in 2016, Choir! Choir! Choir! covered "When Doves Cry" with 1999 people, a tribute to the 1999 album. It was recorded and filmed in Toronto's Massey Hall.[83][84]
  • Nonpoint held an online voting bracket competition in 2020 where fans voted for their next cover song, in which "When Doves Cry" by Prince was the winner. The band released the cover song in September 2021.[85]
  • UK comedian and actor, Lenny Henry, made a parody video of the song back in the 1980s.[86]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Some non-US 7" and 12" single releases using this artwork contain Prince's name and the song title.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Uptown, 2004, p.48
  2. ^ "25 Essential Prince Songs". Rolling Stone. 21 April 2016. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  3. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Purple Rain - Review". AllMusic. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  4. ^ Shuker, Roy (1994). Understanding Popular Music. Abingdom: Routledge. p. 95. ISBN 041523509X.
  5. ^ "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. 7 April 2011. Retrieved 4 January 2020.
  6. ^ Price, Simon (22 April 2016). "Otherworldly Creature, Benign Visitor: Prince Remembered, By Simon Price". The Quietus. Retrieved 29 July 2017.
  7. ^ "100 Greatest Funk Songs". Digital Dream Door. August 7, 2008. Archived from the original on September 25, 2010. Retrieved October 7, 2021.
  8. ^ "American single certifications – Prince – When Doves Cry". Recording Industry Association of America.
  9. ^ "The Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll". The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Archived from the original on 2010-03-17. Retrieved 2008-01-12.
  10. ^ a b "When Doves Cry ranked 31st most celebrated song". Acclaimed Music. Retrieved 30 November 2020.
  11. ^ "Prince In Print". Princetext.tripod.com. Retrieved 2012-01-08.
  12. ^ Murphy, Keith (2014-06-25). "'Purple Rain' Turns 30: The Revolution's Dr. Fink Breaks Down Prince's Classic Track-by-Track". vibe.com. Retrieved 2017-12-28.
  13. ^ Coryat, Karl. "His Highness Gets Down!". Archived from the original on 2004-05-30. Retrieved 2004-05-30.
  14. ^ Prince; Prince (2018-03-05). "When Doves Cry". Musicnotes. Retrieved 2021-06-08.
  15. ^ "Reviews" (PDF). Cash Box. May 26, 1984. p. 7. Retrieved 2022-07-23.
  16. ^ "CASEY KASEM'S YEAR-END COUNTDOWN - 1984". 2018-04-14. Archived from the original on 2018-04-14. Retrieved 2019-05-27.
  17. ^ CK1; AK-47 (22 April 2016). "#59: Prince - When Doves Cry". 80ofthe80s.libsyn.com. Retrieved 23 April 2016.
  18. ^ Ham, Robert (April 27, 2016). "The 50 Best Prince Songs". Paste. Retrieved March 22, 2022.
  19. ^ Walthall, Catherine (February 8, 2022). "The Top 10 Prince Songs". American Songwriter. Retrieved March 22, 2022.
  20. ^ "Prince & the Revolution - "When doves cry"". mvdbase.com. Retrieved 2012-01-08.
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  72. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 34, 1997" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40.
  73. ^ "Ginuwine – When Doves Cry" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
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Sources
  • Uptown: The Vault – The Definitive Guide to the Musical World of Prince: Nilsen Publishing 2004, ISBN 91-631-5482-X