When Doves Cry

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"When Doves Cry"
Prince doves.jpg
US single picture sleeve
Single by Prince
from the album Purple Rain
ReleasedMay 16, 1984 (1984-05-16)[1]
RecordedMarch 2, 1984
StudioSunset Sound, Los Angeles
  • 3:47 (7-inch single)
  • 5:52 (12-inch single/album)
LabelWarner Bros.
Prince US singles chronology
"When Doves Cry"
"Let's Go Crazy"
Music video
«When Doves Cry» on YouTube
Prince UK singles chronology
"When Doves Cry"
"Purple Rain"

"When Doves Cry" is a song by 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.[6] 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 number 52 on the Rolling Stone 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.[7]

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. As of April 30, 2016, it has sold 1,385,448 copies in the United States.[8]

Background and composition[edit]

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.

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 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.[9] 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. 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.[10]

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.[11]

The song is in the key of A minor.


The song was number one 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. "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 number one single of 1984. In 2016, after Prince's death, "When Doves Cry" re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 20, and later, back in the top 10 at number 8.

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 number one, with 85 letters and/or numbers.

"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" number 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 number 5 on the list. On October 13, 2008, the song was voted number 2 on Australian VH1's Top 10 Number One Pop Songs countdown. The "80 of the 80s" podcast ranks it as the number 59 song of the decade.[12]

"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.[13] 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)[edit]

  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)[edit]

  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[edit]

  1. "When Doves Cry"
  2. "Purple Rain" (album version)

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
FormatCD single
Ginuwine singles chronology
"Tell Me Do U Wanna"
"When Doves Cry"
"I'll Do Anything/I'm Sorry"

A cover version by American 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.[51]


Chart (1997) Peak
Belgium (Ultratip Flanders)[52] 16
Germany (Official German Charts)[53] 15
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[54] 15
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[55] 7
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[56] 24
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[57] 42
UK Singles (The Official Charts Company)[58] 10
U.S. Billboard Rhythmic Top 40[59] 16

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1997) Position
Germany (Official German Charts)[60] 80

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.[61]
  • 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.[62][63]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Uptown, 2004, p.48
  2. ^ "25 Essential Prince Songs". Rolling Stone. 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. ^ Price, Simon (22 April 2016). "Otherworldly Creature, Benign Visitor: Prince Remembered, By Simon Price". The Quietus. Retrieved 29 July 2017.
  6. ^ "American single certifications – Prince – When Doves Cry". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH. 
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-03-17. Retrieved 2008-01-12.
  8. ^ a b "Hip Hop Single Sales: Prince, Desiigner & Drake". HipHopDX. April 30, 2016. Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  9. ^ "Prince In Print". Princetext.tripod.com. Retrieved 2012-01-08.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Coryat, Karl. "His Highness Gets Down!". Archived from the original on 2004-05-30. Retrieved 2004-05-30.
  12. ^ CK1, DJ (22 April 2016). "#59: Prince - When Doves Cry". 80ofthe80s.libsyn.com. Retrieved 23 April 2016.
  13. ^ "Prince & the Revolution - "When doves cry"". mvdbase.com. Retrieved 2012-01-08.
  14. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970-1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 239. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  15. ^ a b "Austriancharts.at – Prince – When Doves Cry" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  16. ^ "Ultratop.be – Prince – When Doves Cry" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  17. ^ "Radio2 top 30: 22 september 1984" (in Dutch). Top 30. Archived from the original on 28 March 2016. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  18. ^ "CHART NUMBER 1439 – Saturday, July 28, 1984". Archived from the original on 2006-11-07. Retrieved 2014-06-12.. CHUM. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  19. ^ "Top Singles - Volume 40, No. 22, Aug 04, 1984". RPM. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  20. ^ [Nanda Lwin (1999). Top 40 Hits: The Essential Chart Guide. Music Data Canada. ISBN 1-896594-13-1.
  21. ^ a b "Lescharts.com – Prince – When Doves Cry" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  22. ^ a b "Offiziellecharts.de – Prince – When Doves Cry". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  23. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – When Doves Cry". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  24. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Prince" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  25. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Prince – When Doves Cry" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  26. ^ a b "Charts.nz – Prince – When Doves Cry". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  27. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – Prince – When Doves Cry". VG-lista. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  28. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – Prince – When Doves Cry". Singles Top 100. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  29. ^ a b "Swisscharts.com – Prince – When Doves Cry". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  30. ^ "Prince: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  31. ^ a b c "Prince – Awards". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  32. ^ "CASH BOX Top 100 Singles – Week ending JULY 14, 1984". Cash Box magazine. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  33. ^ "Australian-charts.com – Prince – When Doves Cry". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  34. ^ "50 Back Catalogue Singles – 30/04/16". Ultratop. Hung Medien. Retrieved May 12, 2016.
  35. ^ "Prince Chart History (Canadian Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved May 4, 2016.
  36. ^ "Chart Track: Week 17, 2016". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  37. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  38. ^ "Spanishcharts.com – Prince – When Doves Cry" Canciones Top 50. Retrieved May 9, 2016.
  39. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  40. ^ "Prince Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  41. ^ "Prince Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  42. ^ "Prince Chart History (Hot Rock Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  43. ^ BigKev. "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – Top 100 End of Year AMR Charts – 1980s". Australian-charts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 25 April 2014.
  44. ^ "New Zealand End of Year Chart 1984". THE OFFICIAL NZ MUSIC CHART. Retrieved 14 February 2017.
  45. ^ "Talent Almanac 1985: Top Pop Singles". Billboard. 96 (51): TA-19. 1984-12-22.
  46. ^ "New Zealand single certifications – Prince – When Doves Cry". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  47. ^ "British single certifications – Prince – When Doves Cry". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved May 1, 2016. Select singles in the Format field. Select Silver in the Certification field. Type When Doves Cry in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  48. ^ Copsey, Rob (August 26, 2018). "Prince's Top 20 biggest hits on the Official Chart". Official Charts Company. Retrieved August 26, 2018.
  49. ^ "American single certifications – Prince – When Doves Cry". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved May 1, 2016. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH. 
  50. ^ Video on YouTube[dead link]
  51. ^ "mvdbase.com - Michael Lucero technician videography". Music Video DataBase. Retrieved August 19, 2014.
  52. ^ "Ultratop.be – Ginuwine – When Doves Cry" (in Dutch). Ultratip.
  53. ^ "Musicline.de – Ginuwine Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH.
  54. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Ginuwine" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40.
  55. ^ "Charts.nz – Ginuwine – When Doves Cry". Top 40 Singles.
  56. ^ "Swisscharts.com – Ginuwine – When Doves Cry". Swiss Singles Chart.
  57. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – Ginuwine – When Doves Cry". Singles Top 100.
  58. ^ UK Singles Chart Chartstats.com Retrieved October 17, 2008
  59. ^ Billboard Artist Chart History Retrieved October 17, 2008
  60. ^ "Top 100 Single-Jahrescharts" (in German). GfK Entertainment. Retrieved April 17, 2018.
  61. ^ "australian-charts.com". Retrieved 10 January 2016.
  62. ^ Ortved, John (17 June 2016). "Breathing New Life Into Pop Songs with Choir! Choir! Choir!". The New Yorker. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
  63. ^ Rinaldi, Luc (9 May 2016). "Watch a 2,000-person choir sing Prince". Toronto Life. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
  • Uptown: The Vault – The Definitive Guide to the Musical World of Prince: Nilsen Publishing 2004, ISBN 91-631-5482-X

External links[edit]