"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.[3] It was the last single released by a solo artist to receive such certification before the certification requirements were lowered in 1989.

Song[edit source | editbeta]Edit

History[edit source | editbeta]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.

Impact[edit source | editbeta]Edit

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."

Song structure[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Prince wrote and composed "When Doves Cry" after all the other tracks on Purple Rain were complete. 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 a dance song; Prince has said that there originally was a bass line, but decided, after a conversation with singer Jill Jones, that the song was too conventional with it intact.[4] During live performances of the song on the Purple Rain Tour, Brown Mark, Prince's then-bass player, added bass lines in this song and other songs without a bass line.[5] 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.

Acclaim[edit source | editbeta]Edit

"When Doves Cry" has gone on to become one of Prince's signature songsSpin 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 source | editbeta]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.[6] The video sparked controversy among network executives who thought that its sexual nature was too explicit for television.

Track listing[edit source | editbeta]Edit

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

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

12": Warner Bros. / W9286T (UK)[edit source | editbeta]Edit

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

Awards and nominations[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Ginuwine cover version[edit source | editbeta]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 550/Epic
Producer 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.

Charts[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Chart (1997) Peak


Belgium (Ultratip Flanders)[8] 16
Germany (Media Control AG)[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

Other cover versions[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Sampling[edit source | editbeta]Edit

  • In 1990, MC Hammer sampled "When Doves Cry" as the basis for his song "Pray" from the Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em album.
  • In 1998, rapper Bizzy Bone would use an interpolation and pay homage to Prince's hit with "Thugz Cry" from his album Heaven'z Movie.
  • Jamaican dancehall group T.O.K.'s song "Eagles Cry" from 1998 also contains an interpolation of "When Doves Cry".
  • Darren Hayes used the beat for the his song "Darkness" on his 2007 The Time Machine Tour.
  • Pigeon John and General Electriks used it in a song called "Crush".

Appearances/references in other media[edit source | editbeta]Edit

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