“When Doves Cry” is the sixth track off of Prince’s 1984 “Purple Rain” album from the “Purple Rain” film. It is ranked number 52 in the Rolling Stone “500 Greats Songs of All Time” (among other Prince songs such as “Purple Rain”), as well as being included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll”.
The track stems from the director of the “Purple Rain” movie to write a song to match the theme of a particular segment of the film which involved parental difficulties and a love affair. By the next morning, Prince had reportedly created two songs – one which was “When Dover Cry”. According to Per Nilsen who was Prince’s biographer, the track was inspired by his relationship by girl band Vanity 6 member Susan Moonsie. Prince not only wrote the track but composed it too as well as played all the instruments on the track.
The song focuses on the problems of a relationship but also how their lover makes them feel sexually and emotionally. Prince refers to his parent’s personalities as to one of the reasons why the relationships may not be working in the chorus: “Maybe I’m just too demanding / Maybe I’m just like my father: too bold / Maybe you’re just like my mother / She’s never satisfied / Why do we scream at each other? / This is what it sounds like / When doves cry”. The reference to doves is an interesting one, as doves are often viewed as a symbol of peace and respect. Perhaps Prince is saying that on the surface their love is viewed as peaceful and beautiful, but is harsh and sad when it’s in turmoil – or even that despite the issues in the relationship, it is still a beautiful thing.
The music video (which now has 19 million views on YouTube since its reupload in July of 2017) was directed by Prince himself and originally released on MTV in June 1984. It opens with Prince lying in a bathtub, as well as scenes from the Purple Rain film, but upon its release it did spark controversy with network executives for its sexual nature.
Release Date: 2nd March 1984
Label/s: Warner Bros
Music Video Release Date: June 1984
Music Video Director: Prince
Chart Rankings, Awards & Certifications: Gold Certification in New Zealand, Silver in the UK and Platinum in the US. It is known worldwide and was his first ever American number one single, staying in the charts for five weeks. It won an American Music Award in 1985 for “Favourite Black Single” and the best single of the year in 1984 in the “Pazz & Jop” critics’ poll. It was #1 in the year end chart of the US Billboard Hot 100 in 1984. It also reached #1 in its year of release in Australia and Canada and shot to the charts again in 2016 post Prince’s tragic death.