"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. 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 â" 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.
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. 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 said classical finish.
During live performances of the song on the Purple Rain Tour, Brown Mark, Prince's then-bass player, added bass lines in this song as well as other songs without bass lines.
"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.
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. The video sparked controversy among network executives who thought that its sexual nature was too explicit for television.
12": Paisley Park / 0-20170 (U.S.)
- "When Doves Cry" â" 5:52
- "17 Days" â" 3:54
12": Warner Bros. / W9286T (UK)
- "When Doves Cry" â" 5:52
- "17 Days" â" 3:54
- "1999" â" 6:22
- "D.M.S.R." â" 8:05
- 2x12" pack
Awards and nominations
- American Music Awards - 1985 - Favorite Black Single (won)
- Pazz & Jop critics' poll: best single of the year, 1984 (won)
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.
In popular culture
Other cover versions
- Three rap versions of "When Doves Cry" were released in a single called "When Doves Cry Rapp" in 1984.
- Irish music artist Damien Rice recorded an acoustic cover version of the song, featured on the Triple J's Like a Version, which segues into Led Zeppelin's Babe I'm Gonna Leave You, owing to its similar chord structure.
- A cappella group The Flying Pickets included a cover on their 1994 album The Original Flying Pickets: Volume 1.
- Bob Belden recorded a fusion version featuring vocals from Cassandra Wilson.
- As a child, American actor/singer Quindon Tarver covered the song for the 1996 film Romeo + Juliet. It was included on the 1997 soundtrack album William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet: Music from the Motion Picture, Volume 2, and became a hit in Australia.
- Patti Smith covered "When Doves Cry" on her compilation album, Land (1975â"2002).
- Serbian rock band Night Shift covered the song in 2002 on their debut album Undercovers.
- First season Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian performed the song on the show and recorded a cover for his 2003 debut album Just as I Am.
- Canadian group The Be Good Tanyas performed "When Doves Cry" on their 2006 album Hello Love.
- British band Razorlight recorded a cover as the B-side to their 2007 single "I Can't Stop This Feeling I've Got".
- Canadian singer Kristy Thirsk included a cover of the song on her 2008 EP Under Cover EP. An audio sample of her version can be heard on her official MySpace page.
- A cover by The Twilight Singers was included on the 2009 tribute compilation Purplish Rain. A free download of the song was offered by Spin magazine.
- Canadian group The Pursuit of Happiness performed "When Doves Cry" on their 2005 greatest hits compilation When We Ruled: The Best of The Pursuit of Happiness.
- Jam band Gov't Mule uses the chorus occasionally as a tease during live versions of their song "Beautifully Broken".
- Alex Clare recorded a cover for his 2011 debut album The Lateness of the Hour.
- Jean Koning recorded a cover of the song in 2011.
- Finnebassen made a House-remix in 2012
- 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
- In the episode of The Simpsons, "Lemon of Troy", Milhouse Van Houten, upon meeting the Shelbyvillian Milhouse, says, "So this is what it feels like when doves cry."
- The Quindon Tarver version of the song (backed by a choir) was featured in the wedding scene of the 1996 Baz Luhrmann film Romeo + Juliet.
- Patti Smith's cover of the song was used in the 2003 film Lost in Translation.
- The popular Canadian teen drama Degrassi: The Next Generation, which is known for naming each episode after an 80s hit song, named a two-part episode after this song. The episode dealt with the issue of child abuse.
- Snoop Dogg recreated the ending of the original "When Doves Cry" video at the midpoint of his "Sensual Seduction" video.
- The Dream Warriors single, "Wash Your Face in My Sink", from their 1991 album And Now the Legacy Begins, features the lyric "You constantly lie 'when doves cry'... out."
- The AFL Footy Show's Garry Lyon, parodied the song for the 2010 Grand Final show.
- Rachel Stevens and Vincent Simone danced the Argentine Tango to this song in the semi-finals of Strictly Come Dancing, getting a score of 39 out of 40. In 2012, Kimberley Walsh and Pasha Kovalev dance a tango to this song in the final, and scored a maximum 40.
- Uptown: The Vault â" The Definitive Guide to the Musical World of Prince: Nilsen Publishing 2004, ISBN 91-631-5482-X
- "When Doves Cry" music video at MTV.com (Windows Media Video format)
- Full lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics