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Intro

Prince has always liked to do things his own way. Some of his innovations didn't really catch on. (Assless pants, anyone? Or unpronounceable symbols instead of names? Not so much.) But those missteps aside, plenty of his acts of mad genius just… worked. Count "When Doves Cry" high on that list.

The biggest hit of 1984, this is a dance song with no bass line. It's a club joint that starts out with a messy, dissonant electric guitar solo. It's a joyful musical lark that tells a bleak semi-autobiographical story about heartbreak and domestic violence. It's a lush sonic soundscape created by just one person – Prince, who played all the instrumental parts.

This is what it sounds like when a brilliant musical artist decides to push the envelope just because he can, to prove that "nobody [else] would have the balls to do this." This is what it sounds like when doves cry.

About the Song

ArtistPrince Musician(s)Prince (vocals, guitar, keyboards, synthesizer, drum programming)
AlbumPurple Rain
Year1984
LabelWarner Bros. Records
Writer(s)Prince
Producer(s)Prince
Learn to play: Guitar Pro Tablature
Buy this song: Amazon iTunes
Try Listen and Learn (BETA)

Shmoop Connections

Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
Ever gone through a messy breakup? We're talking Shakespearean tragedy-level stuff – think Othello and Desdemona (though hopefully minus the murder-suicide). What would that sound like… if you happen to be hanging out in a disco at the time? We think that would sound pretty much just like "When Doves Cry."

On the Charts

"When Doves Cry" held the #1 spot on the US Billboard chart for five weeks, and stayed in the Top 100 for more than five months.

Billboard ranked the song it as the #1 single of 1984.

The song clocked in at #5 in VH1's "100 Greatest Songs of the '80s."

Rolling Stone magazine ranked the song #52 on its list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time."
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