Study Guide

When Doves Cry

When Doves Cry Introduction

In a Nutshell

Prince has always liked to do things his own way. Some of his innovations didn't really catch on. Butless chaps, 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" (source).

This is what it sounds like when doves cry.

About the Song

ArtistPrince
Year1984
LabelWarner Bros. Records
Writer(s)Prince
Producer(s)Prince
Musician(s)Prince (vocals, guitar, keyboards, synthesizer, drum programming)
Learn to play
AlbumPurple Rain

Music Video

Influences on Prince

James Brown
George Clinton
Rick James
Ohio Players
Parliament
Sly & the Family Stone
Stevie Wonder

Influenced by Prince

Jamiroquai
Maxwell
The Neptunes
Outkast
Apollonia 6
Tamar

When Doves Cry Resources

Books

21 Nights (2008)
A photo essay from Prince's 21 gigs at the O2 Center in London in 2007, the book features poetry by Prince and photos by Randee St. Nicholas.

Albums

Music from the Motion Picture "Purple Rain" (1984)
What really made the movie Purple Rain a success was the record Purple Rain. Prince & The Revolution defined a pop era with the soundrack album. Prince's eccentric and inventive songwriting techniques, his underrated guitar skills, and his dance sensibility make much of the record remain fresh and catchy even today, 25 years after its release.

Musicology (2004)
Prince's 2004 reboot album finds Prince less bawdy than he was at the height of his success—and more concerned, as is the recent trend in popular music, with political issues. He can still write a killer dance song though—and the stylistic range between Grammy-winning "Musicology," Grammy-winning "Call My Name," and Grammy-nominated "Cinnamon Girl" is something that any music fan should be able to appreciate.

Ultimate Prince (2006)
On the first of the two-discs you'll get what you would find on any other "greatest hits" Prince album. The second disc, though, is what makes this worth a look; it's full of interesting remixes and dance mixes—sweet.

1999 (1982)
Prince had been proving his mettle on the dance-rock scene for quite some time before Purple Rain. 1999's hits "Little Red Corvette" and "1999" are still recognizable tunes—the latter jumping back into the charts shortly before the turn of the millennium.

Images

Playing that Purple Guitar
From Prince's Super Bowl halftime performance of "Purple Rain"

Prince in 1984
A shot of Prince from the movie Purple Rain.

Movies & TV

Purple Rain (1984)
The 2004, two-disc release of the Academy Award-winning (best music, best original song score) movie, is, as critic Jim Emerson has said, "an essential artifact of the mid-'80s pop Zeitgeist."

Live at the Aladdin Las Vegas (2003)
If you watched the halftime show for Superbowl XLI, you know that Prince puts on a killer live performance.

Websites

The Fan Page
A huge resource for Prince fans featuring forums, news, and much more.

Video & Audio

"When Doves Cry" music video
Prince is as much a visual artist as a musical artist. You'll understand what I mean when you watch this.