The summer of 1984 was all about Prince, with his first film and the lead single from the soundtrack of Purple Rain dominating the airwaves: When Doves Cry.
Prince was asked by the Purple Rain’s director Albert Magnoli to write a song about the problems of dealing with parents and a love affair.
Prince wrote When Doves Cry, apparently inspired by his relationship with his parents and with his friendship with Susan Moonsie of Vanity 6.
All songs on Purple Rain were written and composed by Prince; with When Doves Cry, all the instruments are played by Prince, and recorded at Sunset Studio in Los Angeles.
The song was released on May 16, 1984 by Warner Bros, two months after it was recorded for the soundtrack album, and a month before the album release in June. This marked Prince’s sixth studio album, but the first he recorded with The Revolution.
At the album release, a music video debuted, showing Prince emerging from a bathtub with doves, and performing the song interspersed with scenes from Purple Rain.
The song quickly climbed the Billboard Hot 100, hitting number one on July 7, 1984 and staying at the top of the charts for five weeks.
When Doves Cry was Prince’s first number one single and the top selling single of the year, with sales of two million by the end of 1984 in the United States. And because of some of its controversial lyrics, the album was stickered with a warning from the Parents Music Resource Center.
Prince was nominated for four Grammys in 1985, winning Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Group or Duo with Vocal and Best Score Soundtrack with Visual, as well as Best R&B Song for Chaka Khan’s cover of I Feel For You, not capturing the Album of the Year.
When Doves Cry was chosen as one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time by Rolling Stone Magazine and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
And after Prince died in 2016, the song re-entered the Billboard charts at number 20 and climbed to number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100.