When Doves Cry

"When Doves Cry"

Standard artwork, especially for US 7" single
Single by Prince
from the album Purple Rain
Released May 16, 1984 (1984-05-16)[1]
  • 7" edit: 3:47
  • Album/12" version: 5:52
Label Warner Bros.
Writer(s) Prince
Producer(s) Prince
  • Platinum (RIAA)August 21, 1984
  • Silver (BPI)August 1, 1984
Prince singles chronology
"When Doves Cry"
"Let's Go Crazy"
Prince (UK) chronology
"Little Red Corvette"
"When Doves Cry"
"Purple Rain"
Purple Rain track listing
"Darling Nikki"
"When Doves Cry"
"I Would Die 4 U"
"When Doves Cry"
Prince's "When Doves Cry" from Purple Rain

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"When Doves Cry" is a song by 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.[4] 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 number 52 on the Rolling Stone list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and is included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.[5]

Following Prince's death, the song re-charted on the Billboard Hot 100 chart at number eight, its first appearance in the top 10 since the week ending September 1, 1984. As of April 30, 2016, it has sold 1,385,448 copies in the United States.[6]



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 – 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 number one in the US 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 number one single of 1984. In 2016, after Prince's death, "When Doves Cry" re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 20, and later, back in the top 10 at number 8.

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 number one, with 85 letters and/or numbers.

Song structure

Prince wrote and composed "When Doves Cry" after all the other tracks were complete on Purple Rain. 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 an '80s dance song; Prince has said that there originally was a bass line but, after a conversation with singer Jill Jones, he decided that the song was too conventional with it intact.[7] 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 classical finish.

During live performances of the song on the Purple Rain Tour, Prince's bass player Brown Mark added bass lines in this song as well as other songs without bass lines.[8]

The song is in the key of A minor.


"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" number 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 number 5 on the list. On October 13, 2008, the song was voted number 2 on Australian VH1's Top 10 Number One Pop Songs countdown. The "80 of the 80s" podcast ranks it as the number 59 song of the decade.[9]

"When Doves Cry" was sampled for use in MC Hammer's 1990 hit song, "Pray", one of the few songs legally sanctioned by Prince.

Music video

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.[10] The video sparked controversy among network executives who thought that its sexual nature was too explicit for television.

Track listing

12": Paisley Park / 0-20170 (US)

  1. "When Doves Cry" – 5:52
  2. "17 Days" – 3:54

12": Warner Bros. / W9286T (UK)

  1. "When Doves Cry" – 5:52
  2. "17 Days" – 3:54
  1. "1999" – 6:22
  2. "D.M.S.R." – 8:05

Charts and certifications

Weekly charts

Chart (1984) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[11] 1
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[12] 19
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[13] 6
Belgium (VRT Top 30 Flanders)[14] 7
Canada (CHUM)[15] 1
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[16] 1
Canada (The Record)[17] 1
France (SNEP)[18] 32
Germany (Official German Charts)[19] 16
Ireland (IRMA)[20] 2
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[21] 5
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[22] 6
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[23] 2
Norway (VG-lista)[24] 10
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[25] 18
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[26] 17
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[27] 4
US Billboard Hot 100[28] 1
US Black Singles (Billboard)[28] 1
US Dance/Disco Top 80 (Billboard)[28] 1
US Cash Box[29] 1
Chart (2016) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[30] 11
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[12] 59
Belgium (Back Catalogue Singles Flanders)[31] 2
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[32] 29
France (SNEP)[18] 11
Germany (Official German Charts)[19] 49
Ireland (IRMA)[33] 69
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[23] 35
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[34] 10
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[35] 35
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[26] 34
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[36] 26
US Billboard Hot 100[37] 8
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)[38] 5
US Hot Rock Songs (Billboard)[39] 2


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
New Zealand (RMNZ)[40] Gold 5,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[41] Silver 250,000^
United States (RIAA)[42] Platinum (Physical) 2,000,000 (Physical)
1,385,448 (Digital)[6]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

Awards and nominations

Ginuwine version

"When Doves Cry"
Single by Ginuwine
from the album Ginuwine...the Bachelor
Released July 25, 1997
Format CD single
Genre R&B
Length 5:09
Label Epic
Producer(s) Timbaland
Ginuwine singles chronology
"Tell Me Do U Wanna"
"When Doves Cry"
"I'll Do Anything/I'm Sorry"
Ginuwine...the Bachelor track listing
"World Is So Cold"
"When Doves Cry"
"G. Thang"
Playlist: The Very Best of Ginuwine track listing
"Hell Yeah"
"When Doves Cry"

A cover version by American 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.[44]


Chart (1997) Peak
Belgium (Ultratip Flanders)[45] 16
Germany (Official German Charts)[46] 15
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[47] 15
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[48] 7
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[49] 24
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[50] 42
UK Singles (The Official Charts Company)[51] 10
U.S. Billboard Rhythmic Top 40[52] 16

Notable cover versions

See also


  1. Uptown, 2004, p.48
  2. "25 Essential Prince Songs". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  3. Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Purple Rain - Revew". AllMusic. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  4. "American single certifications – Prince – When Doves Cry". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
  5. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-03-17. Retrieved 2008-01-12.
  6. 1 2 "Hip Hop Single Sales: Prince, Desiigner & Drake". HipHopDX. April 30, 2016. Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  7. "Prince In Print". Princetext.tripod.com. Retrieved 2012-01-08.
  8. https://web.archive.org/web/20040530153719/http://www.princelyrics.co.uk/viewarticle.asp?article=35. Archived from the original on 2004-05-30. Retrieved 2004-05-30. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. CK1, DJ (22 April 2016). "#59: Prince - When Doves Cry". 80ofthe80s.libsyn.com. Retrieved 23 April 2016.
  10. "Prince & the Revolution - "When doves cry"". mvdbase.com. Retrieved 2012-01-08.
  11. Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970-1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 239. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  12. 1 2 "Austriancharts.at – Prince – When Doves Cry" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  13. "Ultratop.be – Prince – When Doves Cry" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  14. "Radio2 top 30: 22 september 1984" (in Dutch). Top 30. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  15. "CHART NUMBER 1439 – Saturday, July 28, 1984". Archived from the original on 2006-11-07. Retrieved 2014-06-12.. CHUM. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  16. "Top Singles - Volume 40, No. 22, Aug 04, 1984". RPM. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  17. [Nanda Lwin (1999). Top 40 Hits: The Essential Chart Guide. Music Data Canada. ISBN 1-896594-13-1.
  18. 1 2 "Lescharts.com – Prince – When Doves Cry" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  19. 1 2 "Offiziellecharts.de – Prince – When Doves Cry". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  20. "The Irish Charts – Search Results – When Doves Cry". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  21. "Nederlandse Top 40 – Prince search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  22. "Dutchcharts.nl – Prince – When Doves Cry" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  23. 1 2 "Charts.org.nz – Prince – When Doves Cry". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  24. "Norwegiancharts.com – Prince – When Doves Cry". VG-lista. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  25. "Swedishcharts.com – Prince – When Doves Cry". Singles Top 100. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  26. 1 2 "Swisscharts.com – Prince – When Doves Cry". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  27. "Prince: Artist Chart History" Official Charts Company. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  28. 1 2 3 "Prince – Awards". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  29. "CASH BOX Top 100 Singles – Week ending JULY 14, 1984". Cash Box magazine. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  30. "Australian-charts.com – Prince – When Doves Cry". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  31. "50 Back Catalogue Singles – 30/04/16". Ultratop. Hung Medien. Retrieved May 12, 2016.
  32. "Prince – Chart history" Canadian Hot 100 for Prince. Retrieved May 4, 2016.
  33. "Chart Track: Week 17, 2016". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  34. "Archive Chart: 2016-05-05". Scottish Singles Top 40. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  35. "Spanishcharts.com – Prince – When Doves Cry" Canciones Top 50. Retrieved May 9, 2016.
  36. "Archive Chart: 2016-05-05" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  37. "Prince – Chart history" Billboard Hot 100 for Prince. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  38. "Prince – Chart history" Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs for Prince. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  39. "Prince – Chart history" Billboard Hot Rock Songs for Prince. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  40. "New Zealand single certifications – Prince – When Doves Cry". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  41. "British single certifications – Prince – When Doves Cry". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved May 1, 2016. Enter When Doves Cry in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select single in the field By Format. Select Silver in the field By Award. Click Search
  42. "American single certifications – Prince – When Doves Cry". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved May 1, 2016. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
  43. Video on YouTube
  44. "mvdbase.com - Michael Lucero technician videography". Music Video DataBase. Retrieved August 19, 2014.
  45. "Ultratop.be – Ginuwine – When Doves Cry" (in Dutch). Ultratip.
  46. "Musicline.de – Ginuwine Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH.
  47. "Nederlandse Top 40 – Ginuwine search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40.
  48. "Charts.org.nz – Ginuwine – When Doves Cry". Top 40 Singles.
  49. "Swisscharts.com – Ginuwine – When Doves Cry". Swiss Singles Chart.
  50. "Swedishcharts.com – Ginuwine – When Doves Cry". Singles Top 100.
  51. UK Singles Chart Chartstats.com Retrieved October 17, 2008
  52. Billboard Artist Chart History Retrieved October 17, 2008
Preceded by
"The Reflex" by Duran Duran
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
July 7, 1984 - August 4, 1984
Succeeded by
"Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker Jr.
Preceded by
"Lovelite" by O'Bryan
Billboard Hot Black Singles number-one single
June 30, 1984 - August 18, 1984
Succeeded by
"Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker Jr.
Preceded by
"Tell Me I'm Not Dreamin' (Too Good to Be True)" by Jermaine Jackson and Michael Jackson
Billboard Hot Dance Club Play number-one single
(with "17 Days")

June 30, 1984 - August 4, 1984
Succeeded by
"Breakin'... There's No Stopping Us" by Ollie & Jerry
Preceded by
"Sister Christian" by Night Ranger
Canadian RPM Singles Chart number-one single
August 4, 1984 – August 18, 1984
Succeeded by
"Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker Jr.
Preceded by
"Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" by Wham!
Australian Kent Music Report number-one single
20 August 1984
Succeeded by
"Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" by Wham!
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