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Purple Rain (song)

"Purple Rain" is a song by Prince and The Revolution. It is the title track from the 1984 album of the same name, which in turn is the soundtrack album for the 1984 film of the same name, and was released as the third single from that album. A power ballad,[5] the song is a combination of rock, R&B, gospel, and orchestral music. Prince explained the meaning of "Purple Rain" as follows: "When there's blood in the sky – red and blue = purple... purple rain pertains to the end of the world and being with the one you love and letting your faith/god guide you through the purple rain."[6]

"Purple Rain"
Purple-rain-cover.jpg
US 12" single
Single by Prince and The Revolution
from the album Purple Rain
B-side
  • "God"
  • "God" (Instr.) (UK 12")
ReleasedSeptember 26, 1984
Format
RecordedFirst Avenue, Minneapolis, August 3, 1983 (live recording) Sunset Sound, Los Angeles, Mid August-Mid September, 1983 (overdubs)
Genre
Length
  • 7" edit: 4:05
  • Album/12": 8:41
LabelWarner Bros.
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)Prince and the Revolution
Prince and The Revolution singles chronology
"Let's Go Crazy"
(1984)
"Purple Rain"
(1984)
"I Would Die 4 U"
(1984)
Purple vinyl issue
Limited edition release
Limited edition release

"Purple Rain" reached number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed there for two weeks. It reached number one in Belgium and the Netherlands. It is certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It is considered to be one of Prince's signature songs. Following Prince's death in 2016, "Purple Rain" rose to number one on the US and UK iTunes Charts, allowing "Purple Rain" to re-enter the Billboard Hot 100 reaching number four.[7] It also re-entered the UK Singles Chart at number 6, making it two places higher than its original peak of number 8. Originally peaking at number 12 in France, "Purple Rain" reached number one on April 30, 2016.

"Purple Rain" is ranked number 144 on the Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and is also included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.[8] At Super Bowl XLI's halftime show, in which he was the featured performer, "Purple Rain" was featured as the last song of Prince's set. Prince performed the song as the opening of a medley of his hits with Beyoncé at the 2004 Grammy Awards. "Purple Rain" was the final song Prince performed live following his performance of it during his final concert in Atlanta, Georgia on April 14, 2016.[9]

CompositionEdit

"Purple Rain" was originally written as a country song and intended to be a collaboration with Stevie Nicks.[10] According to Nicks, she received a 10-minute instrumental version of the song from Prince with a request to write the lyrics, but felt overwhelmed. She said: "I listened to it and I just got scared. I called him back and said, 'I can't do it. I wish I could. It's too much for me.'"[11] At a rehearsal, Prince then asked his backing band to try the song: "I want to try something before we go home. It's mellow." According to Lisa Coleman, Prince then changed the song after Wendy Melvoin started playing guitar chords to accompany the song: "He was excited to hear it voiced differently. It took it out of that country feeling. Then we all started playing it a bit harder and taking it more seriously. We played it for six hours straight and by the end of that day we had it mostly written and arranged."[10]

Prince's explanation of meaningEdit

Prince explained the meaning of "Purple Rain" as follows: "When there's blood in the sky – red and blue = purple... purple rain pertains to the end of the world and being with the one you love and letting your faith/god guide you through the purple rain."[6] The title track of Prince's preceding album, 1999, included similar references to a doomed ending under a purple sky ("...could have sworn it was Judgment Day, the sky was all purple...").

Song structureEdit

"Purple Rain" opens with a lone guitar quickly followed by live drumming and a prominent Yamaha CP70 Electric grand piano, evoking images of church gospel music. Three verses are each followed by a chorus, with a building emotional delivery. In the context of the film, each verse ties into a different strained relationship Prince's character has and his desire to reconcile. The song is dedicated to his father in the movie, not ex-girlfriend Denise Matthews better known as Vanity. After the final chorus, a guitar solo takes over the song. The song ends with a piano solo and orchestral strings. Prince's vocal range spans from the low note of F3 to the high note of A5.[12]

RecordingEdit

The song was recorded during a benefit concert for the Minnesota Dance Theatre at the First Avenue nightclub in Minneapolis on August 3, 1983. The performance was guitarist Wendy Melvoin's live debut with The Revolution, at the age of 19. City Pages described the 70-minute performance as Prince's "sweatiest and most soulful hometown concert yet", and drummer Bobby Z stated, "it certainly was one of the best concerts we ever did".[13]

The concert was recorded by David Rivkin (a.k.a. David Z, brother of Bobby Z) using a mobile recording unit brought in from the Record Plant in New York City, staffed by engineers Dave Hewitt and Kooster McAllister.[14] David Z's connection to Prince is deeper than most professional relationships. David's older brother Cliff Rifkin was the regional promotion executive for Warners in Minneapolis, who also expedited Prince's label signing. David Z's younger brother, Bobby Z, would then become Prince's drummer in the Revolution. David Z wasn't surprised when he was requested to set up the live recording in August 3, 1983, "With Prince, you never knew," he says. "I thought we were recording a concert, but I wasn't sure if it was going to be a record, too. I knew they were working on the movie as, as well. You just had to go in prepared to record whatever it was going to be as well as you could."[15] The basic tracks for three songs were used on the Purple Rain soundtrack: "Purple Rain", "I Would Die 4 U", and "Baby I'm a Star". Prince performed overdubs while working at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles from August to September 1983. A solo and the third verse from the original recording were edited out, changing the length from eleven to eight minutes.[13] The extra verse was about money, but was removed because it diluted the emotional impact of the song.[citation needed]

After recording the song, Prince phoned Jonathan Cain from Journey to ask him to listen to it, as he was worried that it might be too similar to "Faithfully", a Journey single composed by Cain which had recently been in the charts. Cain reassured Prince by telling him that the songs only shared the same four chords.[16] Lisa Coleman created the string arrangement, played by her brother and friends, that was overdubbed into the song in a studio in Los Angeles.[10]

PerformancesEdit

The song was a staple of Prince's live performances. He played it on nearly every tour since 1984, except for a period after his name change when he avoided his older hits for a few years.

At Super Bowl XLI's halftime show, in which he was the featured performer, "Purple Rain" was featured as the last song of Prince's set and was, appropriately, played during a downpour at the stadium; when combined with the purple stage lighting, this created the song's signature image.

Prince performed the song as the opening of a medley of his hits with Beyoncé at the 2004 Grammy Awards, and also at the 2006 Brit Awards.

"Purple Rain" ended up being the final song Prince performed live during his final concert in Atlanta, Georgia on April 14, 2016.[9]

As a singleEdit

For release as a single, the song was edited down from 8:41 to 4:05.

The B-side, "God", is a much more overtly religious number (Prince's most religious), recalling the book of Genesis. The song also features extensive vocal experimentation. Towards the end, Prince mentions "The Dance Electric", which was a song given to former band member André Cymone. In the U.K., the 12" single also included an instrumental of "God", also known as "Love Theme from Purple Rain", an edited portion of which appears in the film.

Reception and legacyEdit

The song ranked number 144 on the Rolling Stone list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Q magazine placed it at number 40 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks, and Pitchfork named it the best song of the 1980s.

The song is also included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.[8]

PersonnelEdit

  • Prince – lead vocals, backing vocals, lead guitar and other instruments
  • Wendy Melvoin – rhythm guitar and backing vocals
  • Lisa Coleman – keyboards and backing vocals
  • Matt Fink – keyboards
  • Brown Mark – bass and backing vocals
  • Bobby Z. – drums and percussion
  • Novi Novog – violin and viola
  • David Coleman – cello
  • Suzie Katayama – cello

Track listingEdit

7"Edit

  • A. "Purple Rain" (edit) – 4:02
  • B. "God" – 3:59

12"Edit

  • A. "Purple Rain" – 8:45
  • B. "God" – 3:59

12 " (UK)Edit

  • A. "Purple Rain" (long version) – 7:05
  • B1. "God (Love Theme from Purple Rain)" (instrumental) – 7:54
  • B2. "God" (vocal) – 3:59

Shaped picture disc (UK)Edit

  • A. "Purple Rain" (edit) – 4:02
  • B. "God" – 3:59

7" promo (US)Edit

  • A. "Purple Rain" (edit) – 4:02
  • B. "Purple Rain" (edit) – 4:02

7" promo (UK)Edit

  • A. "Purple Rain" (radio edit) – 4:19
  • B. "Purple Rain" (long radio edit) – 5:37

12" promo (US)Edit

  • A. "Purple Rain" (edit) – 4:02
  • B. "Purple Rain" (LP version) – 8:45

Charts and certificationsEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Slowikowski, Tim (May 31, 2009). "A Track-by-Track Rundown of 'Purple Rain'". PopMatters. Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  2. ^ Partridge, Kenneth (June 24, 2014). "Prince's 'Purple Rain' at 30: Classic Track-by-Track Album Review". Billboard. Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  3. ^ Jones, Chris. "Prince - Purple Rain Review". BBC. Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  4. ^ The original single release credits the authors of the song as Prince and The Revolution, but the song's authorship is registered with ASCAP as solely by Prince.
  5. ^ "24 of the Biggest and Best Movie Power Ballads".
  6. ^ a b NME.COM. "20 Things You Didn't Know About Purple Rain". NME.COM. Retrieved May 3, 2016.
  7. ^ Madeline Raynor. "Prince Is No. 1 on iTunes Today -- Vulture". Vulture. Retrieved May 3, 2016.
  8. ^ a b http://rockhall.com/exhibits/500-songs-that-shaped-rock-and/
  9. ^ a b Brent Lang,Katie Van Syckle. "Prince's Final Days: Inside His Last Concerts - Variety". Variety. Retrieved May 3, 2016.
  10. ^ a b c Hann, Michael (July 24, 2017). "How we made Prince's Purple Rain". The Guardian.
  11. ^ "Stevie Nicks: 'I turned down Prince's offer to write 'Purple Rain' lyrics'". NME. September 16, 2011.
  12. ^ "Prince - Purple Rain Sheet Music". musicnotes.com. Arrangement Details. Retrieved October 4, 2011.
  13. ^ a b Nilsen, Per (2003). Dance Music Sex Romance: Prince: The First Decade. SAF Publishing, pp. 153–155. ISBN 0-946719-64-0
  14. ^ Daley, Dan (January 1, 2009). "Classic Tracks: Prince and the Revolution's "Purple Rain"". Mix. Archived from the original on June 4, 2011. Retrieved April 25, 2011.
  15. ^ Citation Daley, D. (2009, 01). Music: Prince and the revolution - "purple rain". Mix, 33, 58-61. Proquest
  16. ^ "Hitlåtens historia, "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey, Extramaterial: Prince trodde att han hade snott låten". svt.se. January 30, 2012. Retrieved February 18, 2012.[permanent dead link]
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  62. ^ "British single certifications – Prince – Purple Rain". British Phonographic Industry. Select singles in the Format field. Select Platinum in the Certification field. Type Purple Rain in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  63. ^ "American single certifications – Prince – Purple Rain". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH.