Prince once compared Purple Rain to his own “albatross,” saying it’d be hanging from his neck until he stopped making music. What a weird thing to say about his biggest song. In his defense, he was speaking of the movie of the same title as well, which received vigorous backlash. Maybe that was exactly what he meant, meaning there was a lot of pressure that came along with its success. With an initial number 6 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in the UK and number 4 in the United States, it was a huge part of his career. Purple Rain was also the very last song that Prince performed in 2016 at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. He died a week afterward.
Help Me, Stevie!
The song was structured to tell a story and was part of the soundtrack to the first movie that Prince made. The soundtrack featured “When Doves Cry” and “Let’s Go Crazy”. It won him an Oscar for Best Original Song Score. Purple Rain centers on a struggling frontman of a band, the Revolution who won’t ever play the music written by his bandmates, Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman (Wendy and Lisa were Prince’s real-life band members). Until they wrote Purple Rain which is played at the end when The Revolution is in a band war with another band. Purple Rain is a love song, actually written by Prince himself. Initially, however, it wasn’t his plan to perform it alone.
It isn’t uncommon for artists to write songs for other artists. In Prince’s case, Purple Rain was initially supposed to be a collaborative country song with Fleetwood Mac singer and songwriter Stevie Nicks. The Fleetwood Mac singer received the 10-minute instrumental demo but was unable to contribute. She said that the song was too big for her. She called it epic and apologized for not being able to come up with any lyrics or vocals for it. Sometime after Nicks withdrew, Prince and his band practiced it for six-hour straight one day and developed the heavier song arrangement, later recorded it at the First Avenue night club in Minneapolis.
Purple Rain, The Love Song
According to Prince, the song meaning related to when there is “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.” So, technically we can say that yes, it is a love song.
The epic song was used to open his 2004 Super Bowl performance and close his Purple Rain and Musicology tours. He played it more than any other song. He often had a special costume change that required the members of his band to play the intro almost ten times while he prepared. Every performance was a showstopper and in some form a release for all who witness, but Prince especially. Prince, unfortunately, died of an accidental overdose of the opioid fentanyl on April 21, 2016, at the age of 57. Although he left this world, it’s safe to say that his legacy is still much alive and well.