Meaning of When Doves Cry by Prince

When Doves Cry


Unravel the Mysteries of Prince’s “When Doves Cry”

If you’ve ever listened to a classic radio station or flipped through a ’80s playlist, you’ve probably been captivated by Prince‘s hauntingly beautiful “When Doves Cry.” But what is the backstory of this legendary song?

Let’s peel back the layers, shall we?

When “When Doves Cry” was released in 1984 as the debut single from his album “Purple Rain,” it was a game changer. Not only did it dominate the charts, becoming the best-selling song of the year1, but it also left an indelible impression on the music world, demonstrating Prince’s unrivalled talent.

The Artist’s Point of View

Prince’s unique enigmatic manner has cloaked the underlying meanings of his songs in mystery. However, it is commonly acknowledged that “When Doves Cry” explores the intricacies of human relationships, particularly love and pain.

The stark lyrics of the song, such as *”Maybe I’m just too demanding, Maybe I’m just like my father, too bold,”* imply a reflection on personal experiences, relationships, and familial ties2. It’s a genuine and honest depiction of how we sometimes see our parents’ relationships reflected in our own.

Interpretations by Listeners

For any Prince fan or ’80s music fan, “When Doves Cry” generally evokes sentiments of nostalgia. Its poignant lyrics will strike a chord with anybody who has experienced the turmoil of love or the shadow of family dynamics influencing relationships.

Many listeners see the lack of a bass line as meaningful. It removes a core aspect from the song, maybe echoing the fragile and exposed quality of the feelings Prince explores.

Historical and Societal Background

The 1980s were a time of great change. Artists like Prince were at the vanguard of this movement, merging music, fashion, and on-screen identities, with the rise of MTV and the significance of visual culture in music. With its vivid images and honest passion, this song brilliantly reflects the zeitgeist of the time.

“When Doves Cry” was an anthem as well as a song. It exploited the universality of human emotions, across cultural and societal boundaries. At a period when pop culture was exploding with colours, synthesisers, and larger-than-life personas, this song provided an introspective respite—a minute to ponder amidst the glitz.

The lyrics in this song by Prince convey a stunning picture. The title line, *”This is what it sounds like when doves cry,”* captures the heart of the song. Doves, which are frequently used as symbols of peace and love, crying is a powerful metaphor for love’s contradictory nature—both its beauty and its anguish.

But there’s another layer to this. Doves, in their purity, represent innocence. Their cry might be the sound of lost innocence or the transformational journey from ignorance to experience.

*”How can you just leave me standing?” is another memorable line. “Alone in such a cold world?” Here, Prince explores feelings of abandonment and solitude in the midst of a love that was once warm and all-encompassing.

“When Doves Cry” is a masterwork that combines intense emotions with innovative musical methods. It invites us to look deeply into our own experiences, reflect on our pasts, and perhaps find comfort in the shared human path of love, suffering, and growth.

So, the next time you hear this music, realise that it is a story, a feeling, and a piece of history. And it’s all about Prince.

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