When Doves Cry was the lead single from Prince's 1984 album "Purple Rain" which became his first number-one, worldwide hit song.
According to the Billboard magazine, the song was the top-selling single of 1984. It was certified platinum by the RIAA, shipping 2 million units in the United States.
The song is ranked at #52 on the Rolling Stone list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time."
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) and the next morning, he had reportedly composed two songs, one of which was "When Doves Cry."
According to Per Nilsen (Prince's biographer) the song was inspired by Prince's then relationship with Vanity 6 member Susan Moonsie.
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 is in the key of A minor and the 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.
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 radio-edited versions, the song either 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.
"When Doves Cry" topped the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. from July 7 to August 4, 1984 (which kept Bruce Springsteen's song "Dancing in the Dark" off the top of the charts).
The song was voted as the best single of the year in The Village Voice Pazz & Jop critics' poll and Billboard ranked it as the #1 single of 1984.
In 2016 (after Prince's death) "When Doves Cry" re-entered the Billboard Hot 100 at #20 and later back in the top 10 at #8.
"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 and it was #38 in Movement's "The Greatest Songs of All Time" list.
Rolling Stone ranked "When Doves Cry" #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 #2 on Australian VH1's "Top 10 Number One Pop Songs" countdown. The "80 of the 80s" podcast ranks it as the #59 song of the decade.
The music video for "When Doves Cry" (which was directed by Prince himself) was released on MTV in June of 1984.
The video 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 the 1985 MTV Video Music Awards. It also sparked controversy among network executives who thought that its sexual nature was too explicit for television.
- "Pazz & Jop" critics' poll: "Best Single of the Year" (won)
- American Music Awards: "Favorite Black Single" (won)
"When Doves Cry" has been covered by artists such as Ginuwine, the Flying Pickets, Patti Smith, Alex Clare and Quindon Tarver (who covered the song for the soundtrack to the 1996 film "William Shakepeare's Romeo + Juliet."