Purple Rain (song)

"Purple Rain"

US 7" single
Single by Prince and The Revolution
from the album Purple Rain
  • "God"
  • "God" (Instr.) (UK 12")
Released September 26, 1984
Recorded Live, First Avenue, Minneapolis, August 3, 1983
  • 7" edit: 4:05
  • Album/12": 8:41
Label Warner Bros.
Producer(s) Prince and the Revolution
Prince and The Revolution singles chronology
"Let's Go Crazy"
"Purple Rain"
"I Would Die 4 U"
Purple Rain track listing
"Baby I'm a Star"
"Purple Rain"

"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. The song is a combination of rock, R&B, gospel, and orchestral music. It reached number 2 in the United States for two weeks,[5] behind "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" by Wham!, and it is considered one of Prince's signature songs. It was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America in 1984, shipping one million units in the United States,[6] and it was certified silver by the British Phonographic Industry in 2013.[7]

Following Prince's death in 2016, the song rose to number one on the US and UK iTunes Charts, allowing "Purple Rain" to re-enter the Billboard Hot 100 at number 17, later reaching number four.[8][9] It also re-entered the UK Singles Chart at number 6,[10] making it two places higher than its original peak of number 8.[11] Originally peaking at number 12 in France, "Purple Rain" reached number one on the national singles chart.[12] As of April 30, 2016, it has sold 1,186,215 copies in the United States.[13]


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".[14]

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.[15] 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."[16] 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–September 1983. A solo and verse from the original recording were edited out and replaced with a different verse, changing the length from eleven to eight minutes.[14] The extra verse was about money, but was removed because it diluted the emotional impact of the song.

After recording the song, Prince phoned Jonathan Cain from Journey asking him to hear it, worried it might be too similar to "Faithfully", a Journey single composed by Cain which had recently been in the charts. Cain reassured Prince telling him the songs only shared the same four chords.[17]

Prince's explanation of meaning

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."[18] The phrase "purple rain" did appear earlier in the lyrics of the Top Ten-charting song "Ventura Highway" by America in 1972. That song was written by Dewey Bunnell.

Song structure

"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 first verse is dedicated to his father, then his ex-girlfriend (Apollonia), and then his band mates. 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.[19]


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 his set and was, appropriately, played during a downpour at the stadium, which when combined with the purple stage lighting 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.[20]

As a single

In order to be released as a single, the song was shortened from 8:45 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 legacy

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 Media 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.[21]


Track listing



12 " (UK)

Shaped picture disc (UK)

7" promo (US)

7" promo (UK)

12" promo (US)

Charts and certifications

Weekly charts

Chart (1984) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[22] 41
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[23] 4
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[24] 1
Belgium (VRT Top 30 Flanders)[25] 1
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[26] 3
Canada (CHUM)[27] 3
Germany (Official German Charts)[28] 5
Ireland (IRMA)[29] 8
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[30] 1
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[31] 1
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[32] 16
Norway (VG-lista)[33] 5
Poland (LP3)[34] 15
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[35] 5
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[36] 5
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[11] 8
US Billboard Hot 100[5] 2
US Top Black Singles (Billboard[37] 4
US Mainstream Rock (Billboard)[38] 18
US Cash Box Top 100[39] 1
Chart (1985) Peak
France (SNEP)[12] 12
Chart (2007) Peak
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[40] 90
Chart (2008) Peak
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[41] 76
Chart (2009) Peak
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[36] 51
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[42] 62
Chart (2011) Peak
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[43] 100
Chart (2012) Peak
France (SNEP)[12] 115
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[44] 75
Chart (2014) Peak
France (SNEP)[12] 196
Chart (2016) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[45] 3
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[23] 7
Canada (Digital Songs)[46] 2
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[47] 2
France (SNEP)[12] 1
Germany (Official German Charts)[28] 13
Ireland (IRMA)[48] 23
Italy (FIMI)[49] 32
Japan (Japan Hot 100)[50] 30
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[30] 54
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[32] 8
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[51] 2
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[36] 4
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[10] 6
US Billboard Hot 100[8] 4
US Hot Rock Songs (Billboard)[52] 1
US Digital Songs (Billboard)[53] 1
US R&B Songs (Billboard)[54] 2
US R&B/Hip-Hop Digital Songs (Billboard)[55] 1
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)[56] 3
US Rock Digital Songs (Billboard)[57] 1

Year-end charts

Chart (1984) Rank
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[58] 6
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[59] 37
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[60] 3
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[61] 5
US Cash Box Top 100[62] 17


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
New Zealand (RMNZ)[63] Gold 15,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[7] Silver 200,000^
United States (RIAA)[6] Gold 1,000,000^

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

Stacy Francis version

"Purple Rain"
Single by Stacy Francis
Released May 29, 2012
Format Digital download
Recorded 2012
Length 3:49
Label Donovan Noel Productions

"Purple Rain" became the debut single of American recording artist and The X Factor's season one finalist, Stacy Francis. She first performed the song on The X Factor Judges' Houses episode, in front of her mentor Nicole Scherzinger and Enrique Iglesias. Her powerful vocal performance received positive feedback, with Iglesias commenting: "I think the neighbors can hear that!"

Francis eventually released a studio version of the song as her debut single on May 29, 2012. She dedicated the single to her supporters who have been supporting her ever since she was eliminated from the competition and motivated her to do a studio cover of the song.

Dami Im version

Australian pop singer Dami Im performed a cover in week two of the fifth Australian X Factor series,[64] on 22 September 2013. All four judges gave her a unanimous standing ovation with Ronan Keating standing on the table.[65] Keating told Im that the competition "at the moment, is yours".[66] Her performance debuted at number 29 on the Australian Singles Chart.[67] It was Im's second consecutive standing ovation during the Live Shows.[68] During the Grand Final Live Decider Show on 27 October 2013 Dami reprised her iconic performance of the song as the "Best Live Show" Song,[69] again to a standing ovation from the judges and the audience.[70]

Im recorded a version of the song for her self-titled album, which debuted at number one in Australia. On the morning of 21 April 2016, Im performed live on Australia's Channel 7's The Morning Show in a tribute to Prince.[71] "Purple Rain" remains a part of Im's repertoire in many of her public performances. Im also performs the song acoustically. One notable such performance was at the John Legend Tour of Australia in 2014,[72] where she was the opening act for Legend.


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