While Prince Rogers Nelson’s death at the age of 57 in 2016 leaves a permanent void in music, the legacy he left behind will live on forever. Dubbed as one of the finest creations by Prince, or in music history altogether, “Purple Rain” is an epitome of creation, both lyrically and musically. It is also the final song Prince performed live in Atlanta, Georgia, a week before his passing. So let us take a dive into the lyrics and meaning behind this song.
“Purple Rain” is the title track of Prince’s sixth studio album released in 1984. The album served as the soundtrack for the movie by the same name, also released in 1984. The song peaked at #2 on Billboard Hot 100 and #8 on the UK Singles Chart. Following Prince’s death in 2016, it ranked at #6 in the UK. Rolling Stones magazine ranked the song at #144 on their ‘The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time’ List. The estimated sales numbers for this song are beyond 2 million worldwide. The album itself sold over 3 million units worldwide, making Prince’s best-selling album. Furthermore, Prince won an Oscar for ‘Best Original Song Score’ at the Academy Awards in 1984 courtesy of this song.
Prince did state that purple was his favorite color. The legend himself associated with the color purple and he was often seen dressed in this color. But what does this song mean? Prince once did breakdown the idea behind the song;
“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”
Also, Prince’s fifth album, titled ‘1999,’ features the lyrics; “…could have sworn it was Judgment Day, the sky was all purple…”
Watch “Purple Rain” Official Music Video by Prince & The Revolution
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Lyrics Review and Song Meaning of “Purple Rain”
Prince wrote this song with the movie in mind. Each verse is directed at a significant person/s in his life. The first verse is a dedication to his father, the second verse to his girlfriend, and the third verse is an address to his bandmates, specifically Wendy and Lisa
Prince addresses his father, John Lewis Nelson. In these emotional lyrics, Prince tells his father that all he wanted to do was make him proud. Maybe it is that he has failed at it, during this specific junction of his life. When you get to the stature as Prince did, it becomes very complicated to manage all aspects of his life. But he knows he tried his best and still keeps on trying. So he awaits the purple day of judgment for his conviction.
His wish for his father is that Prince sees his father smiling one last time. Be it the end of the world, gauged in the ‘Purple Rain,’ his only wish is to make him smile.
The infamous hook of the song has Prince begging for a purple rain. In a sense, the song title also marks the end of the world, and in this situation, Prince only wants to see the good in life, recollect good memories for the other side.
In the second verse of the song, Prince addresses his girlfriend. By the make of the lyrics, we can understand that their relationship has not worked out. Prince says “I could never steal you from another” and he was a “weekend love” which would suggest some foul play between the two. Maybe she already had a “full-time” boyfriend or even a husband. Whichever the case is, it is obvious that the singer has very strong feelings for this girl.
Prince also words that what they had was a “friendship” and now it is fading away.
The third verse has two layers to it. In one, he still talks to his girlfriend that they have to come to some sort of settlement in their relationship. “It’s time we all reach out for something new,” tells us that the singer does not prefer to be stuck in this position he is in. Either they move on together or move apart.
“You say you want a leader,” but Prince wonders how he is not. He is everything this girl wants. But she is stepping back.
In the second layer of the verse, Prince is talking to his bandmates: The Revolution. He tells them that the winds of the music game are changing and they will have to find their own paths at some point. The band did disband two years later in 1986. Maybe they lacked a leader? Or was Prince too much of a “boss” than a “leader”?
So what do you think about “Purple Rain” by Prince? What does this song awake within you? Drop a comment below.