Prince’s Purple Rain: The Story Behind the Iconic Lyrics

by Alex Harris

24th May, 2023

Prince's Purple Rain: The Story Behind the Iconic Lyrics

Prince was one of the most influential and innovative artists of all time. His music blended rock, R&B, funk, pop, soul, and gospel genres, creating a unique and captivating sound. One of his most famous and beloved songs is Purple Rain, a power ballad that showcases his vocal range, guitar skills, and emotional depth.

But what is the meaning behind this song? What inspired Prince to write it? And how did it become a cultural phenomenon?

In this article, we will explore the story behind Purple Rain, from its origin and development to its interpretation and impact.

The Origin and Development of Purple Rain

Prince intended to work with Fleetwood Mac singer Stevie Nicks on Purple Rain when he originally wrote it as a country song. According to Nicks, she received a 10-minute instrumental version of the song from Prince with a request to write the lyrics, but she felt overwhelmed by the task. She later said, “I listened to it, and I just got scared. I called him back and said, ‘I can’t do it. I wish I could. It’s too much for me.'”

Prince then asked his backing band, The Revolution, to try the song during a rehearsal. He said, “I want to try something before we go home. It’s mellow.” According to Lisa Coleman, one of the band members, Prince changed the song dramatically after Wendy Melvoin, another band member, started playing guitar chords to it. She said, “He was excited to hear it voiced differently. It took it out of that country feeling. Then we all started playing it a bit harder and taking it more seriously. We played it for six hours straight, and by the end of that day we had it mostly written and arranged.”

Prince recorded the song live at a benefit concert for the Minnesota Dance Theatre at his home base venue, the First Avenue nightclub in Minneapolis, on August 3, 1983. That performance was Melvoin’s live debut with The Revolution. She was just 19 years old. Bobby Z, the drummer of the band, said, “It certainly was one of the best concerts we ever did.”

The concert was recorded by David Rivkin (aka David Z), Bobby Z’s brother, using a mobile recording unit. He said, “With Prince, you never knew. 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 well. You just had to go in prepared to record whatever it was going to be as well as you could.”

Other tracks that were recorded during that concert were I Would Die 4 U and Baby I’m a Star, which also became part of the Purple Rain album and film soundtrack. Prince later performed overdubs while working at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles from August to September 1983. He edited out a solo and an extra verse that diluted the emotional content of the song. He also added strings and backing vocals by Clare Fischer and The Steeles.

Prince’s Purple Rain Lyrics

Prince’s Purple Rain lyrics are a powerful expression of his personal and artistic journey. It is a power ballad that combines rock, R&B, gospel, and orchestral music. It is the title track and final song on the album Purple Rain, released on June 25, 1984, by Warner Bros. Records. The album was also the soundtrack to the film of the same name, which starred Prince as The Kid, a talented but troubled musician who struggles with his family, band, rival, and love interest.

Prince – Purple Rain (Official Video)

Prince wrote Purple Rain as a tribute to his father, who attempted suicide. The song also expresses Prince’s desire to reconcile with his former lover and bandmate Apollonia Kotero, who left him for his rival Morris Day in the film. It was recorded live at First Avenue in Minneapolis on August 3, 1983, with an audience of 1,500 people. Prince later overdubbed some vocals and guitar solos in the studio.

The Meaning and Interpretation of Purple Rain

The lyrics of Prince Purple Rain are full of symbolism, emotion, and message. Purple Rain represents a new beginning, a cleansing factor, and a spiritual guide. Prince explained that the concept of purple rain relates to the end of the world, being with the one you love, and letting your faith or God guide you through. Bandmate Lisa Coleman shared that it means a new beginningPurple is the sky at dawn; rain is the cleansing factor.

He also used the colour purple to symbolise doom and faith in his previous album, 1999, which included lyrics like “…could have sworn it was Judgement Day, the sky was all purple…”

The song expresses a sense of loss, sadness, remembrance, and reverence for a relationship that is over. Prince sings, “I never meant to cause you any sorrow / I never meant to cause you any pain / I only wanted one time to see you laughing / I only wanted to see you laughing in the purple rain.” He also sings, “It’s such a shame our friendship had to end.

Purple Rain has elements of blues, soul, rock and roll, and gospel music. The song also showcases Prince’s vocal range, from his falsetto to his lower register. The song also features one of the most iconic guitar solos of all time, which showcases Prince’s virtuosity and emotion.

Prince’s Purple Rain lyrics are timeless and universal. They speak to anyone who has ever felt sorrow, pain, love, or hope. They also inspire people to reach out for something new, to follow their dreams, and to let their faith guide them.

The Film Purple Rain

The film Purple Rain is a semi-autobiographical musical drama that tells the story of Prince’s rise to fame and his personal struggles. The film was directed by Albert Magnoli and written by Magnoli and William Blinn. It was released on July 27, 1984, by Warner Bros. Pictures and was a huge success at the box office, receiving positive reviews from critics and audiences alike.

It features Prince as The Kid, a talented but troubled musician who performs with his band, The Revolution, at a nightclub called First Avenue in Minneapolis. The Kid has a difficult relationship with his father (Clarence Williams III), who is an abusive alcoholic and a failed musician himself. The Kid also has a rivalry with Morris Day (Morris Day), the leader of another band called The Time, who wants to replace The Revolution at First Avenue. The Kid falls in love with Apollonia (Apollonia Kotero), a beautiful singer who wants to join The Revolution but ends up joining Morris Day’s side project called Apollonia 6.

The film follows The Kid’s journey as he tries to overcome his personal demons and express his musical vision. He faces challenges from his father, Morris Day, Apollonia, and even his own bandmates. He also faces pressure from Billy Sparks, the owner of First Avenue, who wants him to play more commercial music. The Kid eventually finds his voice and confidence through his music and faith.

Purple Rain features several musical performances by Prince and The Revolution, as well as by Morris Day and The Time and Apollonia 6. The film showcases some of Prince’s most famous songs, such as When Doves Cry, Let’s Go Crazy, I Would Die 4 U, Take Me With U, and of course Purple Rain. It also features some of his most iconic outfits, such as his purple trench coat, ruffled shirt, and motorcycle.

The film Purple Rain is a cinematic masterpiece that captures the essence of Prince’s music and personality. It is a film that celebrates creativity, diversity, and love.

The Impact and Legacy of Purple Rain

Purple Rain became a huge success and a signature song for Prince, reaching number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and winning an Oscar for Best Original Song Score

It was also the title track of Prince’s sixth studio album, Purple Rain (1984), which sold over 25 million copies worldwide and is considered one of the best albums of all time. The album was actually the soundtrack to Prince’s first movie, Purple Rain (1984), which was based on his life and career. The movie grossed over $80 million at the box office and received positive reviews from critics.

The song influenced other artists and genres, such as rock, R&B, and gospel. It also became a symbol of Prince’s legacy and a tribute to him after his death in 2016. Many fans and celebrities wore purple or sang Purple Rain to honour his memory. The song was also played at the Super Bowl XLI halftime show in 2007, where Prince performed in the rain with a purple guitar. It was widely regarded as one of the best halftime shows ever.

Prince’s Purple Rain lyrics have touched millions of people with their emotional depth and universal appeal. Many artists have covered the song, including Bruce Springsteen, Alicia Keys, Kelly Clarkson, Adam Levine, and John Legend. It has also been featured in various TV shows, movies, and video games, such as Glee, The Simpsons, Happy Feet, Guitar Hero III, and Rock Band.


Prince’s Purple Rain remains a pinnacle of artistic achievement, uniting music and film in a way that transcends boundaries. We have explored its lyrics and cinematic journey, glimpsed into his soul, and witnessed his impact on the world. To fully appreciate the brilliance of this magnum opus, we encourage you to listen to the song, watch the film, and immerse yourself in the artistry of Prince.

By delving into the emotions conveyed in the lyrics and analyzing the film’s narrative, we gain a deeper understanding of Prince’s genius. Purple Rain continues to be a shining example of the power of music and film to move, inspire, and leave an enduring legacy.

Prince purple rain lyrics

Verse 1
I never meant to cause you any sorrow
I never meant to cause you any pain
I only wanted one time to see you laughing

I only wanted to see you laughing
In the purple rain

Purple rain, purple rain
Purple rain, purple rain
Purple rain, purple rain
I only want to see you bathing
In the purple rain

Verse 2
I never wanted to be your weekend lover
I only wanted to be some kind of friend, hey
Baby, I could never steal you from another

It’s such a shame our friendship had to end

Purple rain, purple rain
Purple rain, purple rain
Purple rain, purple rain
I only want to see you underneath the purple rain

Verse 3
Honey, I know, I know, I know times are changing
It’s time we all reach out for something new
That means you, too
You say you want a leader
But you can’t seem to make up your mind

I think you better close it
And let me guide you to the purple rain

Purple rain, purple rain
Purple rain, purple rain, wooo!

If you know what I’m singing about up here
Come on, raise your hand
Purple rain, purple rain
I only want to see you
Only want to see you in the purple rain

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