“Purple Rain” is a song by American musician Prince and his backing band 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 starring Prince, and was released as the third single from the album. The song is a power ballad that combines rock, R&B, gospel, and orchestral music.
“Purple Rain” reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed there for two weeks, being kept off the top spot by “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” by Wham! It reached No. 1 in Belgium and the Netherlands. It is certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and is considered to be one of Prince’s signature songs. Following Prince’s death in April 2016, “Purple Rain” rose to No. 1 on the US and UK iTunes Charts, allowing it to re-enter the Billboard Hot 100, where it reached No. 4. It also re-entered the UK Singles Chart at No. 6, placing two spaces higher than its original peak of No. 8. In France, where it originally peaked at No. 12, “Purple Rain” reached No. 1 around a week after Prince’s death.
“Purple Rain” is ranked at No. 144 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and is included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. During the 2007 Super Bowl halftime show, for which Prince was the featured performer, “Purple Rain” was the last song of his set; the event became especially notable when actual rain started to fall during the performance while the stage stadium were lit up with purple lights, and the show continues to top lists of the best Super Bowl halftime shows of all time. Prince performed the song as the opening of a medley of his hits with Beyoncé at the 2004 Grammy Awards. It was also the final song he performed live, taking place at the end of his final performance in Atlanta on April 14, 2016, one week before he died.
“Purple Rain” was originally written as a country song and intended to be a collaboration with Stevie Nicks. According to Nicks, she received a 10-minute instrumental version of the song from Prince with a request to write the lyrics, but felt overwhelmed. She 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.'”At a rehearsal, Prince then asked his backing band to try the song: “I want to try something before we go home. It’s mellow.” According to Lisa Coleman, Prince then changed the song after Wendy Melvoin started playing guitar chords to accompany the song: “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 explained the meaning of the song 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.” The title track of Prince’s preceding album, 1999, included similar references to a doomed ending under a purple sky (“…could have sworn it was Judgment Day, the sky was all purple…”).
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 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.