He had the look.
Prince Rogers Nelson, just five-foot-two and the second-most-famous musician to come from Minnesota, had a unique and captivating appearance on the big screen and the small screen in the summer of 1984.
With his thin moustache, jerry-curl ’do, frilly white shirt, purple jacket and come-hither glare, the artist better known as Prince was both impish and imposing.
And inescapable, thanks to Purple Rain.
Prince and his band The Revolution released the soundtrack album 30 years ago, on June 25, 1984. The semi-autobiographical 1984 Warner Bros. movie grossed $80 million, but it’s Prince’s soundtrack that has had the lasting impression. It’s sold more than 20 million copies worldwide.
Purple Rain is the first album where Prince credits a band. He expanded his approach on the soundtrack, incorporating pop, rock, R & B — even a dabble of psychedelia — into the funk. While this accessible musical hybrid helped expand his audience, Prince didn’t tone down his raunchy lyrics for commercial appeal.
Already known for his explicit sexual depictions (check out 1980’s Dirty Mind), Prince added to his repertoire on Purple Rain with Darling Nikki — and in the process became a different kind of innovator. The song, about a sexually enthusiastic woman, helped inspire Tipper Gore to create the Parents Music Resource Center in the U.S. The lobby group pressured the Recording Industry Association of America, and Purple Rain became one of the first albums to bear the now-commonplace “parental advisory explicit content” warning.
But Purple Rain isn’t about stickers, it’s about songs.
Dig, if you will, the picture: When Doves Cry, Prince’s bouncy, bass-less love lament hit No. 1 in Canada, the U.S. and Australia. And who could forget the era-defining music video (directed by His Purpleness himself): Where else can you get Prince, doves, a bathtub and dancing?
The other big hit from Purple Rain is Let’s Go Crazy, party anthem for the ages. Brilliantly kicked off with an funereal organ part, the entrance of drum beat and punchy guitar to start the party is one of the most memorable transformations in pop music history. It’s enough to make party people go crazy.