This Classic Hit Inspired Prince to Write ‘When Doves Cry’

Prince was a creative genius, however, that doesn’t mean he didn’t draw inspiration from other celebrities. For example, a classic 1970s rock song inspired him to write one of his most iconic singles — “When Doves Cry.” Here’s a look at how the writing of the song impacted his relationship with Nicks.

Prince | Cindy Ord/Getty Images for NPG Records 2015

How a classic rock song inspired Prince’s “When Doves Cry’

Prince’s Purple Rain is one of the most beloved pop albums of all time — which is unusual given that it has fairly avant-garde lyrics. Songs like the title track and “I Would Die 4 U” are pretty abstract at times. One of the abstract songs on the album is “When Doves Cry,” a song that seems to be about romantic issues, parental issues, and birds — all at the same time.

Why did Prince write such a song? According to The New Zealand Herald, the Purple One was inspired by another abstract song that mentioned a dove: Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen.” This might surprise some fans, as “Edge of Seventeen” is a hard rock song while “When Doves Cry” is a synthesizer-driven new wave song.

‘Edge of Seventeen”

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“He was inspired by ‘Edge of Seventeen’ to write ‘When Doves Cry,’” Nicks revealed. “That’s really when he and I started to sort of be friends. From that moment onward at the very end of ‘Edge of Seventeen’ I go, ‘I know what it sounds like, I know what it sounds like, I know what it sounds like when doves cry. It sounds like you.'”

Did Prince’s ‘When Doves Cry’ outperform ‘Stevie Nicks’ ‘Edge of Seventeen’?

This raises an interesting question: Which song performed better commercially — “Edge of Seventeen” or “When Doves Cry?” “Edge of Seventeen” reached No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100. While it wasn’t a massive hit, it remains a staple of classic rock radio. On the other hand, “When Doves Cry” reached the pinnacle of the Billboard Hot 100. Given the song’s unorthodox composition, it’s success was a surprise.

“When Doves Cry”

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How ‘When Doves Cry’ changed the Purple One’s career

In addition to performing well on its own, “When Doves Cry” helped Purple Rain and the associated film to do well. “Nobody believed that this was going to be such a catalyst for the kind of success that it had,” author Alan Light told Public Radio International. “To be able to do something that’s that experimental and that bold, and have it be that popular and connect that universally, it’s just unbelievable. It takes an artist of that magnitude to be able to pull that off.”

The song would continue to resonate years later. Quindon Tarver’s memorable house/gospel cover of the song gained prominence due to its use in a memorable scene of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. Tarver’s cover proved the track was so potent it worked in a different genre. Prince managed to pull off an incredible feat — he just needed a touch of inspiration from Nicks.