2019 marks the 35th anniversary of Prince’s sixth studio album and film “Purple Rain.” The “Purple Rain” album ultimately went on to sell 25 million copies worldwide and remains one of the top-selling soundtracks of all time, and the film introduced Prince to legions of fans around the world.
The title track was recorded at First Avenue Night Club in 1983 during a benefit for the Minnesota Dance Theater. It ended up being a big night, as “I Would Die 4 U” and “Baby I’m a Star” were also recorded, and it was the first night that guitarist Wendy Melvoin performed with Prince and his band the Revolution. She was only 19 years old at the time, but still relies on the advice she got from Prince about not letting performance nerves speed up the beat: “It’s a meditation. You slow your breathing down, and you don’t rush, and you stay behind the beat. And that’s where the funk lies.”
Wendy was just one of the band members that Prince pushed to perfection during the production of the album and film. While preparing for “Purple Rain,” Prince required the Revolution to take ballet lessons and learn how to carry themselves onstage and in front of a camera. According to Revolution drummer Bobby Z, “he was convincing us to be better and better and better.”
The band members weren’t the only ones getting better; Prince invested more time and energy into the production of “Purple Rain” than he had in any album before. Drummer Bobby Z recalls, “he prepared for Purple Rain in a way that he never did any other album, because he had to. The film slowed him down, and that created time for him to reflect. On most albums, he was done in a second… Purple Rain had to stew for about six months and so he really had to think about it.”
While preparing for the album and film, Prince had 100 songs, but “When Doves Cry” and “Take Me With You” weren’t among them. Despite being the last song written for the album, “When Doves Cry” was the first single released from “Purple Rain” and became Prince’s first number 1 song. “Let’s Go Crazy” and “I Would Die 4 U” also reached the top 10 and were international hits for Prince and the Revolution.