What's The Meaning Behind Purple Rain? + Why It Resonates So Well Friday January 6 2023, 10:30 AM
Yona Marie
Singer, Songwriter, Producer.
What's The Meaning Behind Purple Rain? + Why It Resonates So Well

The Meaning Of Purple Rain

The popular anthem "Purple Rain" by Prince is one of those songs that gives everyone a religious experience, whether they believe in God or not.

It's one of the most epic ballads that the world has ever been blessed with, but do we all know for sure what the song is telling us?

Fans have argued over the lyrical meaning of songs like this for years, but with this one in particular, the world was given some feedback directly from Prince himself, along with some of his closest musical companions that were involved with the creation of this hit. 

The Story Behind The Creative Process

Before we dive into the lyrics and meaning, it is important to note the state of mind of Prince and his band, The Revolution.

When the song was first conceived in 1984, it was originally intended to be a duet that had a country feel to it featuring Stevie Nicks.

It was a whopping 10-minute track that we could assume has a lot of passion oozing from the instrumentation, and Stevie received the instrumentation idea, which she loved, but actually turned the notion of collaborating down.

"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," She stated. "And I’m proud that I didn’t write the lyrics, because then he had to do it, and that’s how we have Purple Rain."

At a later rehearsal, Prince told The Revolution (including musician noted member Lisa Coleman) band to try the song with less of a country flow that would be voiced differently than the original idea.

"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," Lisa Coleman told the press. 

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Purple Rain Lyrics

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 want 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

I never wanted to be your weekend lover
I only wanted to be some kind of friend
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

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

If you know what I'm singing about up here
C'mon, raise your hand

Purple rain, purple rain

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


The Meaning As Told By Prince

According to NME, Prince said in an interview that, "purple rain is blood on the sky. Blue and red — you get purple. It is beautiful, and it is like the end of the world — when only love for God or a loved one will lead you through the purple rain."

It was the mid-80s when apocalyptic stories were flooding the news and entertainment world, and Prince made the smart choice to ride that wave of emotional depth that is attached to something as extreme as the end of the world. 

The inspiration behind the title and lyrics centered around the idea of purple rain was revealed to be from the song release from a decade before Prince's project called "Ventura Highway".

This song, by the band America, briefly mentions the title but doesn't go into detail about why the rain is purple. That color reference was likely created by Prince himself. 

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The Meaning Behind The Song's Verses

Prince was gracious enough to give an idea of what the entire song is giving off, but what about the vague and somewhat conflicting lyrics that are presented in the verses of the song? 

For example, the early verse states, "I never wanted to be your weekend lover. I only wanted to be some kind of friend."

But in a later verse section, the song seems to shift to something non-romantic and unrelated, "Honey, I know, I know times are changing, it's time we all reach out for something new, that means you too."

There may be a connection between the apocalyptic end that Prince seems to be describing and a fresh new start that can come after that ending in the sense that one can be born again. 


Other Interpretations Of The Song

The unexplained verses are why fans and music connoisseurs have been trying to get to the bottom of every single line in this song, which may never be able to happen successfully. 

According to NME, Lisa Coleman's interpretation is more in line with the beginning of things and the process of renewal that I mention above. She describes it as, "a new beginning. Purple, the sky at dawn; rain, the cleansing factor."

If you go along with the idea of being born again and tie it to religion, you can see how many Christians can interpret this song as something like a worship anthem that speaks on the renewal process that we all go through after death. 

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The Purple Rain Movie

The way this song is used in the context of Prince's acting debut for the theatrical release of "Purple Rain" adds another layer to what the song may be speaking of in a general sense.

The movie showcases "The Kid", played by Prince, who has a complicated relationship with his abusive father.

By the end of the movie, Prince performs the emotional lyrics of the song Purple Rain as a dedication to that abusive father, with who he had a complicated relationship.

This is rumored to mirror what Prince went through with his father in real life.

His father, John L. Nelson, was said to be a disciplined, God-fearing jazz musician with an explosive temper. Prince's posthumous memoir states, "The wound of Ur parents fighting is chilling when U’re a child,” Prince wrote."

Why Purple Rain Is So Relateable

The idea of a dramatic end and the thought of an exciting renewal can easily resonate with all types of people, whether religious or not, which is why this song can give almost anyone a spiritual experience.

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It can also tie into so many common struggles we all go through with tropes like wanting to reunite with someone on the other side, wanting to mend a broken relationship with someone still on this earth, or trying to start a fresh journey.

Band member Lisa Coleman also spoke on how this song release was able to break the limiting rules of genre and race in the music world.

"We had struggled for a couple of years, trying to write one song for a Black music station, and one for a rock station," she explained.

"But 'Purple Rain' the song was played on every kind of radio station, from country to Americana to rock ballad. And it's just so perfect that it came from Prince, who nobody knew what to make of. Are you serious? Who is this guy?"

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Yona Marie

As a session singer, writer, and producer that has worked with over 300 clients to provide high-quality jingles, singles, and features, Yona spends her time creating and marketing new music and helpful resources for creators. Check out Yona’s latest releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share if you like it!

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