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Prince was at his prime in the 1980s and 1990s. His painful past is one of the most intriguing things about him, and it is what made him so appealing to Generation X. Divorce is something that is very common to the Generation X, and this is something that people can relate to with Prince and his music, particularly with “When Doves Cry.” His music spoke about the various things we desire, and about our longings and our fears. He was an understanding person who, through his lyrics, was able to help people to identify who they were and who they wanted to be in the world.

I would argue that it is divorce that is the common feature with Generation X, because the divorce rate was increased rapidly during this generation. In fact, an estimated 45 million American children born between 1965 and 1982 are a part of Generation X, with many of them being of the age that would typically listen to Prince. He is one of the many people during that time that was affected largely by his parents’ divorce, and that experience is what crafted much of the music that he sang. In fact, in the generation before Prince, only 10 of every 1,000 women divorced, by 1980, 22 women out of every 1,000 divorced. The result of his divorce at age 10 resulted in Prince moving around a lot. And this certainly left a mark on Prince that would seep into his music. He actually changed homes about 30 times after his parents’ divorce. But Prince’s experience was perhaps more difficult than what many others go through. He had a hard time with his father, and had a relationship that was full of good times and bad. His mother, however, abandoned him, and I will later discuss how his parents worked their way into the song, “When Doves Cry.”

Many people have used Prince’s lyrics to guide them through periods of their life, particularly those periods that were filled with much confusion. A group that was particularly fond of Prince’s music is children who were forced to essentially raise themselves, because their parents had abandoned them. Prince was a nerdy, small and solitary child, and he grew up to control his environment. He taught himself to play various instruments, so many that he was able to be his own band. But he did bring people onto his band later, and he would fire them when they suggested leaving the band.
Prince’s music also appealed to people who wanted to stop fighting a significant amount of pain in their lives. This was expressed in his song, “1999,” which essentially says that people should just party, and stop worrying about the end of the world coming at the turn of the millennium.

When Doves Cry

When Doves Cry” is the lead single from Prince’s 1984 album Purple Rain. In this song, Prince is crying out to his mother, in this very sad song. He says, “How can you just leave me standing alone in a world that’s so cold?” The song goes on to discuss the fact that it might be Prince’s own fault that his mother left him, that it was difficult for her to take care of him because he had too many needs: “Maybe I’m just too demanding (Maybe, maybe I’m like my father).” This is a common problem that children of divorce go through. Many of them blame themselves for their parents’ divorce, and the lyrics would suggest that is also what Prince was going through after his parents split.

People who are going through difficult times in romantic relationships may also find that this song appeals to them. The lyrics also look to be a discussion between two lovers who are having difficult times. Those who are having an argument with their spouse will likely see the song as depicting how many couples tend to blame each other for what is going on in the relationship. People having hard times in their relationships can likely see here that Prince is connecting his parent’s divorce with a current relationship. “Maybe I’m just like my father too bold/Maybe you’re just like my mother.” This can tell the story of many relationships that people who are children of divorce go through. They start falling into the roles that their parents fell into.

People who are going through turmoil can really relate to the song, not just those who have parent or relationship issues. Instead, it is those who have had problems in the past, and are now struggling to deal with those issues that are able to find comfort in what Prince is saying. Because everyone has experienced many difficult situations in their lives, the music appeals to many people.
While the song was written for the movie “Purple Rain,” it goes deeper than just being a song that relates to the movie’s script. Prince is in the movie, and has difficult times with his father, who he refers to as being very demanding. In the movie, his father actually beats his mother, and this gives us an idea of the darkness that was in Prince’s life, and those hardships are communicated in his music for people to relate to.

In the end, I think “When Doves Cry” is appealing on two levels. It is has a catchy beat that uses many instruments that were popular at the time. But, also, it contains lyrics to which many people can relate. This is evidenced by the wide appeal of Prince with Generation X. Not only did much of his music related to people on a very personal level, Prince himself was also a very amusing entertainer. He was something that people hadn’t really seen before, as he was, and still is, very unique.

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By Hanna Robinson

Hanna has won numerous writing awards. She specializes in academic writing, copywriting, business plans and resumes. After graduating from the Comosun College's journalism program, she went on to work at community newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada, before embarking on her freelancing journey.

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