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Rock Hall Anniversary: Prince and the Revolution’s Purple Rain

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One of the greatest albums of the 1980s hits the big 3-0. And it’s from one of the decade’s biggest music artists.

It was June of 1984, that Prince released his sixth album Purple Rain. It was the soundtrack to the autobiographical film of the same name, and the first billed as “Prince and the Revolution”. Upon its release, the year was already monumental, as the title film would dominate the box office, and his song “I Feel for You” (from his 1979 self-titled album), became a massive pop hit for Chaka Khan.

Upon its release, Purple Rain was showered with praise from both critics and peers. The album was praised for it’s blend of funk, rock, R&B and pop, the showcase of Prince’s guitar chops and musicianship, as well as it’s experimental aspects (hence the song “When Doves Cry”, not having a bass-line, which is usually essential in both funk and R&B). But it also received criticism, particularly from Tipper Gore and the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC). The criticism was over the risqué lyrics in “Darling Nikki”, leading to the demand of the use of Parental Advisory stickers on album covers, something that is in use to this day.

But controversial or not, there was definitely no stopping Purple Rain. The album sold over a million copies in its first week (an astonishing feat in the 1980’s), and in August 1984, it knocked Bruce Springsteen's Born in the U.S.A. out the top of Billboard 200, to become Prince’s first number one album. The album stayed there for 24 consecutive weeks, and went on to sell over twenty million copies worldwide. “When Doves Cry” and “Let’s Go Crazy” were also chart-toppers, while the title track and “I Would Die 4U” cracked the top ten, and “Take Me with U hit the top 30.

More importantly is the legacy, as it would go on to be regarded as one of the top 100 greatest albums of all time, as well as be added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry.