Prince”s most memorable place in cinema is certainly Purple Rain. But the prolific pop music superstar, who died on Thursday at age 57, made his mark on the big screen in many other ways.
Among them: Baz Luhrmann”s Romeo + Juliet. The 1996 adaptation of Shakespeare”s tragedy is often remembered for how it dazzled the eyes, but it also dazzled our ears. A children”s gospel choir rendition sang Prince”s “When Doves Cry” at a key moment in the film.
Prince wrote “When Doves Cry” for the rock musical movie Purple Rain. In that 1984 film, the song plays after Prince”s character loses his girl, Apollonia. In Romeo + Juliet, the song is sung as our star-crossed lovers are about to come together. The choir, led by then-14-year-old Quindon Tarver, sings as Friar Laurence agrees to marry Romeo and Juliet, just after the start of their whirlwind romance. The friar envisions a happy ending for the warring Montagues and Capulets: “I”ll thy assistant be. For this alliance may so happy prove to turn your households” rancour to pure love.”
The gospel cover begins as a gentle a cappella then the tempo picks up as synthesizers and percussion come in with a cut to Mercutio and Benvolio”s parodic gun-play as the choir sings “Why do we scream at each other?”
The somber image of the bird of love but also peace shedding tears… Romeo and Juliet about to enter into a union that”ll be cut short, along with their lives, never living to see whether they become just like their mothers and fathers… It all makes for some heart-shattering juxtaposition.
Prince”s music easily fit into a story that had been written by an Englishman four centuries prior, as both artists profoundly captured something experienced by so much of humanity. And Prince was taken from this world at just about the same time of year as the Bard: This Saturday marks 400 years since Shakespeare”s death.