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Prince’s Purple Rain turns 30: Looking back at the iconic Minneapolis film

  Play Now [38:38]

by Andrea Swensson

July 25, 2014

Looking back at July 1984, it's hard to believe just how many musical events shook up Minneapolis and continue to inspire and mystify us 30 years later. In just the span of a few short months Hüsker Dü would release their revered album Zen Arcade, the Replacements would drop Let It Be, and Prince would follow up a spring of dominating the airwaves with his hit "When Doves Cry" by releasing the best-selling album of his career, Purple Rain, and his full-length movie of the same name.

The movie Purple Rain was released by Warner Brothers on July 27, 1984. It was an immediate success at the box office—it grossed $7.7 million in its opening weekend, beating out Ghostbusters—and racked up comparisons to movies like the Beatles's Hard Day's Night and Citizen Kane in glowing reviews from major media outlets. The soundtrack earned Prince two Grammys and an Oscar for Best Original Song Score, and catapulted his career to new heights. But over the years it's also gotten its share of flack, earning two Razzie Awards and becoming something of a cult classic loved by hardcore fans and mocked by others flipping past it on VH1.

Three decades later, how does the movie hold up? What was the lasting impact of Purple Rain on Prince's career, and on Minneapolis?

With the anniversary of the movie coming up this Sunday (and a big dance party and costume contest taking over First Avenue's Mainroom tonight), I teamed up with MPR News host Tom Weber to produce an in-depth audio documentary on the legacy of Purple Rain. Listen as we tour First Avenue, talk to the staff, and share interviews with longtime Star Tribune critic and Prince expert Jon Bream; the drummer for Prince's band the Revolution, Bobby Z; and Prince's co-star in the movie, Apollonia.

Catch the special when it airs on the Current this Sunday night, July 27, at 6 p.m. (in the first hour of the Local Show) or stream it online right here.


Clean Water Land & Legacy Amendment
This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.